Hitchhiking from Cali to Ipiales
Llama Land – July 2015
The Colombian adventure continues, an unforgiving country with dangerous roads and torturing sun, Vamos!
By the way my Walmart camera seems to have commited suicide, frustrated with it´s vagabond lifestyle. Hopefully I will revive her soon and get the photos from my latest trip up here (just the photos from my phone for now).
So I left Cali around lunch time on a Friday not sure how much work was involved in getting to Ipiales. Taking the local bus South to the University area and following the main road south after a kilometer or two I found a bridge to stand under and made a sign for Popayan.
After about 45 minutes a local guy pulled over in an Astra. In his thirties, he was glad to bring me to Popayan and we had the chats in broken Spanish.
I jumped out on the northern edge of Popayan opting not to enter the city but instead to try hitchhiking the ring road that encircles Popayan. A big mistake.
There was next to no traffic, every Colombian was somewhere for the international football game against Argentina. So I walked…. and walked…. and walked some more.
After about 7 km of walking forwards and then backwards with my thumb out when a car happened to pass me I gave up and hopped off the road. Then I jumped off the road, found some trees and flung my hammock up, hungry, thirsty and considerably pissed off.
I started again early the next morning, after another 4 or 5 km (with help from an old local guy who took me about 2km on his moped). I had finally walked to the other side of Papayan, and stood facing the traffic heading south of Popayan.
I gladly let my bag down and began petting some stray horse to get more attention, I had the blues to say the least after all the fecking walking.
“Hey look at the white guy petting a horse!, lets pick him up”
Is what I imagined the local Colombians saying.
It didn´t work surprisingly, I walked on and finally got collected just before lunch time by two nurses.
A man and woman, both very friendly and chatty with lovely slow and clear Spanish for me to comprehend. They left me by a Viaje (toll stops here in Colombia).
I stood around chatting with a local guy selling water, he presented me with some bible magazine but praying was getting me no-where and I would of preferred one of his oranges. After an hour one of the nearby soldiers ordered a truck driver to take me somewhere else, guess he didn’t like having me around.
The truck driver left me at the entrance to El Bordo not wanting to take me further I guess, not much going on here. I stood around hitchhiking for about a half hour talking to a little street kid and got offered a ride to Medellin by one truck driver. Wrong way fella but thanks.
Then along came Carlos, he pulled in his truck and waved at me. Then went for a cup of coffee. When he returned I jumped in and we took off.
I couldn’t understand a thing he said, and he was convinced I’m dutch.
He just gave me a confused look and then started asking questions about the Netherlands. The road to Ipiales especially after Pasto was awful. All curves, dangerous but very beautiful.
We broke down on a bridge and some soldiers came by to direct traffic around the truck. While Carlos tinkered with his truck and waited for her to cool down. I sat around feeding my remaining oatmeal to some famished looking chickens from the local farm that came around to see all the big truck commotion.
The soldiers were friendly too, we smoked and I spoke in my broken Spanish. Everyday the five men stood on this bridge with their machine guns which I weren’t allowed to hold for a photo.
Two hours later and she was back to life and Carlos tipped the soldiers, it was dark now though so Carlos soon pulled in and I jumped out of the truck. There was no bed so I assumed he would sleep across the seats. He wanted to start again at 4 so that left me almost 6 hours to sleep. I strolled around the petrol station and laid under a statue of the Virgin Mary. Wrapped up in my tarp inside my sleeping bag to keep warm at the ridiculously high altitude.
At 4 a local man woke me up and then the truck driver. They don’t have alarms in Colombia but rather locals guys you give a few cents to and they will lightly kick you at the desired hour. I had slept reasonably well on the concrete under the Virgins statue.
By 6.30 I was in Ipiales (the outskirts) on a Sunday, Carlos would go no further today. I walked into town, wearing a jacket for the first time in months. Ipiales is as cold as Ireland, it’s very high in the mountains. I started to see llamas too and Alpacas for the first time in Colombia. The people too in the Sierra are noticeably more indigenous looking then the rest of Colombia. I stood at least a foot taller than everyone also.
Stopping for breakfast I bought 2 coussants and a big cookie, a grand total of 600 pesos (€0.20). I could hardly believe the cheapness. With the remaining 2000 pesos (€0.66) I bought 40 mins of internet in a cafe, a cup of coffee and a smoke.
Ipiales is nice and cool I thought, a lad won’t get burnt here and it’s crazy cheap. Also there were potatoes for sale everywhere and pretty girls! I have a soft spot for potatoes and pretty girls.
“It’s a shame I have to leave so fast” I said as I walked towards the Ecuador border.
A car pulled over.
“Hello, I speak English, where are you going?”
“Come to my house for lunch, I can get you a job here”
Annnd I’m still here, in Ipiales. Taking a break from the road for a month or two to improve my Spanish and earn a little cash teaching English, I got 12 students as I write this to teach later today.
I’ll be most definitely back on the road soon because there’s no pub here, decent wifi or a decent book store either.
Expect some posts about teaching.
By the way I completely bluffed everything. I literally put on a shirt and said yes I’m an English teacher (don’t even have a working visa). I would love to work at this Institute. How hard can it be?