Home of even more great roads.
The Colombian road builders have a great sense of adventure. I can picture the discussion, “Don’t build the road through the valley, let’s see if we can actually make it follow the ridgeline all the way. Twenty pesos says you can’t”.
I’m glad someone took the bet.
The roads are spectacular: 1000 foot drops on each side of the road, pavement twisting along the ridges, fog sweeping up the hillsides increasing the drama of the region. We follow a local semi-truck. He is pulling a full-size trailer. The road is two lanes with no shoulder. After an hour of trying, we can’t pass him. It isn’t that he is blocking the road. We can’t pass him because he is flying!
I try my best to keep up by sticking close and following his passes. “If he is going it must be safe, right?” It’s a good thing that the game only lasts an hour.
The tires are squealing,
the brakes are squealing,
the wife is squealing.
Then we reach the valley floor. A quick fuel fill up and we’re off to repeat this game several times over the course of the day. Any of the passes would see me arrested in our home country but here in Colombia it is how you get it done.
It’s another national holiday.
Sancocho, one of Colombia’s favourite dishes is on the menu for the special occasion. So we gotta try it. But what is it? Pollo. Chicken – sounds good. Order up three.
Course one arrives – chicken soup. Looks good. Tastes great. What’s next? Sausage – sort of. The next course arrives. Ummmm. Why is my lunch looking at me? It is about 6 inches high, a chicken neck with the head still attached, all the inside removed except the eyes and it is stuffed and standing up on the plate, staring me down.
It is tasty, but I have to eat all three.
Stefan and Tracey decide that it is not for them.
We stop in a village just south of Popayan to find accommodation. A kind gentleman on a motorbike offers to assist and leads us to a place south of town where we are greeted by a friendly family who shows Tracey a room that is available for the night. As she checks out the room, she can’t help noticing that it is clearly being occupied. There are personal items everywhere in the room. As she looks around, members of the family are hustling around clearing up all evidence of inhabitation. We accept the accommodation and within minutes the room is readied with fresh bedding and towels. Shortly afterward, the family piles into two taxis and are gone.
We never see them again. Thankfully there is a caretaker on site who locks up for the night and makes a lovely breakfast the next morning, but I can’t help feeling as if our arrival has left the family without a place to stay themselves and picture them bunking with unsuspecting friends in order to make room for us. Based on the hospitality we have seen so far in Colombia, this wouldn’t surprise me.
The next day we have a surprise – the best burger I have ever had. We arrive in town in the dark, in the rain, in the cold.
Our hotel room is so small the door catches on the bed. No danger of falling out of bed – there’s not enough room! We are hungry. The restaurant is closed. The desk clerk hands us a take out menu from a local restaurant. Wow, some great local dishes on the menu.
But when we order we hear
“Nope, out of that.
Nope out of that too.
We finally get down to “What do you have?”
“Hamburgers” is the reply. Well, I guess we will have burgers. The burgers arrive. They are unbelievable. Fresh chopped beef, a great bun, a slice of ham, cheese, fried onion, avocado, and tomato topped with a mysterious crunchy shred of something. In case that was not enough they put on a chicken breast too.
Chicken is like salt down here, it comes on everything. The burger is amazing, a complex collection of great flavours. I just about stay another day, just to have another one.
Our last stop in Colombia is at Santuario de Las Lajas, a strange but spectacular sight. The neo-Gothic Santuario is built on a stone bridge spanning a deep gorge. It’s also a hugely popular destination for pilgrims in need of a miracle. Pilgrims’ plaques of thanksgiving line the walls of the canyon. They have placed their faith in the Virgin Mary, whose image is believed to have emerged from an enormous vertical rock 45m above the river sometime in the mid-18th century. The church is directly against the rocky wall of the gorge where the image appeared. The church is a spectacular sight.
Ecuador beckons – here we come.