Colombia 2013. Day 3: Popayán – Paletará

2013/10/12

popayan - paletara

Click on the image to see map

What a day!! Great, tiring and very… diverse?

The day started with rain, so I had to wait until 8am to leave the hostel. Good chance to speak to Smith, a local who was in charge of preparing breakfasts. The guy has 3 jobs and was only 17… Things you learn.

Leaving Popayán was surprinsingly easy, much easier than getting in!! Just follow Calle 5 eastwards and there you go. Don’t worry if you find some unpaved bits in the beginning, it’s well paved until Coconuco (except where they’re extracting rocks for road construction).

And it’s a nice, almost constant climb!! Finally!! Also, the traffic here is very little. 10% of what you get on the main road. There’re still some trucks that’ll fill you with their smoke still…

I did most of it in the company of Luis Eduardo, a very nice chap. He used to race, but now only does routes around the area; I was lucky I met him!! He turned around at the crossroad where the road continues to Puracé or Coconuco. WARNING: in maps, the road to Puracé looks like the main one. It didn’t when I saw it. There were some roadworks going on, but it didn’t seem to be going anywhere. The works on the route to San Agustín looked much more… serious.

I reached Coconuco at kilometer 25. Something was telling me that distances in google maps were going to be wrong… again.

I really liked Coconuco. Maybe it has nothing special, but the scenary is very nice there. It’s one of these towns that has something… Had lunch there (at 10.30 am!!), stayed longer because it started to rain again, met some more traveling Colombians, and when the rain stopped, cycled the extra 4km to some hot springs (there’re some closer but they have too much sulfur for my taste; I met again the guys in my lunch “restaurant”, they told me they went there but found them to be too small).

Heavy rain caught me at the hot springs, so no doubt whether to stop or not. I ended up playing with the ball with most of the kids there (and some of their drunks parents!). Also met Jonahtan and his partner, a GREAT and very nice couple. Hope the camping went well you two!!

You see, it’s very easy to get in touch with Colombians…

Rain stopped at 16ish and I decided to keep going. Didn’t know if I’d be able to reach Paletará, but I sure was going to try. I only had 2 hours to get there, and, suppossely, 37 kms!!

The road from Coconuco onwards is SPECTACULAR. At least it was for me. Honest. Very hard as well. Looks like the road will be completely paved in a year or so; that’d make it easier (the mud didn’t help at all to make the road easier). Still, it’s worth the effor. And pictures can’t capture the place really…

Once the climbing is over, there are some nice paved kilometers above 3000m. You ride between volcanoes and the greenest fields you’ve ever seen. Careful, it gets cold here!! Very!! Some trucks offered to take me. But I also learned that Paretalá is closer than what I thought (50 kms from Popayan, and not those 65 google maps says!!), so I cycled there. The paved road finishes here, by the way!!

You can camp almost everywhere in this area. Just ask some local and they’ll tell you what’s the best place. CAREFUL: it’s almost impossible to camp past Paretalá!! The jungle makes it almost impossible to find 4 flat m2 and with no vegetation. So even if extremely basic (yep, that’s the polite way for you-know-what), definitively worth sleeping in Paretalá.

When I got there and they gave me a room with no ligths and no door, just an old empty space full of crap, I felt like the happiest person in this world. I still had some strenght to go play football with local kids…

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