Popayan to Pasto: up in the Andes

Trip Start Jul 01, 2011
Trip End Jul 21, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel El Dorado

Flag of Colombia  , Nariño,
Thursday, February 23, 2012

Today's word is ELEVATION. The numbers speak for themselves. Cartagena: 3ft. Medellín: 4,905ft. Buga: 3,176ft. Popayán: 5,699ft. Pasto: 8,290ft. In comparison, the base of the olympic village of Squaw Valley in California is 6,200ft and the summit of the ski area (Granite Chief) peaks at 9,050ft. Tomorrow we'll be in Quito at 9,350ft. Wow, my head is spinning. It's probably the lack of oxygen :)

The road today is uneventful: steep roads, twists and turns, slow trucks, crazy buses overtaking without visibility. Nothing new... except that the vistas are becoming more and more grandiose, the peaks higher and the gorges deeper. Going through these landscapes we are reminded that at the scale of Nature we are not much bigger than ants.
After about 5 hours on the road we arrive in San Juan de Pasto, preceded by rain. We are definitely far from the heat of Cartagena: it is now 65 degrees. We struggle a bit to find our hotel which is located in a tiny street that cars cannot enter. Without hesitating I stop the car next to the curb, put my warning lights, walk to the hotel and start unloading the luggage. Cops walk by and I tell myself that Mai (who stayed in the car) is going to get an opportunity to practice her Spanish... but the cops don't care. Actually no one cares. The dense flow of traffic just goes around our big 4x4.

Once checked into the hotel and after parking the car in the designated garage, I venture on a quest to find a warm sweater: initially our journey was limited to Central America so I decided not to pack my super-warm polar fleece. Now that we're making our way up in the Andes I need to get in gear. I visit a number of local stores and even the clothes market. Plenty of jackets and some cotton sweaters but nothing that looks warm. I finally find a sweater in a store specialized in foreign brands... and I end-up buying a thick wool sweater... from Kenneth Cole, NY. I would like to have bought something local but frankly warmth and comfort were my priorities. I am now a happy camper in my warm sweater. The sales guy and the security guy at the store were cool young people excited to chat with a foreigner and even more excited when they found out I drove all the way from California. They gave me tips on which churches to visit in Pasto, and said I really have to eat some "cuy", a local specialty. It's like a wild guinea pig. Tonight Mai and I are very tired after another full day of driving, so we'll try the "cuy" another time. We're just beginning our journey in the Andes, there will be plenty of opportunities to eat strange foods, of this I am sure.
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Andre on

When you reach Ipiales, near pasto, go visit the santuario de las lajas. Its a beautiful neogotic church enclave in the midle of a valley.

cedric.brehaut on

Absolutely! We stopped in the Las Lajas sanctuary and Cathedral this morning, it was magnificent. I've never seen anything like this before. Check out my next blog entry for some photos ;)

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