Sunday, March 13, 2016

Colombia to Ecuador

After finally escaping from Salento, it was time to make my way to the Ecuadorian border. I had a few towns left to stop at on the way, but no big plans in any of them, so I was mostly eager to finally move into another country - at this point I'd been in Colombia for 35 days, almost as long as I'd spent in Mexico. Fortunately, the roads were good and kept me entertained on my way out.

I left Salento on the same curvy access road I came in on, this time with even more people on road bikes since it was a gorgeous sunny Sunday morning. I headed straight down the highway to Cali, passing through Armenia to Buga, where I briefly considered stopping for the evening. But seeing as it was just barely 2pm and the only thing I had in my sights was a hostel someone had recommended, I decided I'd keep moving and make more distance for the day. I made my way to Cali and checked into a hotel - after the social whirlwind that Salento had been, I needed a little private space and some downtime.

Downtime was the order of the day in Cali on a Sunday, as it turned out. I arrived in the afternoon and wandered out to find many things closed, so I took advantage of the mall nearby to catch the movie "Deadpool" - they had it subtitled, meaning the audio was still the original in English. Even though I loaded up on popcorn at the theater, I was still hungry afterwards, so after a little wander around town I headed out to fulfill my sushi craving. Despite Google Maps saying that the nearby place was closed down, it was open, though empty. Apparently Valentine's Day isn't celebrated there (or is celebrated much differently than the U.S.) because every restaurant had few if any people in them, whereas you'd be waiting in a line at any nice sushi place in the U.S. on that particular day.

Sculpture in the square near my hotel.


Stencil art I found on the walk home.
I debated staying in Cali longer - I'd heard wonderful things about it, especially the salsa dancing scene - but given that it'd be a few days before another weekend rolled around, I decided to keep moving. I'll have to come back sometime to actually see the city, but this time I continued south in the morning on the major highway, which started out beautifully curvy and with great views.

I can't capture how amazing these views are when you're driving through here.
After an hour or two of twisties, the road dropped down into a valley and the heat picked up. I was sweating pretty good, so around 1:30 I decided to make a stop for lunch and some fluids at a truckstop on the side of the road. The area was an interesting demographic - clearly much more Afro-Colombian descent here than much of the rest of the country, but the food was still just as delicious if not more.

Ribs, plantains, fries, soup, beans, rice - for a few bucks, as usual.
I chugged a coke and a large bottle of water to hydrate back up, and then hit the road again. I wasn't going to attempt the border crossing to Ecuador this particular day as it was already pretty late, but I wanted to at least get pretty close. Shortly after lunch the road headed back up into a little higher elevation (from 2000ft to 6000ft) and cooled back off, but that was followed by rain sweeping in. I put on the rain gear and headed for Pasto, getting in and finding a hotel that was nice in a '70s sort of way, with a bellhop who helped carry my luggage up and everything. I walked around town for a little bit at night when the rain slowed down, but ended up going to the well-reviewed Catedral Cafe which disappointed me with one of its sandwiches, unfortunately. I slept early and well under the warm covers as the cold rain outside continued to come down.

In the morning the rain was still continuing unfortunately, but I bundled up in the rain gear and got back on the road. Before the border, there was one more stop I wanted to make at Las Lajas, so I got on the road early to leave time for the border crossing. When I arrived at Las Lajas the rain had let off slightly but was still drizzling, so I wandered through still in full motorcycle rain gear. Nonetheless, the detour and hike down the steps was worth it, as the views of the Cathedral were amazing despite the clouds.

Click for bigger to check out the waterfall to the right too.
Got a little snack of some fried pork and fried corn.
And after that, it was time to head to the border and finally cross into Ecuador. After almost five weeks in Colombia taking me to the middle of February, I was now crossing my first land border since December. I was a little nervous after not having done it for so long, but everything went smoothly at the border and I made my way into Ecuador.

I loved Colombia. I really could have easily spent another month there still without seeing all the things I wanted to. And while part of my extended stay there was waiting around for motorcycle repairs, the roads and views that followed more than made up for it. I will have to return to Colombia at some point, if for nothing else than just to find a few more curvy roads that I didn't make it to this time around.

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