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Published: August 15th 2009
How glad we are that we decided to see Colombia for ourselves and not be put off by the negative reports in guide books, media, websites etc.
We spent our last night in Ecuador in the border town of Tulcan, thank goodness we'd had a great time before because this is a real dump made worse by our poor choice of hotel - dogs barking, engines revving, horns blowing and in the middle of the night somebody trying the door handle to our room !!! The border crossing is really easy - a couple of minutes on the Ecuadorian side, a walk across a bridge over a river and a couple of minutes on the Colombian side. We didn't get any of the extensive drugs and weapons searches we'd expected. We got to Ipiales, the first town in Colombia, a few minutes before 8am just in time to catch the bus up to Popayan, almost no wait at all :-) After a while the bus was stopped by very professional Colombian soldiers who checked documents, baggage and had sniffer dogs go through the bus. After that we regularly saw soldiers, very reassuring. In Popayan we had our first, but not last,
experience of Colombian hospitality - we were standing on the street with our guide book open when a woman in her late teens or twenties stopped to ask what we were looking for, she then walked with us to the place we wanted to go, even though it was not in the direction she was headed originally. Everybody since then has been really friendly and helpful, it's like they're all doing their bit to change outside impressions of their country.
We spent our 1st day in Bogota in some great museums, the police museum showing how they caught Pablo Escobar is really good. This evening we went out in the Candelaria district of the old town where we're staying, according to the guide books this was risky - in reality it was nothing of the sort, Andover is rougher. More museums and galleries tomorrow and a trip up the mountain on the funicular railway.
So far Colombia is one of our favourite countries and Bogota has left a strong impression.
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