Wednesday 04 April
This traveling quickly malarkey does have its drawbacks. I’m falling massively behind in my writing, demonstrated by the fact that I’m attempting this entry nearly a week later. I will apologise if the accuracy is sketchy. Also I seem to be on a bus more often than not, which is not a pleasant experience. The upside is that I’m seeing more cool stuff; unfortunately not including today.
It’s another early start as we’re making for the border town of Ipiales, some seven hours drive away. The town’s one saving grace is the beautiful Las Lajas Cathedral, which spans imposingly across a gorge, striking out from the rock face. The Lonely Planet informs that you don’t have to stay in the town to see the main attraction, and you can drop your bags at the bus station and manage it in a couple of hours. Yet with the length of time you’ve been on the road already from Popyan (which is really the only place you’ll be before the border) you’re not going to have time to see the Cathedral, subject yourself to crossing into Ecuador, and then make a decent town with a suitable place to stay. An overnight stop in Ipiales is required, but believe you me I wish it wasn’t.
After swapping a nice big bus for a cramped small one, five or so hours into the journey, we’re winding our way up through yet more beautiful Colombian countryside. There is no doubt about it, this nation certainly has it’s fair share of stunning views and rolling hills, so much so I wonder if Peter Jackson considered it as a Lord of the Rings possibility. It’s just a shame I can’t get the right shot from the bus window, probably down to the hair raising speeds the drivers decide to reach. That and overtaking on blind corners on a wing and a prayer, it seems safer to stay inside with the window closed and braced in the crash position. Unless you see it, you’ll just have to take my word; Colombia is gorgeous.
For what seems like miles, a long possession of what appears to be school children have been hiking up the road in the near dark. We’re guessing that this is something to do with the holy week festival, Semana Santa, which is obviously still continuing. Indeed when we reach our hotel for the evening, we’re informed that they do the pilgrimage every year, timing it to arrive at the Cathedral on Easter Sunday. Rather them than me; I’m totally shattered after being on a bus all day.
We’re at the Belmonte Hotel, which is once again a Lonely Planet pick if you have to stay in Ipiales. My word of advice is don’t. Just don’t. The whole area has the shady border town feel after dark, a fast food van called ‘Dog Burger’ on the corner and the worst, bug filled mattresses I’ve ever slept on. Spend a little more and stay somewhere you might not catch something from the toilet. They also didn’t have Wifi, which means someones getting murdered. Probably myself.
In a terrible choice of cafe, Paddy manages half a ‘chicken sandwich.’ I must admit it looked nothing like one. I spent a few Pesos more and opted for the ‘Gordon Blue’ steak. Although the misspelling of this culinary classic could put you off, it was actually not a bad meal. This only lasts as long as it takes for it to digest. I’m convinced I damaged the germ infested ceramics of the hotel lavatory. This might not be a bad thing.
I’ve suggested we close and lock the door, push the dresser up against it and pray it’ll hold. I’ve seen this kind of set up in motel horror films. The flickering light, the flies round the bin, the toothless, wrinkle-face proprietor. I’ve more to fear from whatever keeps attacking my legs under the duvet. Tomorrow cannot come quick enough.