Monday, August 3, 2009

Bumpity bump bump, Bumpity bump bump, Look at Liz and Adrian go.

I’ve already mentioned that there were two ways to get in(and out) of San Agustin. We’d come in via the “easy” way and today we were leaving via the hard way. It was only 200km to Popayan but the bus ride was scheduled to last at least 6 hours. We had talked with a few travelers who’d already told us just how bad the ride was so we were prepared. What we weren’t prepared for was the experience that the Aussies and Brits shared with us over breakfast.

“You’ll probably need to add another 4 hours to that travel time,” one of the Brits told us, “that’s how long the rebels held us.”
Rebels? Held? Like with guns? Yup, apparently on their way from Popayan to San Agustin, their bus had been stopped by a group of armed rebels. They forced everyone off the bus and said they were going to hold them there overnight. The rebels then explained their cause and manifesto to the passengers and after four hours got bored and let them continue their journey. Surprisingly the four said they never felt scared or in danger.
“It seemed like they just wanted to plead their case.”
More surprisingly we weren’t scared either. The buses operated several times a day and there had been no reports of violence. Plus the only other option was to retrace our steps and that meant a 20-hour journey. (Mom, I can hear you screaming “20-hour journey” from here. It’s okay, really. This post is a month old so we survived). No thank you.
“The weirdest thing,” continued the Brit, “was that just 2 kilometres later we passed three tanks at an army post down the road.”
See no need to worry.

We packed our bags and settled up. The owner of the little hotel asked us to write our impressions in her guest book. In my mind I thought, the beds were uncomfortable; the shower a little dodgy; the birds annoying. But the family that ran the place were really really really nice (who else would humour Adrian’s attempts to speak Spanish for more than 5 mintues). So that’s what I wrote. Good thing, because as soon as I was done the owner read it which would have been awkward if I’d been negative. She pointed us in the direction of the bus to Popayan and we were off.

Well, sort of off. When we got to bus office it was closed. The woman selling stuff on the street let us know that the clerk was dropping her daughter off at school. So we sat and waited watching it get closer and closer to the 9am departure. Finally a man opened up the office and immediately sold us our tickets and sent us off in a taxi to go meet the bus on the highway (no charge). The taxi dropped us off at El Cruce or a crossroads along the highway. Twenty minutes later a bus came by but they were full. The ayudante apologized but said another bus would be by in an hour. Oh great. So we sat on the side of the road and waited until the next bus pulled up and luckily there were two empty seats at the back.

And at the back was where we sat for the next 6 hours as the bus bumped over the worst road we had encounter thus far on our trip. It literally crawled and we literally jumped up and down in our seat as it rode over potholes and stones. Supposedly, there was a road but at times we couldn’t tell. But the crappy road did put an end to the death wish driving so common to Colombian drivers. About half way into our trip, we passed the army platoon and the three tanks the Brits had mentioned. Okay that meant the rebels were just around the corner. But the bus continued around the corner and the next and then the next. There were no rebels in sight to stop and hold us. We were disappointed only because our butts needed a break from the bumpy ride. Good thing the stunning views (photo above) of the mountains occasionally distracted us. And after 5 hours we were descending towards a paved road in the valley below.

We arrived in Popayan on time and in one piece. We slugged our bags on our back walked the 10 blocks to the hostel where we were greeted by the awesome owners Kim and Tony and their dog Allie, at their equally awesome hostel. The room was spotless and the bed comfy and after the long uncomfortable ride that was exactly what we needed.

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