Columbia, Popoyan - Into Guerrilla Territory

Before we made a b-line for the border we figured we would get immersed in some of the Ecuadorian culture and go to the world famous Otalavo market.  The main attraction to the market are the fine weavings of blankets, carpets, scarves and others.  Although, not having a whole lot of room for the carpets, we sufficed with some things for ourselves, Derrick coming away with some pants, paintings, and toque, Eduardo with a Panama Hat and myself with some paintings and a panama hat.  The great Panama hat, made in Ecuador, are a great find, keeps the sun away and keeps you cool, but also packs away nicely.

 Once we had our fun for the day, it was time to tackle the border.  First doing the Ecuador side of things was not so bad, stamp, sign, exchange some money, and spend the remainder of coins on some chocolate and off to the Columbian side.  On the Columbian side of things it got a little lengthy, stamp, photocopies, sign and then inspection.  The customs agent was very nice, after taking the imprint of our engine serial numbers and looking over them carefully, he let us enter without insurance and then gave us some tips on where to stay in town.

Epiales, another border town which we are coming to have a falling out with.  The towns tend to be dreary and have lots of people who want money or to sell you something.  But when borders are an afternoon affair, a stay in these places are inevitable.  We got some insurance at the local supermarket, most expensive yet at 40 loonies, and found us a hotel around the corner.

A fresh start to a fresh country.  Woke up at a decent time and after some amazing Columbian joe and cheese pastries we set off for Popoyan.

The introduction to Columbia was an incredible one, the scenery turned green, the landscape grew rougher and the roads tightened.  It was smooth, curvy riding all the way to lunch at Pasto.

The Colombian soldiers which were scattered along the side of the roadway made for an interesting sight.  Full cammo with fully auto rifles, who would all give us the thumbs up.  A little astounded by the sight of things, all I could usually manage is a meager peace sign back.

Had the typical Almeurzo de hoy for lunch, fillet de pollo con arroz y ensalada (about the extent of my Spanish).  We also met some crazy pedal bikers that were on their way of the ´Transcontinental Triathalon´ meaning they kayaked the inside passage (2000km), walked the pacific cost trail (4000km) and now are bicycling from the us to Ushuaia.  Very nice and friendly folk but we feel like we are definitely cheating when see dedicated travelers like these. Blog is here:

After waving goodbye the our new friends, we headed to to do the remainder of the road we had been warned about.  As the km drew onward we began to understand why.  The road was in dire conditions, with first hitting the boulders, rock slides and washouts.  The going was slow, ensuring that the only one direction of traffic navigated around the obstacle.  This we have become accustomed to in the south, and we know our place, not in right of way.  But then the potholes began.  The potholes not presenting much of a challenge for the bike, but the trucks seemed to have an absolute fear of them as they would completely cross into our lanes, and not move when they saw us.  Several times each of us had to jam on the brakes or squeeze on the shoulder to avoid the large object coming towards us.  Definitely one of the most exciting roads we have ridden thus far, and I hope it remains that way.  Derrick captured video, although there is no way we would be able to upload the 200mb masterpiece, so pictures and your imaginations will have to do.

Once we got into Popoyan, everything seemed possible after surviving that road, and we found a hostel for a good price, parked the bikes in the entrance way and hit the town for some diner.  

Popoyan was a beautiful town, with white buildings within 2 blocks radius of the plaza and the intermixed stone overpasses.  Time to recuperate after that treacherous day.