The Road to Popayan

Coconuco Travel Blog

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Waiting at the junction for the bus, that broken down one isn´t mine

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed at dawn and made my way down to the main square where I waited for the bus with four other Colombians. We waited until about 6:35 when the bus office opened and the guy made a phone call and told us that the bus never arrived at the city before us, he didn´t know what happened to it, but it never arrived. He got us tickets for the 9am bus and we had to wait for about two hours. When 9am rolled around we got in the back of a pickup truck taxi and headed off the road junction outside of town where the bus would pick us up, we kept picking up people until we have 8 people in the back with one kid hanging halfway outside and at least six people inside the truck. Finally we arrived at the crossroads where they dropped us off to wait for the bus along with six soldiers that there were there just hanging out and a few other people waiting for buses.

Some of the spectacular scenery
9:30 came and went and still no bus. Then the soldiers decided that they would begin stopping traffic and proceeded to stop every car, truck, and motorcycle that went by, checking people´s papers, searching all inside, on, and around the trucks, and even turning some people back. Around 10:15 our bus finally shows up and we throw our luggage in the back and continue on the road. Soon the paved portion of the road ended and we rounded the hillside with four foot high piles of dirt on the right that had eroded from the sheer cliffs on the left. After 20 minutes of this we came to a little town and dropped some people off and picked some people up. At this point the bus attendant came by passing out plastic bags, if people wanted them, because apparently it is so rough that people throw up.
Waterfall on the side of the road
Once we left the town, the road quickly deterioated and was unpaved and very rough for the next 5 hours. It was so rough that it was impossible to drink anything without spilling all over yourself. The scenery was spectacular though with lots of deep gorges covered by canopies of trees. Throughout the course of the trip I think we passed through almost all of the major climate zones, as indicated by the vast difference in plant species. It varied from bizarre cloud forest to high altitude desert to lush green hillsides with cascading waterfalls in the shadow of Volcano Purace which was shrouded in fog. Sadly, the road was too rough to even take pictures of most of this, I only managed a few pictures when we had to stop to let a truck pass by on a section of one lane road. We almost got stuck a few times and I´m sure if it had been raining parts of the road would have prevented huge obstacles. Towards the end of the trip as we passed through a mountain town nearer to Popayan people sprayed the bus with water and a little girl with her window open got hit full on in the face. Naturally everyone just laughed. The water spraying was due to the carnaval in town that would start the next day (see next entries). When we finally arrived in Popayan it was about 4:30pm and after 7 hours of that tortuously rough road I decided that that was enough bus travel for the day, and I also didn´t want to arrive in Pasto at 10pm at night on the eve of this huge carnaval.

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Waiting at the junction for the bu…
Waiting at the junction for the b…
Some of the spectacular scenery
Some of the spectacular scenery
Waterfall on the side of the road
Waterfall on the side of the road
Coconuco
photo by: AndySD