Travelling to Colombia was a bit of a nightmare only because I am sick. I picked up some bug or parasite in Otavalo, have the worst digestive problems, and even though I´m hungry I can´t eat anything.
That aside though, I am so so excited to be here in a new country! A Colombian guy named Robinson who lives in Argentina was actually travelling across the border from Otavalo as well, so we shared taxis, waited in lines, and crossed together, saving us both some money. I was glad to have him there cuz Colombian money is waay different from any other country I´ve been to so far. The denominations are massive - ex. 1000 pesos = $0.50, 10 000 pesos = just over $5. It´ll take me a few days to get used to it and know how much I´m spending.
Getting to the border was no problem, but the line up was very long so we were there for about 2.5hours in the blistering sunlight. I had to sit down after a while cuz I felt like I was gonna pass out. The actual process was straightforward though and I had no problems leaving Ecuador and entering Colombia. Because we didn´t get there till the evening, however, and I didn´t want to waste time sleeping in the border town, I decided just to travel to Popayán on the next bus. Everyone I asked said there haven´t been any problems in the area recently, and I got to Popayán safely around 4.30am.
I waited around at the bus station for a while until it was light outside then took a taxi to a hotel, at which I slept for hours cuz I was so tired. Once I was up and moving, I explored the city, went to the Museum of Natural History, climbed a big hill for a fabulous lookout point, and had a delicious vegetarian meal for the equivalent of $1.50 that stayed in me for about an hour.
Now let me tell you just how much, in just a day, I love Colombia. The first three people I met in the country - a young guy at the cafe in the bus terminal, my taxi driver to the hotel, and a hotel clerk who directed me to a cheaper place - are the most friendly people I´ve met on the entire trip. The cafe server was this friendly, energetic, help-you-in-any-way type of guy. My taxi driver especially had the most unthreatening, kind manner: he waited with me at the hostel early in the morning until he knew I could get in ok, and when there were no rooms actually carried my backpack to the next hostel and waited with me there. I am immediately struck by how amazing the people are here.
The city itself, too, is absolutely stunning! The steets are lined with these massive white-washed colonial mansions that have been converted into storefronts or hotels or other businesses. And the vegetation! The trees in the plaza and in the parks are beautiful. I haven´t travelled very very far from Ecuador at this point, but it´s obvious I´m in a different country.
One thing I noticed today as I was walking the streets is that this is the first place I´ve been where everyone riding motorcycles actually wear helmets and reflective vests. Everywhere else I´ve been the bike laws have been very lax.
Anyway, as I don´t have much time left (I´m almost at the 5 month mark!!) I´ll be travelling to San Agustín tomorrow. I would love to explore Popayán some more, but I gotta move on.