Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"I'm going back to Cali, Cali, Cali"

I was lazy. Very lazy. In the two days I dind't even go out of the house.

Adrian's dad gave us a ride to around 50 or 60 km from Armenia.

X-3 Pasto Firestation

After taking the bus to the end of the line Hitchwiki says to take another bus to the first peáge, but there's a petrol station a few meters away. Shortly after we were going to Calderón, a nearby city. From there we walked "2 km" to the peáge. Walking there, we stopped in a restaurant to fill up our bottles and empty our bladders. I asked how far was the peáge and the guy told to go with him, he was going to show you. That didn't sound promising. I think the damn peáge was 20 kilometers away!  Hitched there and almost inmmediately found a ride to Otavalo (famous for its market and handycrafts). Then a slow but nice rider (not on the highway) ride to Ibarra. Ibarra is big si I convince the guy to leave us at the end of town. I was opening a can of peaches that Sofi gave us when Paula found a ride, we were eating in a police checkpoint in the middle of nowhere. It was getting late. I wanted to reach Pasto the same day but it seemed  that we weren't  going to make, we were still far (in South American terms) from the border. I started thumbing but nothing happened. No one stopped. Paula started thumbing and found a ride with a trucker and his girlfriend. I thought  in a split second that it was better not to take the ride and wait for (fast) car, but then again, it was in a split second and we were riding the truck. We talked about it inside and decided to change rides. We were in a petrol station somewhere when I found a ride to the border city of Tulcán. I was running to tell Paula when she told me that she also found a ride. We chose the back seat of a recent Kia Sorento instead of the back of the pickup.

The guy was driving fast but it was late. It was already dark by the time we made to Tulcán. After some time I thought no one was going to stop, who would pick up to people stading on the side of the road, at night? Suddenly, a pick up stopped and drove us the last 9 kilometers separating us from the border. We made it to Colombia the same day but Pasto was still some 80 kilometers away. We thumbed at the border check point, nothing. One of the border officers told me that no one was going to take us to Pasto, everybody was going to Ipiales. A couple of cars stopped and I said "Pasto" but they were going to Ipiales. We kept trying but it seemed that his words were true. We took the next that was willing to take us. Once in Ipiales, after thumbing for a while we reached the conclusion that we will have to spend the night there. It was cold. We went to the local firestation and they let us sleep in a dirty old wooden house. There was no way to sleep on the floor, it was filthy and there was waste. Luckily I have a hammock.

Leaving Ipiales was harder than I thought. It took us a few hours. Then I saw a petrol station not far. We started to walk towards it when a car stopped  (with Cali license plates) beside us and asked me if I knew where Pasto was. "Yes, I know where Pasto is. We are going there, can you take us?" After maybe 3-4 hours we were finally moving. But the happiness of getting closer to the firestation didn't last long because the car broke down and some thing was burning under the hood. The driver call road assitance and after about three more hours we were being towed away to the town of Pedregal. We were halfway to Pasto. Despite what the mechanic said, Pedregal was NOT good a place. Paula was thumbing on the right side of the road while I was on the left (under the shade) when a car stopped and Paula called me. The two guys inside didn't like the fact that she was with me. They asked us for money. I said tht we were getting off immediately and they left us in a actually not bad place to keep hitching: before a bridge that was under reparations, there was only one side available so cars had to stop. my personal experience with this kind of place is good. I've found a couple of good rides in places like these. This one was not going to be the exception because we found a ride shortly after. I made sure to tell that we didn't have money to pay for the ride. About an hour later we were standing outside Pasto's  football stadium. From there is was only a couple of kilometers walk uphill to the firestation.

We got to the X-3 Pasto Firestation and what a welcome! I felt right at home! Jhon (he spells it that way), one of the firemen is the one we talk to the most. He gave an original battery for my Nokia phone. They said (again) that we can stay for as long as we wanted. Jhon even offered me to get the vaccine certificate that by the way, the people at the border (don't know which one) made sure to lose the receipt I had.

