Colombia, Buses, Taxis, Buses, Taxis, Buses, Taxis, Ecuador

After our restful week in the country we bussed it to Cali, the biggest city in Colombia after Bogota.  An easy ride of two buses and only 3 hours and we found ourselves in the big city in the mid-day heat.  Later on we wandered around, and found nothing much of interest other than a display of painted cats next to some huge bamboo.
P10405490001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
It seems people come to Cali to party and salsa, but as we weren’t really interested in either activity we went to an air-conditioned shopping mall.  People who know us might think that was strange, but Diane desperately needed new shoes due to misuse on an earlier volcano.  We had attempted to find a pair in smaller towns, but this had only resulted in her being shown to the traditional women’s section – leather shoes/boots with high heels, not so great for our activities.  Result, nice new cheap comfy pair!  Next day we hightailed it out of the heat.
Another three hours by bus found us in colonial old Popayan, many of the buildings and churches have been tastefully restored after a devastating earthquake in 1983.  At 1800 metres the climate is mild, although the white buildings reflect the sunlight and there is the odd heavy shower at this time of year.  While we were there, in an effort to do some exercise, we booked on a cycling trip.  A small lorry takes you up to a local hot springs, and then you cycle back, 34km, mainly downhill.  When we arrived, considerably higher than Popayan, there was a cool breeze sweeping across the springs, and we almost didn’t go in.  Eventually, Diane tested the waters, and shamed is into donning our swimmies and soaking for an hour or so.  The water didn’t smell, which is odd for a mineral bath in my experience.
IMG_00620001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
Then we rode back down to town.  On the way, we stopped in a little town for some food and spotted a bit of impromptu pig-herding going on.
IMG_00650001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
They were remaking some of the road, where it had fallen into the river, so at one point Diane was on one side of the road works and I was on the other while they dumped tons of gravel.  Here she is emerging after the gravel had been flattened.
IMG_00780001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
The following morning, we started our two-day trip to Ecuador.  We had decided to break our journey in Colombia, near the border, so we didn’t have to do any buses at night, which is a bit unsafe, we are told.  Here I am looking a bit frazzled, about 3 hours into the journey, stopped at a little café in a little town I can’t remember the name of.  I’m sort of pointing at it, but on the scale of the map my finger is about 300 miles across.
IMG_00930001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
The road, the Pan-American Highway, is spectacular, passing through steep valleys in the Andes.  It’s also reasonably narrow and knackered in places, and carrying a lot of heavy traffic.  Our bus driver was having a fairly good try at hitting his schedule, which meant overtaking heavy lorries on blind bends while accelerating hard uphill.  This style of driving is quite, er, exciting for the passenger.  Here’s a picture taken through the window of the coach: the road is visible on the other side of the valley.
IMG_01020001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
After a night in a little town called Pasto, we set off again for the border.  We took a taxi to the bus station, where we were, as usual, set upon by salespersons for the bus companies, all of whose buses were leaving “now” (Us: “¿A que hora sale el bus ?” Salesperson: “Ya !!”)  We ended up in what is basically a people carrier run by a company called SuperTaxis, and were deposited in the real border town, Ipiales, an hour or so later.  There, we took a taxi to the border, where we were, as usual, set upon by money-changers, so we changed our remaining pesos for dollars, checked out of Colombia, and walked over the bridge into Ecuador.  Once we’d checked in there, we took a taxi to the bus station in nearby Tulcan, where we were, as usual, set upon by salespersons for the bus companies, although with a new trick here: they open the taxi door before you’ve got out and shout the names of towns at you (“Quito? Quito? Quito?”)  We ended up on a bus which had every modern amenity, according to the salesperson, although the toilet didn’t actually work.  It was a five hour ride to Quito, including stops for drugs searches, and we got there at about 5pm, eight hours after leaving Pasto.  Here’s Diane about to walk over the bridge into Ecuador, our ninth country of the trip.
P10405660001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
So we arrived in Quito, at 2850m, which is pretty high, let me tell you.  The sun is fierce here, even when it’s cloudy.  We had a wander around: this is the Basilica in the old town.  Like most cities in Latin America, businesses cluster here: all of the shoe shops are in one area, for example, or clothes shops.  Well, the arches under the Basilica is home to a row of electronics shops, so you can pop in to church and buy a power transistor at the same time.
P10405750001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
Nearby is another church, San Francisco.  While we were admiring it, we were approached by a group of students studying tourism and asked if we would be interviewed by them in English, on video, for their course work.  Happy to oblige, they set up with the interviewer reading from cue cards while another operated the camera.  ”What is your name?”  ”How old are you ?” (Quite old, said Diane, flummoxing them completely).  ”What is your favourite Ecuadorian food ?” (Guinea pig with potatoes, said Diane, never having had it in her life).
P10405900001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
Finally, we headed off up the teleferiqo, a cable car which runs from the city to the top of a nearby mountain at 4100m, to get the view.  Here’s my wife (complete with recent $3 haircut) with some old bloke and his hat, Quito spread out below them.
P10406000001.JPG (800x600 pixels)
We’re here for a few days more, then we’re off to the Galapagos for two weeks, so we may be off the air until we return.  Stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>