Salsa in Cali and heading South

Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
Trip End Dec 13, 2006

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Saturday, October 7, 2006

After the beautiful scenery of the Coffee Region I headed South to Cali and again stayed at the hostel Calidad House where me and Mandy stayed last year... it still has good rooms and is very clean but it isn't quite as friendly as it used to be. I also took a look at another hostel nearby called Iguana and although that had more people staying it was a bit dingy in comparison. Cali is famous for its nightlife and especially its salsa so I had a good weekend drinking and dancing in the local bars. I also found some really good cheap Mexican food at Toluca Tacos which was only a block away from the hostel (too near and too tempting!) I then headed South again to the town of Popayan which is know as 'la ciudad blanca' or 'the White City' as it has a lot of old buildings and most of them are painted white. Its a laid back place so i stayed for 2 days and then headed to Sylvia where a weekly market was being held. Lots of people come to the market from nearby villages and most wear traditional dress so its a fun place to people-watch for a couple of hours. In the afternoon I caught a ride on a 'chiva' which is an open-sided bus/truck hybrid with bench seats. The top of the chiva was piled high with market produce and we bumped our way along some small roads to a junction where I caught a regular bus towards the village of San Andres. About an hour short of the village there had been a landslide and the road had partly collapsed so we all had to leave the bus and walk for about 200yds through the mud (carrying any luggage) to where some jeeps were waiting for us on the other side. The jeep drivers must have been pretty happy as they charged us all extra and crammed in as many people in as they could - along with several others I had to stand up on the back and hang on as we followed the winding roads down to the village! The next day I spent a full day visiting Tierradentro with Erwann (French) Carmen (Brazillian) and their little boy Miles. They were all good fun and we had a great time walking through the beautiful scenery and climbing down into the ancient preserved tombs that this area is famous for. In the village we stayed at a small homestay which was only 8,000pesos (under 2pounds) and the old couple who ran it were really friendly, cooking us meals when we wanted. The next morning we all got up early for the early bus back to Popayan (5hrs) and then I headed further South to Pasto (6hsr) and Ipiales 90mins). I stayed the night in Ipiales but there is not much to recommend the town - it's not cheap and it's not pretty! In the morning however I visited the spectacular El Sanctuario de Las Lajas which is a church built on a bridge across a ravine. A man saw a vision in the rockface and so built the church and the rockface doubles as the altar inside - the construction is amazing and it is beautiful. Me and Mandy visited here 18mths ago but then lost our pics when our camera was stolen in Quito so it was nice to come back and take some more pics! By now I was only 20mins from the border with Ecuador and soon I was leaving Colombia... At the border I got my exit and entry stamps easily enough and also managed to avoid the drunk/druggie who tried to steal my bag. I had some Euros to change but the money-changers thought they were pretty worthless - luckily they were happy enough to change some Colombian Pesitos for the US dollars that Ecuador now uses as its currency. Will update from Ecuador soon!
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