Since Pasto is not very big and we don't have the money for buses we spend a lot of time inside the firestation. We only took a few short walks around. We only went to the center once. Going to the shop we hitched a ride in the station's ambulance. They were going when I asked them if it was Ok to ride with them. Another first for Colombia. We hitched again the ambulance the day after coming back from the center.

Going South, to Ecuador, the firestation is in the perfect place: in the South of town. But going North, to Popayán/Cali...

another straight ride to Quito

Like I said before, Baños is very small. So we only had to walk a couple hundred meters and we were already in the exit of town. We stood beside a petrol station when I saw another couple hitching a few meters down the road, before our spot. What the hell!? Haven't they heard of hitchhiking ethiquette? Obviously not. A small truck was parked next to us and when the driver returned I asked him for a ride. He was going to Quito but had to male two stops, one in Ambato to buy something and the other one in Latacunga to drop his cargo (glass windows).

We were back in Quito and we found ourselves yet again without a place to sleep for the night. My friend Sofi was busy for the next couple of days being impossible for her to host us. I still had the number of a CSer (from the first time in Quito) stored in my handy. We stayed practically a week with Daniel.

This time, we walked a lot and explored a lot of Quito we didn't see the first time we were there. I finally saw the Basílica del Voto Nacional. It's impressive! Although Quito is a lovely place, staying more than a week is more than enough. But this time I kinda had to. I needed to get the yellow fever vaccine in Ecuador because for sure it's cheaper than to get it in Colombia. I wanted to leave Sunday but the Centro de Salud is apparently closed on weeked (not really sure about that). Sofi said she would take me Monday but we didn't go. Tuesday after walking to the opposite side (of the Centro) there was no way that we could make it on time for the vaccine. Wednesday it time to leave, vaccine or no vaccine. Before leaving we went to get the damn shot which was free. I only needed to pay for the international certificate. Pay, with what money? I got the shot and the nurse gave me a receipt. I kept it hoping to get the certificate in Colombia. We left to the hitchhiking spot.


Not only Pablo took us to "Parque El Cajas", gave us a place to sleep, took us to his son's party and gave me a pair of trousers that he no longer used, he drove us to the town of Azogues saving us some 30 km of the way .

Pablo's shift started at 8 so we left his flat at 7 and by 7:45 we'd already found our first ride and we were going to Cañar. After that, we went to Zhud which is where to road slipts: to the left to Guayaqui and straight to Quito. Here, we rode in the back of a pickup to Ambato. Riding in the back of pickups is nicer when it's warm and not at 4000m. At least it wasn't Romania-style cold (subzero temperatures). 

A small ride to the exit of Ambato and my second time hitchhiking a taxi going to Pelileo. We hadn't been waiting for long when a couple stopped and agreed to take us to Baños de Agua Santa (or just Baños). They were going to Puyo in the Ecuadorian Amanzon and back to Pelileo. I asked if we could ride with them and take us back... 

The almost nothing I know about the Amazon is from TV and cinema. They show Amazonian towns (mostly in the Brazilian Amazon) to be small, dirty and dangerous. Puyo was like that. We didn't walk around a lot for two reasons: we only had 30 minutes before the couple would pick us up again and, didn't look quite safe to be walking around with all your shit with you.

We got to Baños and we started for a place to sleep. We went to the church but Sunday mass was just starting. I saw a girl sitting by the entrance. Next option was to ask in the firestation but they turned us down, for a change. We walked back to the church and waited for mass to finish. The girl stood up and walked inside when mass was over. I thought she was a traveller also waiting to ask the priest for a place to stay we we went inside behind her Paula asked her something and it turned out that Olga is Polish. Blablabla in Polish and they exchanged handy numbers. She was waiting for her ride back to Quito, leaving us a clear way to ask the priest. We stayed 4 nights in total in one of the catechesis rooms.

Baños reminded me of Panajachel: lots of souvernir shops, travel agencies and tourists (including yours truly). You couldn't walk without being offered a tour or a hotel room. Baños is set on the base of the Tungurahua volcano (more than 5000 meters) but you cannot see it because it's behind a mountain that is between town and the volcano.

