how i spent my first day in Colombia…

May 20, 2011 at 6:28 pm 1 comment

Ecuadorian Andes, on the way from Otavalo to Tulcan

Arrived at the border with a huge load on my back, maybe 25 kilos, more than half of which were souvenirs (fabric, tapestries, dried fruits with elaborate engravings, woolen hats and gloves) bought in Otavalo the day before my visa expired. I’d planned to mail it all the day I left but stupidly forgot to transfer money into my account and so ended up with $100 and the choice: mail everything and arrive to Colombia with absolutely no cash or haul everything and have some money.

(the account I always use is online checking with Charles Schwab because they have good customer service and free withdrawals all over the world, but transfers take several days… the other account I have is with TD bank but I found out they’d irreversibly cancelled my card without informing me months ago)

I will tell you how I spent the $100 I had left to show what a fool I can be ;)

After paying for my room (two nights and laundry $19) I decided to buy a few more items at the artisanal market… increasing my load yet more and leaving $25 with which to make my way to Pasto, Colombia where I’d found a couchsurfer to host me….

To travel without much money is to be more creative, more sociable and more open to the unexpected… this is true and wonderful except when your bag is so heavy you can’t even lift it to your shoulders without help :(

Tulcan-Ipailes border crossing

And so it was that I crossed the border into Colombia in the late afternoon of Saturday, May 14, exactly 90 days since I began my trip in Quito. I exchanged my $21 for pesos and got on a small bus for 1500 pesos (approx 80 cents) to Ipailes from where I bought a ticket for 6000 pesos (approx $3.50) to Pasto.

The way to Pasto was dark, which was a shame because to my right were beautiful landscapes of mountains which I would have liked to see. At 8pm i arrived in the bus station and called my CS-host from a phone shop. He didn’t answer so I bought a small cheese bread to satiate my hunger and went to the internet cafe to check my email in case he’d written to tell me his plans had changed. No email from him but there was another “yes” from another CS-er with a # but no address. I wrote the digits down, went over them 20 times in case I’d miswritten, and paid 200 pesos (approx. 10 cents) for the 2 minutes I was online (a bargain after I explained my money situation, “tranquillo tranqiluillo” they said accepting my silver coin, an expression I like for the million uses it has and the goodwill that it connotes)

But neither host answered his phone….

And that was how I arrived to the waiting room of the bus station, heavy bag on my shoulders, a laptop in my small bag (I say this because traveling with it has become more burdensome and I hate the worry I feel on its account) and a conscience growing heavier with thoughts of the couchsurfers.

And that’s when I heard a flute and saw two dark haired guys with large backpacks and smiles inviting me to sit with them.

They were Christians from Switzerland and Chile, waiting for a bus that was to leave in 3 hours for Popoyan, from where they planned to find a place for camping and the natural life. Not exactly missionaries but enthusiastic to talk about Christ with everyone. But the first night we met we did not talk about religion and to me they were just two backpackers who invited me to join them.

The bus to Popoyan traveled at night, along a route that Lonely Planet warns not to take at night for the robbers that stop the busses. But my companions, and all the other riders, did not look worried.

It was a restless night. I cannot sleep in a sitting position. At 5:45 in the morning we arrived and took another bus to a small village with a lagoon where we planned to camp, they in their tents, I in my new hammock.

While they ate their large meaty breakfasts I cruised the market… bought a mango, 4 chonchas, one unpalatable corn flour thing that even the lady who sold them didn’t want to sell me because it’s suppose to be eaten with meat, 2 pieces of yuca bread, 2 pieces of corn bread and some soft cheese. It cost about 3000 pesos (approx. $1.75).

We arrived at the lagoon which is actually a kind of resort for the local Colombians to take holiday with their families. Fishing is done in these small artificial lagoons and costs 1000 pesos per kilo of fish you catch. There is no shower, just a bathroom about half kilometer away from our camp, and I had my first river bath of the year in the river that flowed 10 meters below my hammock.

camping :)

I spent most of the day sleeping… we had a simple dinner of rice, eggs and cheese before the rain started to pour and the sun set and we retreated inside our respective homes for the night…

my amazing hammock, with mosquito net and carp for rainy days

As I write this from inside my hammock, it’s raining hard and I can feel the wind beneath. The carp above my hammock is holding up well and I’m not wet. But it’s my first time sleeping outside, alone, and in the dark… and sometimes when I realize this or try to gaze outside the shelter of my hammock a nervousness intoxicates me, like a drop of water rolling down my spine, but only for a moment. But the hammock is comfortable, I like the sound of the river, and the boys are nearby.

So here I am… in Colombia, some village I don’t know the name of, inside a hammock, in the rain, bathing in a river, eating rice cooked in on wooden logs, speaking Spanish with two people I didn’t know 24 hours ago. Here I am, ajar, free, and happy just to be…

preparing food with new friends

a bridge!

this little girl is called Vanessa and she played football better than me and the two guys combined

coffee beans growing

machine for the removal of husks from the coffee beans. it can be operated manually or with an electric motor. all those brown things on the bottom are the discarded husks.

yo & a pretty woman


Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , .

a little update, the beach life brotherhood

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. chris  |  July 6, 2011 at 10:25 am

    that hammock is keep a clean camp.


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