Ok so from Salento we took a bus to Armenia (20 minutes) and then to Cali (2.5 hours with Expreso Palmira) and then on to Popayán (5 more hours, again with Expreso Palmira), phew! The bus station is about a 15 minute walk from the centre of Popayán so we wandered away in and found a room in the Parklife Hostel, which literally shares a wall with the cathedral in the lovely main park, Parque Caldas. The hostel didn’t have a great atmosphere to be honest – maybe it’s just because it’s currently shoulder season. Run by another Irish chap…
Popayán is a white-washed city and there is some beautiful architecture to check out. It’s probably the only place We’ve seen so far in Colombia that I would say is in any way similar to Spain. They have some fabulous churches, I think Iglesia de San Franciso was my favourite (didn’t get a picture but you can check it out here). There’s a pretty cool bridge linking the north of the city to the centre called the Humilladero Bridge which is definitely worth seeing; there was even a llama wandering around; poor pet must have been freezing – we’re a bit far north for the little chap. Side note: chuffed I’ve finally seen a llama! The city is supposed to be a UNESCO City of Gastronomy or something along those lines but the food was the worst we’ve had in Colombia by a long shot. Odd. Saying that, we found a little café called La Fontana which had delicious caramel ice-cream.
We took a little walk to the Museo de Historia Natural (closed between 12pm and 2pm, $3,000COP entrance each) and had a tourism student/guide who was happy to practice his English on us. I asked him what he planned to do in tourism; he said the most important thing is to promote Colombia – WHO is this dude’s teacher?! Or is the government always watching? The museum is basically a few rooms of stuffed animals (with fake eyes), mostly birds, although there’s currently a moose on loan from Canada. A roadway just by the museum leads to a little purpose-made village (I think) with some little shops selling a few handicrafts.
As we landed in Popayán on a Monday and the Silvia market was on the next morning we decided it would definitely be worth checking out. We wandered out to the bus station and went with the one company that was holding up a sign for Silvia. I have to say, bus travel in Colombia is pretty seamless. I was feeling dizzy but I put it down to being hungry (since that’s nearly always the case) but by the time we got to Silvia I had a splitting headache. Let’s just say there were tears and a little plastic bag was acquired for the bumpy trip back down to Popayán (longest 45 minute trip of my entire life). Think I must have caught some virus on all this public transport. The rest of Tuesday was therefore spent in slumber. Ah well, I didn’t do too badly for a month in Colombia. From what I remember, Silvia was pretty cool, although tiny; Tuesday is market day for the nearby Guambiano Indians who dress in beautiful deep purple attire with hot pink trim. John was just looking after me so unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures (although I believe they get a little offended if you take pictures anyway so all’s well…)
Overall, it’s a pretty-ish city but it didn’t really hold too much interest for us. The people were much nicer in Salento and further north in Colombia. We’ve decided to move on to Ecuador so we’ll be overnighting in Ipiales on the Colombia/Ecuador border to see the Las Lajas church and cross into Ecuador during the daytime.