Baños is not very big and it's very thin. Only a few streets wide and that's it. On the East side there is a rive in the bottom of a canyon and even though is inside the city, if you go there you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, far away from town. Ok, there's a bridge linking the two sides but the place we used to sit it was about 50 meters below and the sound of the river was very loud so no car could be heard. Oh! and also the occasional bungee jumper.

Contrary to what I thought, despite the fact that Baños being extremely touristy, it wasn't that expensive. Not that it was cheap, but not as expensive as I thought it would be. In fact, Ecuador is not as cheap as people told me before going. Cheaper than Colombia is it. Or is it that I'm just extremely poor and/or cheap?

The only disadvantage I see when you stay in a church is that you don't have a kitchen or a shower. It was chilly so the shower problem solved itself, but the kitchen...

Dreams of Xela (Cuenca)

Getting to Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca (from now on just Cuenca) was easier than I thought. We still didn't know if we had a place to sleep or not. We had. We stayed with a CSer for two nights.

The fact that made me like Cuenca a lot is that is very similar to Xela. Four rivers go through town: Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara. I'm not sure if I noticed all of them, most likely I didn't. One of them divides the old part of the city from the new. Along the river bank of this (dividing) river is a neighborhood named El Barranco. It has cafés, bars, restaurants, hotels, a walking path. Cuenca is one of the oldest cities in Amercia with 455 years of being founded. The "new Cathedral" is from 1881 and is across the street from the main square. The old cathedral is now a museum.

Our host had to go out of town but we wanted to stay longer, so we did. A few meters West from where we were staying there was a firestation so we went to ask them if we could stay; they sent us to a bigger station telling us that they will call the  people there and they will help us. They didn't. They didn't call and the others didn't let us stay. We walked to the station for more than 30 minutes so after we were told that we couldn't sleep there we took a rest.

Then came Pablo who "smuggled" us into the volunteer room and even invited us to his son's friend's birthday party the next day. We mentioned that we wanted to visit El Cajas National Park he said he could take us. We walked around a lagoon that didn't seem big but was very big. So big it took 2 hours to walk around it. Even if we were at sea level I would have gotten tired. We were at 4000m above sea level! It was very exhausting but it was great.

He invited us to spend the night in his flat the night before and we were expecting to sleep on the living room floor but we slept in his son's room.

All in all the time in Cuenca was super great. Ecuador has been treating us amazingly. But it's time to start heading North. Back to the Northern Hemisphere. Back to Colombia.

I left Cuenca with one less piercing and with a "new" pair of trousers. Gracias Pablo!


... is big and it's not as dangerous as everybody told us. We did laundry here and there's a small park in the center with lots of lizards.

Santa Elena

I thought we were not in a good place and that cars would not stop for us because we were down hill, but at least a turn was close so they would have to slow down.

Not a long time went by when a pickup stopped. He took us to Pile (?). We waited not more than 10 minutes and we were on the way to Puerto López. We ate something there and walked a bit. We were stuck there for a long time until we decided to take a bus to Santa Elena where a CSer was waiting for us.

I thought Santa Elena was a beach town but the closest beach is 15 km away. Nothing much happening here except for the fact that both Paula and myself used the last of our clean clothes. Laundry needed to be done ASAP but the cheapest was 0,35$ per pound and since we had ALL of our belongings dirty it was going to be expensive.

where are the Italians?

We had to walk a lot, not necessarilly to the exit but further because we needed to go where the roads splits South. Someone stopped  while walking but he was going to San Vicente.I asked if he could take us to the turn off; he agreed. About 30 minutes later we were on our way South with an agricultural engineer that was going to Portoviejo. He left us in the turnoff to Crucita. There, we waited like 5 minutes and we were going to Manta. We were stuck in the entrance of the city for about an hour (or more) until someone took us to what he thought it was a good place to hitch. As usual when someone that doesn't hitch takes to a "better" spot, it turns out that it wasn't. This wasn't the exception. We had no idea where the hell were we, we just knew we were still far from the exit of town. We were told that we were 20 minutes away from the exit. By car, or maybe 2 hours walking. We had no idea what bus to take, people were not being nice. We hitched from the outskirts to inside the city, might work the other way around? After a while I saw a police car so I asked them for help. The result: fourth time hitchhiking a police car. They took us to the exit of town and I think it was more than 20 minutes away. Once there, we were still in a not so good spot. We were in front of a shop so cars were blocking us constantly. On the other hand it was a good spot because Paula wasn't feeling very good due to heat and sun.

