Thermal Baths and... Broken Bus

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South America » Colombia » Popayan
May 16th 2010
Published: May 29th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Hi all,

After a long time being behind the camera, I have missed the writing experience and decided to take a turn and write this entry. So, this one is from me - Tal.

From Buenaventura - following the strange vessel ride - we took a bus toward our next destination - Popayan - the White City.

Popayan is a well preserved colonial city, founded in the year 1537 and known for its beautiful streets, balconies, restored churches and white-washed historical centre, full with good restaurants, cefeterias and bars. We accomodated ourselves in one of the best hostels so far in South America - Hosteltrail - a clean, well organized and warm hostel, with great internet, kitchen and TV room facilities - and the best for me - free freshly brewed local coffee - all day long!

We rested the day after arrival and the next day we dedicated to a very “intensive” activity - thermal-baths in a little village called Coconucu. We didn't even know about that possibility but when we noticed the info in the hostel, we said to ourselves, “well, we were running and busing and continuing for so long - why the
Coconuco Thermal BathCoconuco Thermal BathCoconuco Thermal Bath

The Green colour of the water - is for real!
hell not take a relaxed day in thermal baths, dipping ourselves in sulphor - smell waters under green hills and thin waterfalls?”

So on we were on our way to the baths - and although it was a bit run-down - we enjoyed the beautiful setting and and relaxed in the warm and soothing waters, had nice chats with the curious locals (same set of questions - “where do we come from”, how come we know spanish so well, where are we travelling”, for how long”, and the ultimate new one: “do we like Ccolombia”?).

We returned to our hostel in the early afternoon, just on time to put our stuff in the room and take the kid's newest toy - ALLY - The owner's cute dog - for a refreshing afternoon dog. I don't know who was more excited - the dog or the kids.... Both were jumping and happy about the walk and so we strolled in the beautiful streets of Popayan, taking turns in handling the strap, taking care that Ally would not run away or get off the sidewalk - Shachar did a good job ordering Ally with his squeaky shouting: “Ally! Ally, get
Shachar is Sleeping in a Bus Shachar is Sleeping in a Bus Shachar is Sleeping in a Bus

Right on the Shifting Gear...
back in line!... I wish he would have been that persistant on hiking with us... That is when Lilach came with the idea that we should have had a dog during our trekking in - so it could play a major role in attracting Shachar attention and thus not wining about his “aching legs”.... Anyway - it is too late, it seems we are done with trekking so far and we started to use the local work - force: horses, as we told you in the previous entry and in the one yet to come.

We walked for an half an hour, till we reached a hill overlooking the town, we climbed it within 10 minutes or so, just in a perfect timing to watch the beautiful sunset above the city. The kids played with Ally, and Myself and Lilach sat on the grass, looking far away on the glistening roofs and the impressive big dome of the local cathedral, watchhed the kids and enjoying some (rare..) moments being alone. It didn't take long until Nitzan got into panic - Ally pulled too hard for her and started to run down the hill like crazy - we thought she is going to vanish, but then she stopped, looked back, wagged with her tail, and waited for Omer to bring her back. We were lucky this time!!

It got really dark. We started our way back, when suddenly we saw a couple of locals looking for something on the ground, just beside their car. The woman was almost crying while her boyfriend was furiuosly kicking the rear wheel of his car. We stopped and asked them what happened and they explained that they are visiting the town, they stopped for a moment, and when they wanted to return home, they were not able to find the car keys - and these are the only keys they have, no copy. They have been looking like crazy for half an hour, no results so far. We knew how frustrating this situatition could be (since a few months ago Omer forgot OUR car keys locked in the trunk and we were stuck for a whole day without being able to free them - not the local “burglers” until we had to break in the car and shatter the window...) - so we offered our help; It didn't take long until same Omer, found the car keys, lying right on the hood!! The Colombians were soooo happy, ISRAEL gained some more points in the (Colombian) public opinion and Omer, together with his brothers, each earned - justfully - a bar of chocolate. What a day...

Next day we decided that we need some extreme walking, so we packed our muchila with warm clothes. Intending to reach Purace Volcano and San Juan multi-coloured sulphur pools. We woke up really early, around 0500 to take an early bus to the park, and indeed we were on the 645 bus on time, only to stop after 30 minutes ride - since our bus broke down... The driver was consistent and tried for 4-5 times more to start the bus, but we were not going that far, a 2-3 k”m, smoke from the engine, a bad shifting, a short consultation with his co-driver, but no resolution.. At some point we had to stop in a military check-point, and while the driver was working with his 40 year-old tools, Shachar and Omer attracted the soldiers attention - together with us, and we started a strange chat with them as well; It didn't take long until the kids were interested in their rifles, and we showed them - and the soldiers - proudly, that they are made in Israel.. Lilach explained them that she had military service for 2 years and I think they were quite impressed.. Anyway, after a 30 minutes break, the driver annonunced that he had solved the problem and we boarded back the bus, only to find out up hill, that he was wrong. This time it was final... So he made a u-turn, almost falling to a side-ditch, and we made our way back to Purace village, in order to wait fot the next bus, which according to the bus driver, suppose to arrive “any minute”. “Any minute” - so we learned, might sometimes take an hour.

This time we were wrong, it took 2 hours - and no bus arrived.... So we decided to pass over the park, since it was already noon, and started to go back to Popayan, 30 km away! The scenery was outstanding, the air was crispy, we had lots of food for a nice picnic, we haven't done anything today - so we told the kids - let's walk down the road (we were at 3000 m above sea level, on a good side road with no traffic at all), stop for lunch in an hour or so then hitch-hike back to town. The kids were not that happy and Nitzan was espescially skeptic about the hitch-hiking option since no cars were seen in the horizon. She was right... It was Sunday, the locals have no cars - only motorbikes, the buses are scarce and we are far from the main road to Popayan.

But friends - hope and faith - that is what you need - and a lot of them, on such a trip!! Indeed, first 2 hours we were not successful. But suddenly, while walking down the road, a mini gas truck appeared from behind the curve, and stopped for us! The kids hopped in, myself and Lilach hanged on the rear metal frame, orange gas cannisters below are noses, and off we go toward Popayan! What an experience it was.. The truck was pretty slow, the scenery we were passing by was truly spectacular, the wind was so refreshing and within an hour or so, we reached Popayan, safe and sound.

To celebrate our “intense” day, we chose a local “Parilla” - grill restaurant, and that time, we were successful with our pick of the day, since we were dissapointed so many times from the meat options in South America - especially after we left Argentina... But that one was a nice exception - we had some nice huge pieces of meat, well being taken care of, accompanied with huge portions of french fries and baked potatoes, a nicely cut vegetable salad with a good dressing, and a yummy banana and guaiaba jam as a dessert.

Next day was dedicated to hostel-schooling and the evening was dedicated to a … Mexican Circus. Since it was not far from the hostel, and we have not taken the kids to a circus for ages, we decided to try and get seats for the 1900 show. We arrived on time, bought tickets and entered the huge tent, just to find out that the show will n ot start until 1930 or so; Anyway, it was the regular set of clowns - tamed horses - dogs and monkeys, acrobats, trapeziod - balancing and mono-biking with tigers for dessert - nothing innovative though... Hey, but the kids were totally excited. And that is what important after all, don't you think so?

Our next Destinatin is a further south 6 hour-bus ride to San Agustin, a major pre-colombian site consisting huge sculptures and burial grounds of an unknown culture. There is a lot to wait for!

To view our full gallery, click on the following link:
Popayan Photos

Miss you All,



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