17-20 March – Las lagas to Popayan, Colombia

Thank you to all who sent emails of support and comments on the blog

following the “black week” in Quito.

Firstly, a postscript to poor John’s drama in Quito (see the last Post if you missed it)

I went with John to the airport at six pm in plenty of time to catch his plane to Santiago. He was so pleased to be leaving!

I returned to the Hotel and had a few drinks before an early night. I intended to leave at six am.

At 1 am there was a loud knock on the door of my room…John was back!

His flight was cancelled and he now has to wait till sunday. What a rotten run he has had.

It is now Monday and I’m pleased to say he is in Santiago being looked after by my relative Robert Peebles so hopefully things are on the improve for John

One other thing that may interest those going to Ecuador…Earlier in “black week” I took John to the Hospital as he wasn’t well.

The treatment and attention he got was first class. He didn’t have to wait long. Two doctors saw him and it all cost $27 for the consultation and $1.50 for the pills!

Now back to the present

Someone must be looking after me! Fingers crossed it continues…

I got my first puncture yesterday. This was one of my worst nightmares as I really didn’t do enough homework. I know HOW to fix a puncture on a motorbike but I’ve never actually DONE it…Needless to say it was the rear tyre which makes it much harder.

Luck was with me. I wasn’t in the mountains, I was just by a town…I pulled up at a service station. (Service stations here rarely do anything else but serve petrol)

I started unloading the bike and wondered what to do next….. It was Sunday, so I assumed everywhere was closed.

A guy came over and helped me put the bike on its centre stand (the bike is heavy and it’s really hard to do it alone, with the extra weight)

I asked him if there was anyone who could help. He looked around and pointed to a little workshop 20 yards away.

It was a funny little place and there was the usual old guys and family hanging around.

It was open and “Manuel, the main man” said he could fix my puncture…RELIEF …Within an hour I was on my way again!

 

Manuel and family with their Koalas..He saved me by fixing my puncture

The koalas were handed out to all and there was much laughing and good nature

The previous day I had left Quito at 6.00 am and rode to the border about 250Kms away. It was a nice ride and the weather was good. It was SO nice to leave Quito after the dramas of the last week.

The border crossing was the usual drag…I HATE border crossings.

This time I had a new experience!

At the Colombia side I had to get approval for Azulo’s entry.

There was a little office and a few blokes in grubby uniforms hanging around. They told me I needed photocopies of my passport and registration etc. I eventually managed to do that and went back to the little office.

It was lunch time!!!! They pointed to a chair and I sat down. They all started to eat lunch in front of me!…..That took at least half an hour and then they set about the work of stamping some papers…and off I went…What is wrong with these countries! Why don’t they do something about these awful Customs people!

I stopped for the night at a little place called LAS LAGAS. Merry had told me of this amazing SANTUARIO DE LAS LAGAS. It is really something. This huge Church straddles a narrow and incredibly deep gorge.

Sanctuario De Las Lagas

Santuario De Las Lagas

That night I stayed in a Hostel called “Casa Pastoral”.

Casa Pastoral (white place on hill)

It is run by the Nuns. It is in this HUGE building which COULD be fantastic. In 30 years time it probably will be a flash Hotel. Today it is anything but flash! However I had a clean room and it cost me $9.00.

Casa Pastoral..$9.00 per night..Will probably be a 5 star Hotel one day..Not today though!

I met a couple of Swiss bikers and we had a good chat and I had a local meal in a little place which was very Colombian…

It was a set meal with soup and a main course of Chicken, beans and some other things I have no idea what they were but tasted OK.  All up, including a beer cost $5.00. It is cheap here!

The next day I rode the 330 KMS to Popayan

The scenery was superb. Pictures don’t do it justice but here goes anyway!

Leaving Las lagas at 6.00am ..mist in valley

 

 

Popayan is a beautiful place. The historic centre is quite large and is ALL WHITE…There are lots of Colonial buildings. The centre however is completely empty at night. It is obviously a commercial centre and nobody lives there!

Popayan, Colombia

View from my Hotel

 

Popayan...same lanterns on every building

After my puncture episode I decided to lash out and found a very smart Hotel. I’m staying two nights….It still costs only $35.00 B&B!

My Hotel LA Herreria, Popayan (really nice place)

Updating my blog on the balcony of my Hotel!

My impression of Colombia so far is very positive. The scenery is beautiful…the traffic is less than Ecuador…the people are very friendly (virtually no English here) and it seems very cheap.

Colombia is obviously behind in the Tourist business, probably a result of all the bad press about guerrillas etc. There are lots of soldiers everywhere carrying guns which is a little off- putting…Luckily, so far they just wave at me…They seem friendly enough!

Everybody has warned me of violence and I am very conscious of that. Lonely Planet says that the place is as safe as anywhere and the much talked about guerrillas are not in the area I am travelling and in any case are less active now. Still, after the experience in Quito I am much more careful.

Crime is obviously a big problem in all these countries…Look at the photo below..The shop is actually OPEN but there are bars preventing entry. You purchase through the bars!

Bars prevent entry to this "milk bar" Shoppers buying through the bars!

Tomorrow I travel to Armenia. I may not get that far as I have no idea of the roads. Colombia is mountainous and it is slow going but very picturesque.

 

 

 

 

 

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