After more than an hour later we found a ride to the entrance to San Mateo. We were there until 16:45 when we started to walk towards town. The police turned us down when we asked if we could sleep in the station. Instead, they recommended us to go to San Lorenzo where some Italian missionaries (I think they are missionaries) could take us for the night and might even give us some food.

We had to take a bus. When we got to San Lorenzo and asked a girl about the Italians, she told us that they were going to La Sierra... shite. She said "wait, I might be able to help you". We stayed with her and her family for the night. San Lorenzo is a small fishing village without a police or firestation. Since most people have to get up really early to earn their living everything is done not very late.

In the morning we were still waking up when the woman came running and screaming that her uncle might had drowned, because the rescue team still haven't found his body. My condolences goes to the family.

As for the Italians, I think no one really knew where they really were. First we were told that they were in the mountains and they should be back the following day. Someone else said the following Sunday (we were on a Tuesday). Finally, someone else said that they were back in Italy and will be back in 6 months. 

where are we going to sleep? ...again

We hitched to Bahía de Caráquez (from now on just Bahía) on the other side of the bay. Not very ig and certainly not bigger than San Vicente, but completely different. In San Vicente there were no buildings and Bahía has lots of them. Most of them are apartment buildings. We walked around and watched the sun go down on the beach. By the way, the town has two beaches: one the bay side and the other on the ocean side. We were on the ocean side.

We were looking for the firestation and again they were not nicer than the previous firemen we asked. And again they gave every bullshit excuse to NOT let us stay. So we went to the Catholic church again. The priest wasn't there. Again. So I talked to the secretary that was actually a bit rude when she told me that we had to wait because they were in a meeting. We were sitting in front of the church when an old woman asked us if we were waiting for someone. After I told her our story she said to wait for her for thirty minutes in front of her house because she might be able to help us... we stayed with Cristina for two nights.

Cristina is retired and runs a day care center and it was there where we slept. Not sure if she do this often but she had a mattress. It was a nice stay. She's kind of a famous citizen of Bahía: when the new bridge linking town to San Vicente was opened, she was the first person to walk on it from one side to the other. She even did it before the president himself officially opened it.

Coming back from a walk to the bridge we had a ride in her nephew's van a had a small tour ride of nighttime Bahía. Cristina was so nice she even called her sister in Santa Elena asking her if we could stay with her and her husband.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

where are we going to sleep?

We were on the road again. I was fixing my jandal when Paula found us a ride.Her first ride in Latin America. They were going South. So did we. We got in the back of the pickup and off we were to either Jama or Canoa. We stopped in Jama because the people giving us a ride stopped to eat but we decided to keep going until Canoa. "You'll find a lot of your relatives there" one person said refering to all the backpackers that go there. Canoa is like Monterrico, I think. Only perhaps much more developed and with more than one street paved. They don't have  a firestation and in the police station they told us that they couldn't take us in because they were recovering from a dengue outbreak. The policeman told us that in San Vicente they have a firestation so we hitched there. Indeed there is a firestation but the firemen gave us all bullshit excuses to NOT let us stay there. We tried the Catholic church. I though it's in their philosphy to help people in need no? We were in need for a place to spend the night. We asked and were told to wait for the priest. He was in Canoa... We asked him and not very convinced said he will try. He was looking for a guy with all the keys. In the end this guy and a Portuguese speaking nun told us that we could sleep in one of the catechesis rooms that hadn't been used for months. They even gave us a mattress!!


Quito is in the Southern hemisphere and the road we took towards the finca was built beside ''Mitad del Mundo" or Navel of the World. We didn't go inbut from what I was it was just a monument with a ball on top. That was it. I wanted so much a photo in that place but now I'm not so sure anymore. You have to pay to go inside anyway.

