13 April 2010


This week Kristin and I have taken the slow road to Quito. We have meandered through smaller mountains towns sandwiched between cloud forests and coffee farms. The weather has been mostly rainy, but we've still enjoyed it. There are only a handful of travelers in each town and there is no real tourist infrastructure here, which we prefer. We haven't had another gringo on any of our buses and there are only Colombians at our hostel tonight.

Also, tonight is our last night in Colombia. After exactly a month here, we make a run for the Ecuador border tomorrow, hoping to make it all the way to Quito. From there, we'll try to spend as much time in the Andes as we can. Like the next three months.

Salento is "famous" for the nearby Wax Palms. This is the only place in the world where these 60 meter tall palms grow.

We hiked past many a farm, past the wax palms, into the cloud forest. Deep in the forest is homestead that has become a haven for hummingbirds. The birds are all wild, but they are not afraid of humans. I sat for an hour just watching them fly back and forth, sucking the nectar from bottles and flowers alike. This photo shows one hummingbird actually licking it's beak.

Our transportation to and from the wax palms and cloud forest. Guess how many people fit in this standard-sized Jeep? Nope, guess again. Higher. No, still higher . . . yes, 17 people!! Easy stuff first - squeeze three people up front and four on the seats in the back. I hung off the back, standing on the bumper, in between a Colombian couple. Another couple sat on the roof above the driver. Along the way we picked up a farmer (on the back) then two fisherman (I moved inside, standing still, but between the legs of the four seated passengers) and then other hitchhikers. Eventually we had the three up front, two on the roof, four sitting and two standing in the back of the Jeep with another six hanging off the side and rear. It was awesome.

Salento was the most colorful town we have been to. The people were very charismatic: a lot of cowboys, farmers, indigenous, and old men walking around with hats and handmade canes. People could care less that we were there. I think this was my favorite town so far, even though the food selection was extremely limited.


It rained every day that we were here, but it did not deter us from staying for five days. Why? Well, we didn't see the nearby volcano or thermal springs because of the rain, but we loved our hostel. We got a lot of computer work done. There were four vegetarian restaurants within a few blocks from our hostel. And like Salento, nobody in Popayan cared that we were there. It is really nice to feel like a person, not a tourist/money sign.

Yes, we actually ate out. The vegetarian restaurants all had set-lunches that were excellent deals. This meal cost us $1.50. Now do you understand why we a) ate out, and b) stayed so long?

The view from our room. Each town has at least a half dozen churches. I don't know why, but I still try to see them all. They are typically the only thing of note in smaller towns like this. I might only spend 10 seconds inside, but it's worth it. I don't know how many thousands of churches I have seen.

The least favorite of the three towns, this one serves only as a stopover between Popayan and Quito. The roads here are super sketchy and the bus drivers like to pass on the windy two-lane mountain roads. Additionally, there are horror stories ruminating in the backpacker world of buses that cross the border into Ecuador at night and then are robbed as all the passengers are gassed to sleep. No thanks. Anyways, there is not much to see here, though I did manage to peek into 4 churches. More importantly, we found another veggie restaurant, which was particularly important because our "hostel" doesn't allow us to use the kitchen. Lame.

On the way to Pasto, though, we did see a lot of these buses. Not only are they doorless and six-passengers wide, but they also lack windows. When it rains, they just hang the tarp of the center roof pole, dropping the tarp down the windows and tying them to the bus. I hope we have these style buses to look forward to in Ecuador.

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