On the 3rd, my close friend and housemate Laura finally returned from her holiday visit to the United States. We packed our bags and headed for Pasto, in the southern Nariño department, near the border with Ecuador. Our friend and fellow Fulbrighter Sarah joined us for the journey.We chose Pasto for its famous Carnival of Blacks and Whites, which takes place during the first week of January. We (and our good friends Dina and Kevin, who met us there) discovered that having foam sprayed on us and power thrown in our faces was not our idea of fun, though all the Pastusos seemed to love it. We were fortunate to have an opportunity to try the typical food from the region, roasted cuy (guinea pig) with my coworker's boyfriend's family. Pasto is a small, navegable city, and nearby many other interesting sites as well. We visited the famous santuario de nuestra señora de las lajas, a neogothic church built in the middle of a canyon at the sight of an alleged marian apparition. We also headed up into the hills to visit the gorgeous laguna de la cocha, where we hired a boat to take us to an island that is part field station and part nature reserve. We enjoyed delicious trout in one of the innumerable restaurants specializing in the locally farmed fish on the lagoon's shores, and Kevin and I engaged in the following dialogue:
Me: they're having a trout festival.
Kevin: of course they are.
Our next stop was Popayán, the capital of Cauca. At the terminal in Pasto Laura, Sarah and I piled into the backseat of a very compact car where we spent a very hot six hours winding over endlessly curving and steep mountain roads toward Popayán. It is very common that transport companies use not only buses but also vans, cars, and trucks to transport customers, especially over the narrower road.This is a lovely colonial town where we enjoyed a rare and delicious Mexican meal and strolled the colonial center. Our time here was brief but so enjoyable. We said goodbye to Kevin and Dina, who flew back to Bogotá from Popayán.
After Popayán we took a 6-hour van ride to San Agustín, in Huila. This is a small town known for its hiking, horseback riding, and archaeological offerings. We stayed in a lovely hostel run by a family who kept cows, ducks, turkeys, chickens, a macaw, and some very friendly German shepherds, and who had their own convenient restaurant on the property. Our visit to the archaeological park was wonderful and Laura and I also rode horses deep into the mountains and descended on foot into a canyon to visit another, smaller, site with spectacular views and astonishingly well-preserved archaeological artifacts. This was perhaps my favorite place in Colombia so far, with its pleasant climate, clean air, and friendly residents.
Our last stop before returning to Pasto and to Bogotá was Mocoa, in the amazonic Putumayo department. Here we stayed in a small hostel on the shores of a river (great for swimming!) with some adorable puppies and kittens and visited the famous fin del mundo waterfall - totally worth the very strenuous straight-uphill 4-hour hike to swim in its refreshing waters.
Because of the famously narrow and unpaved road between Mocoa and Pasto we decided to leave right after our morning hike in order to arrive at our destination before nightfall. We had a lovely stay in one of Colombia's oldest hostels and in the morning Laura and I visited a small museum before heading to the airport.
We're all safely back in Bogotá now, and getting started with our work routines once again. There's more travel on the horizon, though, as Laura and I have planned a trip to Bucaramanga, in Santander, to visit our fellow fulbrighter Marissa this weekend.
Have a great weekend, everyone!