We were nearing the time that we would need to say our farewells to our friends Els and Gerret. They would be returning to Ecuador and we would continue our travels in Colombia.
We decided to head to the city of Popayan to spend a few days together. This would be a good point for them to continue south and we wanted to explore the city.
We found a great camping spot called EcoParque just north of the city. The owners were super nice, even providing us with a welcome drink upon our arrival. We settled here for a few days, enjoying each other’s company, relaxing in the pleasant gardens and taking turns playing monsters and princesses with Keira. Mike had hurt his back whilst repairing our car tire some days before, so it was a good place for him to recover.
We had the pleasure of meeting a Brazilian couple also travelling overland, Zanda and Daniela. We shared meals, and stories together. It is always interesting to hear other peoples stories, what they use to do, what their travel plans are and what they plan to do in the future. Most have quit their jobs to go travelling for an extended period of time, making sacrifices for the preceding years to save enough money to fund their trip.
Zanda and Daniela had worked really hard to put away enough money for 8 years of travelling and living expenses. Unfortunately the world economy and the deflation of the Brazilian dollar has significantly impacted their budget, and is forcing them to return to work earlier than they had hoped.
It is always hard parting ways after you have travelled with someone for an extended time. You come to rely on each other, sharing the responsibilities of navigation, decisions and daily chores. Els and Gerret had become our family. The only conciliation in saying goodbye was that we are sure our paths will meet again some time in the future.
Popayan is a large city, but the downtown historic area is very beautiful and has charm and a very relaxed atmosphere. Mike, Keira and I enjoyed wandering its streets, looking at the architecture, absorbing the atmosphere whilst sitting in the plaza, and enjoying coffee and cake at one of the charming cafes.
We were pleasantly surprised to find a “Jumbo” supermarket. We had first been introduced to this chain of supermarkets in Argentina. They are a bit pricier but have a large variety of goods, including many international products. We restocked our supplies, which generally means our canned and dried goods and treats. At these times, we put our extra stocks in the top box on the roof.
Our next destination was Tierradentro, another archeological site, to the east of Popayan. We had heard mixed reports about the road from “it is paved all the way” to “it is muddy and parts are impassable”. We figured there was only one way to find out.
The road itself was not that bad, relatively speaking. It was in fact paved a lot of the way, but the sections that were not were very rough and narrow. There are a lot of landslides in the area, which take out the roads. A lot of construction is taking place to reinforce the mountainsides and to forge new roads.
The scenery was once again incredible. However as we passed through the towns, we got mixed feelings from the people in this area. Some seemed pleased to see us, however others seemed indifferent and some not pleased at all. This was once an area controlled by FARC rebels, which may explain the mixed response.
Once in the small town of San Andres, we set up camp in a private “camping lot” run by a local family. It was basically a vacant lot that had some very run down toilets on site. However the people of the town were very friendly, welcoming and intrigued by our presence. Two local girls came by to play with Keira.
Tierradentro itself was amazing. It was unlike any other archeological site we had visited. Little is known about the people who built these sites, however they believe it was the same people that had been present in San Agustin, as similar statues had been found in the area. These burial sites are underground chambers. They cremated their dead and the remains were placed in large urns that were then placed inside the chambers.
The stairways down to them are very steep and even with the artificial lighting the chambers are quite dark. At first Keira was afraid to go down, but once she conquered this fear, she loved the experience.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: Els- she was able to tape Mikes back to aid in its recovery
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- seeing Tierradentro; Keira- playing with the big dog at EcoParque/Tierradentro; Riss- seeing Tierradentro
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-saying goodbye to Els and Gerret/dealing with the pain in my back; Keira- being scared at the burial sites/saying goodbye to Els and Gerret
Riss- saying goodbye to Els and Gerret
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- supermarket foods, Keira-some type of candy; Riss- foods at Jumbo
BEST CAMPING SPOT: Ecoparque outside of Popayan
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.