Popayan stay

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Where I stayed

Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Popayan is a fairly large town with a historic centre, which is similar to the old colonial buildings and churches of Cartagena. It isn't quite so well-known and on the tourist trail as some of the bigger cities though, and consequently our hostel was fairly empty with only half a dozen backpackers milling around.  The hostel was in an old building, that was 100 years old.  The land was initially owned by the church next door and was used as a cemetery for the priests.  Then at the end of the nineteenth century there was a huge earthquake and the church was destroyed.  When the church was rebuilt later the adjoining land had a large, grand house built on it, with high ceilings, huge windows looking out on to the park and a sunroof looking up at the church tower.  After many years the house was abandoned, until a few years ago when a Spanish guy, an Irish guy and a Romanian girl decided to turn it into a hostel.  They have kept a lot of the old features and it felt like we were staying in a part of history, which was great after staying in countless characterless hotel rooms.

Our room looked out on the park, and we spent lots of time leaning out of the window watching Popayan life unfolding.  We saw the guys set up their artwork to sell by the side of the road, the sellers trying to flog cheap Chinese made plastic toys, men selling roasted peanuts on a tray they hold out in front of them, corn on the cob roasters, dance groups attracting crowds of people, a protest about women’s rights to fair pay…..the list goes on.  One of the best things to watch was each time it started to rain, all interactions would stop, everyone would scatter and within a moment the square would be deserted, except for the odd stray dog who would stand their ground and bark into the rain.  It was oddly satisfying to be watching it from inside the comfort of a warm building as everyone fled in every direction.

The primary chore for our two day stay in Popayan was to do bike maintenance, as we have now cycled around 1500km, and we tend to use that as the general time scale to change our chains over and give the cogs a good clean.  We took our bikes out into the park and spent the second afternoon giving them a clean over, whilst Popayan life buzzed around us and the church bells rang.  The first 1500km seem to have gone quickly, and I can’t believe that we are 6 weeks into our trip already and will be moving into Ecuador within the next week.

Other than bike maintenance we walked around the historical area a few times and took lots of photos.  We also ate lots of food and I made up a huge vegetable soup that we could dip into over the two days.  It is fairly easy to get a portion or two of vegetables each day but it’s not quite the same as home, so it feels good to restock on vitamins and vegetable goodness every so often.  We also walked up to a small hill which overlooks Popayan and watched the sunset over the town and the hills in the distance beyond it.  One evening we settled into the movie room with a bottle of red wine, we watched a film based in India and I was so relaxed I completely forgot that we were in Colombia and not watching a film at home.  It was only when I heard people talking in Spanish outside that I was brought back to the reality of our latest adventure.
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