Ten hours after checking out of our hostel in Salento, we finally made the final stop at the bus terminal in Popayán. We had heard that buses from Armenia to Popayán depart every hour, however, it was well over three hours before we managed to board the bus and head out of town. On the positive side, it leave us ample time to make the huge decision to end our epic trip with one last Australia/New Zealand adventure before the trip screeches to a halt in just over 3 months time. Qantas flight, Santiago -> Sydney -> Auckland -> Sydney -> LA. That's how we roll.
Dazed and sore, finally in Popayán, we heaved our packs onto our backs and made the 10 minute hike to the old colonial part of town. We checked into Hostel Trail and were escorted to our private room with bathroom, that we were given as our originally booked room without ensuite was given away by mistake. Works for us!!
By this time, it was around 7:30pm and we hadn't had much to eat all day aside from some fruit and granola bars. We were ready to eat, and weren't picky. We had decided on a local pizza place. As we have come to realize, there are certainly no shortage of pizza places in Colombia, that and fried chicken. The problem was two groups of 15+ has sat down a few minutes before us and it was pretty clear that it would be a long time before we ate. Given this, we decided to move on. Unfortunately, there was really nothing open that was even mildly edible. Finally, we found another pizza and seafood place that didn't seem so bad. Well, as it turns out, looks can be deceiving. Even when ordering seemingly easy, fool-proof items (tomato soup and veggie pizza) it somehow managed to be the worst rendition of these classics I have ever seen!
The tomato soup was a nacho cheese, fondu-like substance and the pizza was soggy and was made with the oddest cheese I've ever seen. Adrian's prawns and rice was pretty funky as well. 99% of frozen dinners you would find in your grocer's freezer would be 10 times better than this. Well, it was at least edible... Sorta. If that wasn't bad enough, their beer was WARM! This was simply unforgivable.
And worst of all, the cost of the dinner was about as much as we have paid for any meal in Colombia. Big time strike out, to say the least.
We quickly left the establishment, leaving most the food untouched. We walked the dark, colonial streets of Popayán, stopping only at a local Tienda for a couple beers to take back to our place. These too were warm and I chalked the evening up to a loss, did a bit of reading, and went to bed.
In the morning, we were up early for the 30 minute trek across town. The countless hours spent in a bus had taken it's toll and we needed a good active morning to get this day off on the right foot. We spent about 2 hours total in the gym sweating it out and another hour to and from our hostel. On the way back, we made a necessary stop at the Exito for food. We would be cooking the rest of our meals in this town.
After picking up our supplies, we left the store only to spot a fleet of motorbikes for sale outside. We gazed dreamily at the bikes fantasizing about how amazing it would be to never have to get on another bus again, and to savagely take on the rest of South America by bike. We gave each other the devious side glance almost considering the notion, before shaking the thought from our heads and continuing on our way.
Back at the hostel, we showered up and prepared our customary lunch of wraps and fruit. We took our sweet time gathering ourselves, as we relish in the days with no real agenda. Finally, all ready to rock we left our hostel to see what, besides awful food, this town had to offer.
We stopped for coffee and took in the sights and sounds at the main plaza. We slowly strolled through the chaos that was the street market, commenting on how the Latin American markets cannot compare to the insanity of Asian street markets.
Not having much of a plan, our first stop was at the Museo Mosquear. Of course, with our luck it was closed for a number of weeks. Instead we found our way over to the Popayán Museum of Natural History. Room after room, of what appeared to be an old converted school, was filled with rocks and fossils, bugs and butterflies, snakes, amphibians, reptiles, and finally mammals, and birds of every description; all of them stuffed and in terrifying positions. The whole thing was pretty unnerving, but what else are we going to do in this town?
By the time we were done with the museum (30 mins after entering) it was just about beer-o'clock. I had seen on google maps that there was a brewery not far from our hostel. So we walked down the busy streets in search of the Alta Brewery. After an hour or so of walking we found no brewery, but we did find a man passed out in the center median of the main street, several men smoking a suspicious smelling substance out of makeshift pipes, dog crap littering the streets, and odd glances seemingly asking "What are you gringos doing in this part of town?"
It wasn't long after that, that we began asking ourselves the same question and thus, hightailed it back to the old town where we belonged.
It was an hour and a half after we had set out to find beer that we were still walking the streets in search for a place to sit with a cold libation. Who knew it would be so hard??
We finally threw in the towel and grabbed a booth at a local fried chicken place and ordered ourselves two Club Colombias and laughed at how ridiculous the last 2 hours of our lives had been, only to end up in this joint.
We enjoyed our company and the ice cold beers with the aroma of fried chicken grease beginning to sink into our clothes and hair. Around dinner time we payed our bill and headed back to the safety and sanctuary of our hostel.
After battling the ever-present nuisance of cooking in a communal kitchen, we sat down to a very edible and nutritious meal: bean burritos and corn on the cob.With nothing left to do, we decided we'd make another trip to the store for a couple of beers, desert for me, and supplies for the next day's long bus journey. More than anything, the walk just gave us something to do.
We got back, settled into our hostel room, packed up and prepped for the early morning departure, and eventually hit the hay for the evening.
The morning presented an unceremonious departure from the Hostel Trail, aside from Adrian displaying his ever-present honesty by correcting the lady who only wanted to charge us for one night instead of two. We once again schlepped our packs to the bus station, purchased our tickets, and within minutes were aboard and ready to hit the road for another 6 hours to the Colombia/Ecuador border town of Pasto.
So long Popayán! You've been......
Well, you've just been, really!