Sunday, 16 April 2017

To Popayan and Salento

To get to Popayan you need to book a taxi, or navigate several bus changes - we took the taxi.

The road was surfaced at first before becoming a dirt track for a couple of hours. It climbed up and up into a national park. Cloud forest on either sides, the only other sign of humans a sign warning of possible tapirs in the road. Eventually the road crossed the high point and started going down and traffic appeared again, including several large tankers that really didn't belong on such a road. Then we emerged to a surfaced road again and through small villages to the city of Popayan.

In our one night in Popayan we saw the parade there which is apparently second biggest in the world. It certainly took a long time. Not just floats and marching bands but a man in a pointy hat, police, firemen and at one point the string section of an orchestra were wheeled past on a kind of trolley.

Next morning I was crossing the road on the way to the bus station when I suddenly found myself on the ground with my rucksack under a motorbike. Obviously my first thought was how angry the driver must be for my getting in theway but luckily she was fine about it. There then followed the arrival of a policeman, ambulance and a man with a bottle of whisky he wanted to pour on my grazed leg. All successfully waved away.

Despite all information suggesting it was impossible we found a minibus from Popayan to Armenia. Driven by a man who drove fast and talked faster. We went down and down to a flat hot plain with sugar cane plantations then up again to the city of Armenia.

From there it was a taxi to Salento. A process which required my passport number, a special permit, which the taxi driver got from an office and refuelling where we had to get out in case the car exploded. It didn't.

Salento turned out to be a hillside village perched on the edge of a huge valley. More tourists than anywhere else in Colombia and more restaurants. The village was crowded with Colombians and foreigners. I was reminded that by far the quietest place in Colombia so far was the capital.

They didn't have easter parades but a bonfire lit by throwing burning lights from the church tower (with a guide line).

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