Feb. 9 – Popayan to Pasto

2009 February 12
by joe

It should have been easy to get out of Popayan, since our hotel was right on Panamericano Sur, but just south of the hotel, the road was closed for some sort of demonstration, and we had to divert into the maze of town streets, until we found our way back near the center of town, where it was a madhouse of traffic, market stalls, and donkey carts.  Then straight back into nasty Colombian mountain road – narrow and poorly designed with very tight curves and limited sight lines.   Lots of bad road hazards like washouts and potholes.  Very little traffic, thank goodness, but still very slow going.

At one point, we pull up behind a line of stalled trucks and cars.  When we go around to the from of the line, as all motorcycles are expected to do, we find that all traffic in both directions has been stopped for 2-1/2 hours because a full tanker truck had slid off the road, into the mountainside, and a very poor washout patch.  The police had three wrecker trucks hooked to this tanker, trying to right it back onto it’s wheels, but they were getting nowhere fast.  A huge crowd had gathered to watch, and even help, but as we watched for about 45 minutes, no progress was being made that we could see.  We did get to spend the time talking with many of the other stranded motorists, and that was very pleasant.  they gave us a very different impression of what Colombians are like from what we had experienced elsewhere so far.

The men working on the mess finally managed to get the biggest of the three wreckers also stuck in the ditch behind the overturned tanker, and soon after that they decided to let the backed up traffic through, one direction at a time.  We took off with a huge batch of motos at the front of the line headed south, and continued through more narrow curvy road.

When we reached a town, we stopped for lunch at a little roadside luncheria, and had an absolutely fantastic fried fish meal cooked by a little old lady.  The scenery of the Colombian mountains is beyond descriptions.  There are no words that will do it justice.

Then more wild curves and mountain road – for hours!  More cloud-forest heights.  Impossible to make any time.  We climb above 12,000 ft. again, get very wet and cold, arrive just before dark in Pasto.  Here our experience is completely different fron the other Colombian towns.  Everyone we talk to is nice, friendly, helpful.  We find a decent, cheap hotel (sans toilet seat), and excellent coffee.  The entire vibe is different here;  we feel welcome and comfortable.  We explore the town, and except for finding a few too many ‘putas’,  we have a very pleasant experience.  People are curious and friendly, and it is fun to meet them and talk.  Without doubt Pasto was my best Colombian experience.

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