Popayan -

Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
Trip End Sep 10, 2007

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

 Leaving Cali, we had an early start to the day.  At the bus station we took
a taxi with two other men (rather than the bus) with promises that it would
be quicker and direct.  After an hour of waiting for our driver we set off
on the 3hr journey to Popayan.  An hour in to the trip we hit an amazing
storm.  The humidity from our full car steamed up the windows and the
torrential rain made it virtually impossible to see out of the window.  This
didn't seem to deter our kamikaze driver who continued to over take on blind
bends and take chances where lesser men would not.  We think it even worried
the local in the front passenger seat who would frantically wipe the
windscreen every 5 minutes in the hope of improving visibility.

Arriving in one piece in Popayan, written instructions on how to get to our
accommodation were provided to our second taxi driver and a grunt exchanged.
  In hindsight it seemed the grunt was not an acknowledgement that our
driver could in fact read the instructions but more that he would accept us
as his passengers.  After 15minutes of driving around and around a gated
housing estate, asking confused neighbours, we found our accommodation for
the following two nights.

Auberg Compobello is run by a French couple who were not living at the house
but had instead employed 3 staff to assist us during our stay.  The house
was lovely and we had it all to ourselves. A bargain for COP90,000 (AUD52)
with breakfast included.  Friendly affectionate kitten came free and
hummingbirds flew about the garden.  The downside of the owner's non
residence being that there would be no evening meals provided and no beer
(WHAT... NO BEERS).  There also seemed to be a problem with the hot water
(ahhhhhhh I need to wash my hair).

Unperturbed, we found a cheap local restaurant at the end of the street
which served Colombian food (grilled meat, rice and deep fried savoury
bananas - disgusting and served with every meal).  To our amusement, this
road side eatery seemed to be popular with locals and drivers would pull
into the car park, honk their horns, flash their lights and be served in
their vehicle rather than getting out and sitting at a table in the
restaurant.  With our accommodation being so far out of town we dinned here
two nights in a row.  The meals were hit and miss but cheap and filling. 
(Casseroles are popular in Colombia and so far haven't disappointed)

Venturing into the centre of Popayan the following day we were pleasantly
surprised.  Whenever we arrived in a town it seems tatty and uninviting but
after exploration there are pockets of stunning architecture and quaint
streets.  Investigating some of the hotels we found the more luxurious Hotel
Monasterio COP205,000 a night.  Teaming with army personal and it appeared
no other guests.  Popayan feels much safer than the big cities and very
mellow.  Of course there are still people selling Minuto Cellular on every
corner and if you ever need to photocopy anything, you need not worry.  The
surrounding countryside is stunning and the temperature perfect.  As with
the entry on Cali, I hope the photos give you an idea.  We didn't see many
tourists, the town being the last main town before the supposedly risky
journey south to Pasto and Ipales.
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