The road has amazing landscapes. Really high mountains, covered with mist or clouds. Amazing valleys. Jungles once with started to descend. We got to a small town where Sofi's cousin lives. From there is only 12 km to the finca to which we got when it was already dark. As (probably) any other finca around the world, action comes to a halt very early but since we got a little late and talked a bit we went to bed around 23:00.

By 5 (I think it was earlier but was told it was 5) the fucking roosters began to do their thing. I couldn't go back to sleep and stayed awake until Mr. sun made his appearance. I didn't notice the night before because there is no electricity, but the roosters cages were right beside the place we were sleeping. They were fight roosters. Very beautiful but fucking annoying animals.

We set up for the beach. Destination: Pedernales where another relative lives. This town has no extraordinary thing to see of to offer. There were several extremely loud bars/clubs by the ocean, lots of street food (ok, this was good) and tons of locals looking like they were going to the fashion show. Although, I found this rather interesting because they didn't care about how warm it was. That night we slept in the back of Rino's (Sofi's cousin) truck.

Like I said before, nothing extraordinary. So we went to another beach the next day: La Chorrera. Small village with also not much to offer BUT the beach was nicer. Last time I saw the Pacific Ocean was before Christmas. For Paula it was the first time looking at the Pacific Ocean.

It was in the village where we said goodbye (for now) to Sofi. Everybody went back to their things and we started to head down South along the Ruta del Spondylus that goes along the coast from North to South.

Straight ride to Quito

Luckily the firestation is in the South of town, about 20 m from the Panamericana. Not exactly is in the very end of town but close enough to walk to it. So we did walk the couple of kilometers to the end of town.. We saw a petrol station that wasn't good enough. It didn't have any cars. We kept walking until we reached what I think it's the last petrol station before leaving. We waited for a while. Paula made a sign with "Quito" written on it. Then I saw a car with white license plates (taxis in Colombia have white license plates. So do regular cars in Ecuador) and it didn't have the plate written on the side doors so I quickly asked Paula to give me the sign and hold it up high above me. It was an Ecuadorian car... and they stopped!

Marco and Juana took us all the way to, well, almost to Quito.. They bought us coffee at the border. We stopped in Ibarra and I called Sofía (my friend waiting for us in Quito). We stopped again somewhere to eat (very) late lunch and finally we got to Tumbaco. Tumbaco is another town on the other side of the valley where Quito is. Marco and Juana own a ceramic shop and studio. They took us to where Sofi was waiting for us.

I met Sofi in the hostel in Panama City and she invited us to visit her in Quito. But she doesn't quite live in Quito. She lives in Sangolqui. Same situation as Tumbaco, another side of Quito's valley. We stayed with her two nights but only really explored one day a small part of the city. From the little I saw I liked it more than Bogotá. I'm not saying that I loved Quito but I liked it more than Bogotá. Or was is the park we sat and talked for hours the part I liked the most?

We went for an interview in Sofi's cousin's restaurant but the offer wasn't very appealing. Sofi was going away for the weekend and invited us to join her and her family.


When I was in Bogotá and posted in the local CS forum that I had a problem with my laptop, Alex offered me to help but he said that he was not in Bogotá but in Pasto. If I go there he could help me. Well, I was there and so we met, he helped us find a place to stay with the local firemen and fixed the laptop.

Pasto is not that different than Pereira. It's about the same size. The only big difference is the climate. When we first got there (after a lot of people told me that it was really cold) I thought that it wasn't. But as it was getting darker it was getting colder.

We met another CSer, Oscar. And also his wife. They showed us around a bit, and we had lunch together. In the evening we met again with Alex and went out. 

Staying in the firestation was great. We had our own room! They shared a small and simple breakfast every morning. They were laughing at everything! We are going to stop again and stay with them after we're done with Ecuador.

Hotel in Patía, getting to Pasto pt. 2

In El Timbío we found a ride with a protestan guy to ''El Bordo''. How do I know he was protestant? because he was listening to the day before's sermon to the top of the volumen. I don't really believe in religion anymore and I don't have anything against it (everybody is free to choose) but what I don't (and never will I think) understand is why the guy on the radio had to scream instead of talking normal and why the driver had to listen to it at such high volumen. Anyways, we were stuck in El Bordo. At the entrance of town. We walked to a petrol station where we met a woman whose daughter lives and works in Poland. She offered us a place to camp in the place she was staying if later we couldn't find a ride to Pasto.

