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South America » Colombia » Ipiales
November 23rd 2008
Published: November 27th 2008
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I have just crossed the boarder from Tucan (Ecuador) to Ipialas (Colombia) and it was surprisingly easy. We had absolutely no problems, for the first time everything went incredibly smoothly.

The night before entering Colombia, I sat at the bar in the Secret Garden Hostel (Quito, Ecuador) nervously discussing the safest approach into Colombia. We talked to other travellers heading south and got information on the current political situation.

We were warned not to catch any night buses in the South of Colombia. Apparently you get a lot of shakedown in which the army take everyone off the bus at gun point and make you stand in line with your hands and feet apart against the bus while they search you. We were also told that the FARC regularly intercept buses, get everyone off and then set it on fire. Its safe to say we were bracing ourselves for the worst, but after travelling this far I was determined to enter the country!

I caught the day bus from Quito at 6:45am to the Ecuador boarder town of Tucan. After hearing lots of stories about people getting mugged near the hostel I was glad to leave the city unscathed. Quito is a dangerous place, you have to be really careful.

It was a scenic 5 hour drive through valleys and along mountain passes. I hadn't managed to get any breakfast so I was starving though out the journey. I arrived at the boarder town of Tucan and had to get a taxi to the frontier.

Travelling with a Canadian friend (Jerry) we nervously approached the boarder on foot. While queuing for our Ecuador exit stamp it hit me that I know nothing about Colombia except for the way it is portrayed in the media. I also knew that FARC rebels were operating near the boarder crossing making me slightly paranoid about visiting in the first place. I didn't like the thought of being held to ransom in some remote part of the Amazon jungle!

We got our exit stamp and began to walk towards the Colombian frontier. Slightly overwhelmed with the number of armed police we walked across the bridge that separates the two countries. We were then guided by the Colombian army carrying large machine guns into the immigration office.

The first thing you see when you walk into Colombian Immigration is a large poster on the wall showing rewards of a million dollars upwards for the execution or capture of FARC rebels. Some pictures had crosses through them. I guess these people had been captured or worse!

After receiving our entrance stamp, we waked under a sign welcoming us to Colombia and into the country its self. We were slightly confused at first, there appeared to be no buses or taxis at immigration. Suddenly one appeared from nowhere.

We jumped into the taxi and was taken into the boarder town of Ipialis. As we approached the town, the taxi driver just wouldn't shut up! He seemed so excited to meet gringos. He kept asking why we were not afraid of visiting Colombia, where we were from and how long we will be staying. He then began telling us about all the amazing places in his country.

There isn't much in the boarder town of Ipialis. We had a quick walk around and got a bite to eat before catching a taxi to see the Sanctuario de Las Lajas. Its a beautiful Church built into a Gorge in the most random place imaginable. Miles from anywhere with the most stunning backdrop, it was truly breathtaking.

During the evening we walked around the town and witnessed out first Colombian demonstration. While a small group of people started chanting in the streets all of the shops pulled down metal shutters and told us to get inside because it was dangerous. I found it strangely strangely funny, kind of like a scene out of a Wild West movie.

Tomorrow the adventure continues as we head for the closest city Popayan and then on to the remote town of San Agustin.

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