Colombia, What a First Day!!

While we had had a great time in Ecuador it was time to keep moving and next stop was Colombia. The lonely planet unfortunately let us down a bit, for while it suggested that we didn’t travel at night it didn’t really suggest where to stay and what to do. But we figured we would be alright and work it out, there were a couple of throwaway comments about a church over the border and a lake near Pasto so we thought we would give them a go.
After our last night in Ecuador in Tulcan where we stayed in possibly the worst hostel we have stayed in (thanks lonely planet and Hostel San Francisco) and had two of the worst dinners we have ever had. Yes two, the first was so suspicious that we actually walked out and the second wasn’t much better. Anyway the next morning we were ready to go and within the hour we were in Colombia.
We had read that the best idea was to leave our bags in the bus terminal at Ipiales and catch a collectivo (a communal taxi where they wait until it is full before leaving) to the Santuario de las Lajas, which was the church that was worth a visit. We were sort of expecting a lost luggage area but ended up leaving the bags with a lady in a shop who had a huge stack of bags already so we reckoned they would be safe. 
Well by the time we got to the church we didn’t know what to expect but it was a Sunday so we figured it was the best day to go. We weren’t wrong. There were loads of people walking with us down a cobbled road towards the church and when we got there it was a sight to behold. Set in the bottom of a canyon and spanning across a river it was absolutely stunning. Coupled with the fact that there were actually services on so the place was packed too. What a great way to start our Colombian experience!
But it was back on the buses for us as we wanted to get to Pasto and then to a lake near there. One problem though, the shop where we had left our bags was shut! So we sat down and waited and luckily after a fairly anxious hour the ladies returned and opened up and we got our bags back.
We had a racing driver of a bus driver and so it was an exciting drive up and down the valley to Pasto but we were distracted by the scenery which was breathtaking. It was all still so green and the mountainsides looked like a patchwork of farms stretching out as far as we could see.
On arrival in Pasto (which didn’t look overly inviting) we had one last leg of the journey to do and so caught a taxi to catch another collectivo for the last 30 minute stretch to Lagoon la Cocha.
As we drove over the hills and saw our first glimpse of the lake it looked beautiful but as we started dropping everyone off around town we weren’t so sure, but the driver kept telling us to wait and soon we arrived at the port. It’s difficult to describe but it was fantastic and the dirt road was lined with ramshackle buildings all looking superb and people were wandering up and down the street. There was a canal full of boats next to the main/only street and the hustle and bustle was mesmerising.
We felt like we were adventuring again. We were certainly the only gringos in town and we set about trying to find somewhere to stay and soon realised all the places were fairly basic and similar, but one offered us our own bathroom and wifi so we took it.
We joined in the general wandering up and down the street and spent our time taking pictures and gazing in amazement. Down the end of the street was the Lagoon and an area where you could catch your own farmed trout. We thought we would come back to that the next day.
We were both famished and so stopped for a Poker beer and a soup for a snack and we noticed that the place was very quickly emptying out and the restaurants were shutting so we decided on an early dinner. There are loads of restaurants but none seemed to have menus. Your options were trout and whether you wanted a soup to start or not. So we had trout. We started the meal with a local drink of Canelazo which was served warm and while it wasn’t the ideal accompaniment for a meal it was pretty nice sipping on them while we watched the sun go down and everyone leave the town.
The town was pretty sleepy and so we went of to bed. Well most of the town was pretty sleepy apart from three people next door who were just warming up. Unfortunately they played music on and off at full volume until the early hours of the morning so we didn’t get much sleep. We figured that being the only foreigners in the place we probably shouldn’t be the ones to tell them to be quiet but unfortunately no one else did either. They even kept the pigs up which seemed to be living under our room! But never mind we have a long day on the buses tomorrow so will catch up with sleep then. T

The first sight in Colombia was pretty special to say the least.

This is the mass inside the church, and you can just make out the back wall which is actually the mountainside.

It was really nice to see all the people attending the church on the Sunday.

Guinea Pig for lunch?

The shop where we left our bags, shut.

The scenery along the bus route.

Our hostel at the Laguna de la Cocha.

The place was full of these types of houses.

The path across the marshes to the fishing spot.

Some shots of the Main Street.

Waiting for a beer, watching the world go by.

Some more shots of the village, which was really so encapsulating.


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