In the early afternoon we started walking towards that camping. She said it was "only" 5 km away. After a while of walking we saw a car stopping for us. It was Constanza and her husband!!! They took us to the hotel and since it was raining quite a lot they gave us a room instead of a tent. By the way it wasn't 5 km and they are the owners of the hotel.

We spent two nights being pampered, eating amazing food, talking with Constanza. One afternoon we overslept and when we were about to go out the room I heard some people coming. Somebody knocked the door and I opened. It was Chucho with two plates that he brought for us because they were ''worried" about us not coming for dinner.

Constanza told us that her hotel is featured in some guide, probably Lonely Planet. The hotel is awesome and its location is in the middle of nowhere. But in terms of hitchhiking that is not so awesome, specially (judging from my own experience) since hitchhiking on the side of the road hadn't worked for me so far.

After a while of waiting a car stoppe. I was very surprised that I didn't know if the car had stopped for us but it did! I couldn't believe it. And even better, Andrés took us all the way to Pasto.

Coffee farm, getting to Pasto pt. 1

Julio invited us to his coffee farm so we left Popayán thursday at noon. We intended to walk to the Panamericana but Doris insisted in paying for the bus and even asked the driver if he could tell us where to get off. We had two options: walk a bit further down the road to the exit or town or try yo hitch from the traffic light a few meters away; the latter would mean to practically ask drivers standing in the middle of the street. We did this and after maybe asking 3 or 4 drivers we were on our way to the town of El Timbío only 10 km away.

We had the instructions to get here by bus (not many people hitch, apparently) so the driver left us in town and we had to walk back (uphill) about a kilometers. After walking some 4 more kilometers into the winding road inside the mountain we found a ride and drove us all the way to the finca. We spent a lovely two nights there. As in Guatemala, life in a finca starts very early (around 5) and finishes very early also (around 19/20:00).I have been to a coffee farm before but it was Paula's first time in one. Aside from coffee, Julio also grows plantain, avocado, oranges, guayaba, paprika, yucca and tomatoes among others. Coffee is the main crop though.

It was a great time spent there but we wanted to go. Well, actually we had to go because Julio was going back to Popayán. We were going to walk/hitch back to the main road but Julio offered to pay for the jeep back to El Timbío.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Semana Santa in Popayán

Adrián lives in the South of Cali, so we figured it shouldn't be to hard to leave (as Popayán is inthe South) we just needed  to look for a place that looked somewhat nice, in other words, a petrol station. I looked on Google maps and found one about 6km on the road to Popayán. The big question was that if it was a good place or not. After a couple of hours thumbing on the road, asking drivers and (once) turning down money, we found a ride to Santander, which is less than half way. In that place we waited a lot more but we found a ride straight to Popayán.

So we made it to town, now where do we sleep? I sent some CS requests but in Semana Santa is always difficult to find a couch. So we found ourselves walking around town at midgnight looking for a somewhat safe place to lay our sleeping bags that night. We found a group of 6 policemen and they agreed to take us to a "safe" place. Walking, I saw a guy standing by the gate of a some kind of apartment complex that had a courtyard in the middle. It wasn't his flat so he called the owner and I asked her if we could sleep there. At first Doris was hesitant so one of the policemen stepped in to help us and after a short while she agreed, and even didn't let us sleep outside but in her living room. We didn't stay for one night but for two!

Semana Santa in Popayán is like in Antigua but smaller. I mean, they have processions but they are 10X smaller (and faster). Popayán people would be impressed if they go to Antigua. I liked Popayán. I liked the city more than any othe town I have ever been in Colombia so far because it's small. Maybe you would have to walk a lot from one end to the other but for sure you cannot do that in Bogotá.

Actually, Popayán reminded me of Guatemalan towns where the main square is in the middle and the cathedral is on one of the sides.

While staying with Doris we met her boyfriend Julio and he invited us to his finca not far from Popayán, so we thought... why not?

