July 12-13th Colombia

by - July 15, 2018

July 11th

We decided we would get to Ecuador as soon as possible due to our time crunch.  We left Salento at 5 AM to catch the earliest bus to Armenia.  The nice bus driver picked us up as we were walking to the bus stop and then took us to an outdoor gym where he worked out on the elliptical while we sat on the bus.  Soon enough we were off to Armenia.  It was only a 20 minute bus ride.  Then we caught a bus to Popayan, which took us 8 hours.  We arrived in Popayan with little thought of actually liking the town.  It was a pit stop to get some sleep before we went to the border.  We walked around town and then had dinner at Mora Castilla.  We ate almost everything on the small menu.  We had empanadas, tamales, carantanta con hogao, and colaciones.  We drank salpicon pagans, champus, a hot sugar cane drink and hot chocolate.  The hot chocolate and sugar cane drink were served with cheese that you melt in it.  We loved this place and even bought some passion fruit wine and cookies to go.  The town isn't as colorful as the rest of the towns in Colombia, but it was beautiful in its own way.  The "white city" is literally all white.  We almost wanted to stay another night, but we decided to try to get to Otavalo, Ecuador in time for the Saturday market.

July 12th

This was going to be a long travel day to begin with, but it ended up being way worse than we imagined.  We arrived at the bus terminal at 5 AM to catch the 5:30.  Of course it was sold out through every bus company.  Ok, how about we get to Pasto, which is closer.  Nope, nothing.  Then miraculously a man walks up to us and asks us if we want to go to Pasto.  YES!  Big mistake...we packed in a van and eventually he pulled over and dropped us off on the side of the road....in the middle of nowhere.  He told us the bus would come for us...it never did.  After an hour, the conversation of hitchhiking came up.  Every bus that went by passed on without a glance.  Eventually a local man asked what we were waiting for.  After some communication problems, he offered to take us to another town that is closer to the border.  About an hour packed in a popcan car with 5 people and all our luggage, we found ourselves to be in a town called Manzano.  We really stood out like a sore thumb.  Most towns we visit are used to backpackers.  The locals stared and we sat there hoping the bus would come.  Some locals helped us and made sure we got on the right bus.  Ok, good...now we are off to Ipiales.  We met Pierre, a guy from Switzerland and found out we were all trying to get to Otavalo in time for the same market.  We decided the 3 of us would get there together.  We switched buses in Pasto and found ourselves in Ipiales at 4 PM.  A short taxi ride took us to the border crossing.  This border crossing is insanely busy.  There is a line for Venezueleans, a line for Colombians, and a line for all other travelers.  It was so sad to see all the families from Venezuela who are literally waiting in line for at least 24 hours to be seen.  Families with children of all ages, along with what luggage they could carry, sat in the cold waiting.  The idiots we are(sometimes), we stood in line only to realize we didn't walk backwards(dumb system) and get our passports stamped to leave Colombia. Once we saw the line we couldn't believe it.  After asking 5 people they showed us a much shorter line that was for the exit stamp.  We will never understand why nothing is ever labeled at these border crossings-not even in Spanish.  Then we took another taxi to Tulcan.  We luckily got on this full bus 10 minutes before it left.  Three hours later we arrived in Otavalo.  We checked into our Airbnb at 11 PM.  We slept like babies.

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