Published: July 16th 2012July 16th 2012
After an overnight stop at Ft. Lauderdale and an incredibaly uncomfortable sleep on the airport floor we flew to Bogota, Colombia. We weren't really sure what to expect when we arrived in Bogota. Its a very busy city, huge amounts of traffic, run down houses amongst new buildings and it still has an old school vibe to it. All of the awful stories you hear about Colombia unfortunately sit in the back of your mind, so we were a little cautious and overwhemlmed to begin with. Bogota was just a starting point for our 4 months of travels. Unfortunaltey we didn't have enough time to go up north and see the amazing beaches we had heard so much about. We didn't intend to stay long in Bogota so after two nights we were on the road again heading south.
A 15 hour bus ride from Bogota to Popoyan was our first Colombian bus ride experience. Not wanting to take an overnight bus in Colombia we headed to the bus terminal at sunrise and found a company to take us to Popoyan. It ended up being a very safe trip and the bus company did everything it could to ensure passenger
safety. Once all passengers were seated, a camcorder was taken around the bus to video/photograph all of the passengers. If it wasn't for an earlier blog I read, I would have had no idea as the reasoning behind this and it all could have seemed a little weird and dodgy. But what I read earlier, explained that its a safety precaution and a detterent against would be theives. Travel in colombia is reasonably safe now but there are times when personal items go missing and unfortunately it is normally the work of a theif posing as a 'passenger.' We were still very cautious and didn't leave our belongings in the storage compartments above which meant 'cuddling' our bags for the entire 15 hour trip. This trip is not a comfortable ride and defiantely not for those who suffer motion sickness or a fear of heights. A lot of the time you are looking straight down a mountain side/cliff, but don't let this put you off cause the scenary is spectacular.
After arriving safely in Popoyan at around 2am, we caught a taxi to our hostel (HostelTrail).
We stayed three nights at Hostel Trail in Popoyan. It's a beautiful
little city and felt alot safer than Bogota. Although there isn't a lot to do there, it's a nice place to chill out and walk around. We did go to the view point which overlooks Popoyan and also to the Natural History Museum which was small but well worth it.
Pasto was the next stop. We caught the earliest possible bus as it can be dodgy along this road at night and the last thing we wanted was to be be held up, which is now very unlikely to happen but we wanted to eliminate the possibility. This time we opted for the cheaper version of a bus ride which meant a five hour trip in a mini-van, packed to the rafters, and no aircondition in 25 degree heat. Again this ride is not for the weak stomach, if you think New Zealand country roads are awful try travelling through Colombia countryside, add-in crazy Colombian drivers and you have a few nervous passengers! But we made it safely to Pasto in one peice, so i guess it wasn't all that bad and it makes the bus ride interesting. Pasto is nothing more than a 'stopover' to Ecuador. but we
ventured out, had a look around the city and tried some Colombian food for dinner. The 'set menus' are not always advertised but defiantely worth a try and they are so cheap it would be silly not to give them a go.
On the way to crossing the border, we stopped in Ipiales to visit the Santuario de Las Lajas church, it is amazing. Travelling through Europe I have seen so many churches but this one was different. It is located at the bottom of a valley in the country side and the scenary surrounding it is beautiful. We thought it was rather odd that the church wasn't at the top of a hill, but I guess they do things differently here?
After the visit to the church we made our way to the border crossing in a taxi. We have heard it can be a long wait and at times confusing, especially when your Spanish is not up to scratch. But we found it easy and not as stressful as people make out, maybe we were just lucky. We were stamped out of Colombia, walked across the road to the Ecuador customs, waited in line for about 45 mintues, received our entry stamp for Ecuador - which is printed and not actually a 'stamp' and walked into Ecuador. Travellers Tips:
Hostel in Bogota: Musicology
Hostel in Popoyan: Hostel Trail
Hostel in Paso: The Koala Inn
In southern parts of Colombia it is advisable to travel durning the day, rather than at night.
Learn a little Spanish before you arrive