It rained quite a lot but it's still a lovely town. We are getting closer to Ecuador.

Cali, as in Colombia

After spending two hours in the three petrol stations that hitchwiki mentions I asked if there was another one further down the road. Yes there was one. 20 minutes walk or 500 meters away. It was neither 20 min or 500m. Lesson: NEVER, trust a Colombian when you ask about distances. The distance will never be the one they are telling you, or multiply that distance by 3 or 4. Anyway, we walked a lot more than what we were told and after eating, resting, turning down 20 thousand pesos and asking around we found a direct ride to Cali... at around 16:00. 

We wanted to go to Pereira but we were in Armenia at around 1 in the morning. After trying to sleep in the trailer for three hours, the guy probably forgot that we were in the back and started the truck and we started moving. We mobed to the front shortly after. We made it to Cali by 8 in the morning the next day. I called Adrián (the guy Lisa put me in contact with) and an hour later we were in his house. I was asking hot to get there when a random guy heard me asking and he took us a few streets from Adrián's house.

Cali is a nice city in the valley of the Cauca river. Is still very big but not as big as Bogotá. You can walk maybe almost everywhere but we always took the bus back when we were going back after sunset. Some areas didn't seem nice to walk after dark. There's a hill call San Antonio where you could enjoy an awesome view of the city. There are so many trees but still you can appreciate the view. There was a concert of andean music and the park was full of people from almost every walk of life. Along the river Cali there is a small walking path with several cat sculptures. One big one that started the trend and several small ones made by different artists reflecting different styles.

One of the main streets is Calle 5, it runs from North to South. There is a small hill on the side of it,  La Loma de las Cruces where people gather to have a good time because it's close to San Antonio. It's also the site of a small handycraft market. It has very nice views of the city as well. 

If there's one thing I defintely fallen in love with in Colombia, that thing is the arepa.  They are not as awesome as baleadas but they're great. I think I wrote about arepas before... expect more. Staying with Adrián was a great experience. Not only he and his family are super great they treaed us as part of their family. We even had the chance to celebrate with him his birthday. We even were the first ones to congratulate him! But it was time to keep going South, to Popayán. So we said goodbye and started to head to where we thought it was a good place to hitch.

Tattoo shop city

Bogotá is one of the largest cities around the world, maybe not the biggest I have ever seen (that honor goes to Istambul) but it's definitely huge. Even though is one of the biggest cities, still had some charm. By the way, it's South America's third highest city after La Paz and Quito.

In total I spent two weeks in Bogotá Distrito Capital. One of those weeks with Paula, who finally arrived.

Two things I noticed in Bogotá, among other things, are that despite the fact that is quite safe I saw policemen everywhere. Or was it exactly because of that I felt safe?

The evening I arrived I asked a policeman in the Transmilenio station if it was safe to walk around (I was carrying all my shit) and he said "there's nowhere in Bogotá that is entirely safe..." nothing happened to me that night and now I'm writing this in Armenia almost two months later these letters.

The other thing I noticed was that I have never seen so many tattoo shop in one city alone. Walking around La Candelaria neighborhood in the center of Bogotá I saw 5 or 6 tattoo shops next to each other! I never walked into one and ask how was a tattoo or if they charge by the hour, but in theory, if there are so many, the price shouldn't be high.

Paula and I got up very early one morning and went for a walk around the neighborhood we were staying which is called Chapinero, it was before 7 in the morning. We wanted to see how people behave on their way to work, to school, to the gym, to wherever. Basically we went out to see people... the result: GREAT!

After two weeks in Bogotá, as good as it was, it was time to leave. I think that one week is more than enough.

I didn't know that Colombians were so nice people. I mean, my experience had been great but when I got to Bogotá and posted in the CS local forum that I had a problem with my laptop (I still  have a problem with my laptop) I was absolutely surprise with all the responses I got. Even within minutes after the original post. Mauricio even helped me remotely once! Now, that the laptop has died I'm going to take the offer of a CSer in Pasto to fix it.

Bogotá is a nice city, has lots of nice parks. It's nice to walk around. Has more or less a nice public transport system. The Transmilenio is nicer but more expensive and a lot confusing.