Vern: From Pasto, we took a six-hour minibus to Popayan. The road wound round the steep peaks of 'Volcano Alley' and around every other corner there was another surprise; from fallen rocks to potholes to heavily-armed policemen hiding in trees, but our driver threw the bus expertly round the bends and we concentrated on the spectacular vistas to ward off motion sickness.
Popayan is dubbed 'the white city' (a name which would never be allowed in South Africa) because of its pretty white-washed colonial centre. Once there, we checked into a dismal hostel (no toilet seats, intermittent hot water) and then set out to see the town's two unusual bridges; Puenta de la Custodia (a bridge built for priests to cross the river in 1713) and the bigger Puenta del Humilladero (built for everyone else 160 years later). We were outdoors for only five minutes and suddenly it started raining buckets so we sought refuge in a basic cafe and snacked on delicious cheap empanadas (deep-fried instead of baked) served with salsa and beers. Unfortunately we ordered pizzas from the same place, which were awful: only slightly larger than a 50p coin, with no tomato-base and baked in the MICROWAVE. And the tinned pineapple on the 'Hawaiian' seemed to be caramelised!
The following day we planned to switch hostels and to see some of the colonial churches. Unfortunately, being the Sunday after holy week, the entire town's plan (several thousand people) was to follow the Children's Procession through the streets, carrying candles past all of the churches. The procession also ran in between the two hostels, so we walked a huge detour with our backpacks on to avoid having to push through the crowds and their flames.
After checking in we climbed a hill, El Morro de Tulcan, where I bought a cup of under-ripe mango wedges served with salt and lime, and enjoyed a good view of the town, then visited the cathedral (which had a cool sculpture of Mary bursting out of shards of mirror like Captain America), and wandered through the crowds past a couple of other churches named for saints, which were all shut up. The benefit of the procession was that the street vendors were out in force and we tucked into fresh fruit and homemade ice-cream while we explored.
That night in the new and significantly better hostel (Hosteltrail) we stir-fried lots of vegetables for dinner, chose 'Fargo' from the DVD collection and vegged out.