We caught a bus from Popayán to Ipiales (10 more bus hours clocked up) and got there about 6pm. We chose the Hotel Metropol directly across from the bus station since it was only for one night (who promised us they had hot water. LIES!) and had some dinner in a local spot nearby (which was terrible) but we had some lovely biscuits from a local bakery for absolute pittance!
Santuario de Las Lajas/Las Lajas Sanctuary
At the Ipiales bus station there’s a little sign that says ‘Las Lajas’ which directs you to the collectivos that bring you to the Las Lajas Sanctuary. Once full, (4 people) you’re on your merry way for $2,000COP per person. The sanctuary is about 15 minutes from Ipiales and is actually in a little village called Potosi which is actually just darling compared to Ipiales; we definitely would have stayed here if we’d realised how close it was to the border.
Once you’re dropped off in Potosi you walk about 10 minutes downhill, passed hundreds of plaques from pilgram visits over the years; and man it’s a sight to behold. I’m so glad we didn’t skip this place! The church is built high above the Guaitara river over a canyon with a lovely waterfall off to the side. We went into the museum (which was locked but the chap was lurking around outside the gates so let us in…although a priest had to let us back out since that pup locked us in). $3,000COP per person entrance.
We payed $8,000COP for a collectivo back on our own as we wanted to get cracking on our way to Ecuador (every single time I say Ecaudor I sing that bloody song in my head from Sash! God damn it. Here’s the link so I’m not alone.)
I had an awesome fresh blackberry juice from a lovely lady in the bus station; man they make some good juice in Colombia!
Crossing the border from Colombia to Ecuador
Right next to the Las Lajas sign for collectivos is where you also get your collectivo to la frontera/the border/Rumichaca. You can wait until the collectivo is full and pay $1,750COP per person but we payed $7,000COP to just get the collectivo driver to take us there pronto. It’s only about 5 minutes to Rumichaca – once you get there you need to make sure you stop at the Colombian building and get an exit stamp in your passport. You then walk under the huge Ecuador sign (passed the touts milling around you flashing their US dollars – Ecuadorian currency) and into the Ecuador building, fill out a form (essentially your passport details), answer 2 questions (is this your first time in Ecuador? and where do you live?), get your stamp and off you go. You then cross the road and pop into a white van/collectivo to Tulcán (for 75 cents) where you’ll be dropped off at the terminal and you can hop on the next bus to your chosen destination. Ours was Otavalo ($3USD each for 3 hours of travel. That’s how they roll in Ecuador. Waaay cheaper than Colombia).
Note: we didn’t find this border crossing in the slightest bit dangerous. The only danger you’re in is being ripped off in currency exchange rates. We met some of the guys from the Ciudad Perdida trek in Otavalo who crossed at night-time and they didn’t have any trouble either.