The most religous city on South America

Trip Start Oct 24, 2010
Trip End Jun 16, 2011

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Monday, April 11, 2011

We got the bus from Manizales down to Cali, Lindsay was a bit freaked out because the guy who sat behind us seemed pretty mental and maybe a bit messed up on drugs also but he seemed more interested speaking to himself and shouting at the whole bus rather than bugging us.

As opposed to our night bus to Manizles where the air con was blasting this bus had none at all and we were all burning up, parents were stripping clothes off their children and everyone was reluctant to drink too much water as a fat guy had blocked the toilet with the smelliest dump ever. The bus started to empty a bit so Lindsay jumped across into a few spare seats, hoping that not having my body heat would help her a bit. That was all grand until our druggie buddy behind decided i maybe needed a new friend, after telling him I couldn't speak Spanish I heard him unzipping his bad and routing around, really didn't know what he was going to get and was a bit concerned, however he very kindly offered me some of his booze that he had, i had to politely refuse (worried he would bring out the crack next!) and he left me alone for the rest of the trip. We finally arrived in Cali about an hour late, largely as a result of the driver constantly stopping the bus and having a smoke, whilst not letting anyone else off!

We decided not to stay in Cali and looked for the next bus to Popayan, there was a local bus leaving in a few minutes so we quickly bought a ticket and rushed over and jumped on. I am sure that the driver and conductor must have been bored at work one day and tried to think of a strategy to liven up their days, the winning idea was that the driver would drive as though he was a rally driver whose life would end if he didn't go as fast as the bus would allow and at the same time the conductor would lean out the door as far as he could screaming at people, trying to drum up some business. I have to say it was a brilliant journey, it absolutely flew past as there was loads to look at and the driver and conductor were really entertaining, there is a lot to be said for local buses instead of coaches and they are much cheaper.

We arrived in Popayan and got checked into out hostel that was owned by a Scottish couple, we had a room with lots of pictures of Edinburgh and of course some of Columbia.

Following day we headed to Silvia, on the way there our bus was pulled over by a Police officer and he asked to see our passports (as the only 2 gringos on the bus) we showed him our photocopy and he said that wasn't sufficient and we had to show the originals. I tried to explain they were safe in the hostel and am sure the photocopy would suffice, at this point he started telling us we could get deported (he showed us a 'standard’ text message in English saying we would be deported to Alaska or New Zealand, we were in a bit of a conundrum, we had just come from NZ but did enjoy it, however Alaska is somewhere we haven’t been but were worried about our choice of footwear as we were wearing flip flops ) and it was very serious for foreigners not having a passport in Columbia etc etc. I was pretty relaxed and was just letting him have his rant as there wasn't much we could do but Lindsay being Lindsay decided to up the stakes a bit and started having a go at him and arguing (that girl needs to take it easy sometimes), maybe it was just as well he couldn’t properly understand all her English, the officer at this point decided to do what most men in the world would do and decided it was more trouble than what it was worth and just let us go, phew.... (For the record I think Kieron has exaggerated my approach to the problem)

Silvia is a small town in the hills about 1.5 hours from Popayan and on a Tuesday it is market day and the local indigenous people (Guambino) come to the town to trade with the locals, the Guambino are very recognisable as they wear very unique clothes with bowler hats and capes (give them a flute and they could blend in at an Orange March...), unfortunately they are pretty camera shy so we didn't get any photos but managed to find an image on the web of them. We walked around the market and took it all in, was pretty funny as we were getting stared at quite a bit (we looked like giants compared to the locals) as we didn't see any more Westerners yet we were loving the people watching ourselves. We stopped for a 60p lunch of rice and beans (reminded me a lot of Nepal) and just enjoyed our surroundings then headed back to Popayan.

When we got back to our Hostel there were a few Policemen at the front door, Lindsay joked they were probably there to ask for our passports. We went upstairs and were speaking to one of the guys we met the previous day and the police came up and asked if they could have a word with us, have to say was a bit nervous at this point and trying to give Lindsay an evil look for being so brash earlier. They wanted to interview us for Columbian TV as they were trying to attract more tourists to the town, especially in the run up to holy week (basically Popayan has massive festivities the whole of holy week and is meant to be a pretty spectacular place) and were wanting to demonstrate how the police are working with tourists etc, all pretty random. Well we thought it would be rude to say no so 3 of us headed into town with the police and got a bit of a guided tour and had a short recorded interview at the end, how very bizarre, only in Columbia! The policeman was very appreciative and provided us with his details and told us if we had any issues at all in Columbia to call him and he would help us out, I actually believed him although could have done with meeting him earlier today, just a pity we are leaving tomorrow.

We walked around Popayan for the rest of the day, it is a lovely place and one of the nicest towns/cities we have been to on our travels. Most of the buildings have been given a coat of paint for the holy week celebrations (based on similar celebrations in Seville), meaning all the old buildings look pretty fresh and well maintained. You get the impressions the locals are very proud of their city and it is very clean with no litter. It makes sense that the place has some sort of celebration for catholics as there are loads of massive churches everywhere, it is probably the only time they get full. They go to church all the time, we saw everyone going after school and work, so glad we don’t live here! (this is a Lindsay comment, Kieron is scared his mum will give him a row for saying that) It is a pity we won’t be here another week to see some of the processions and festivities – oh well never mind!
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