Few tourists, beautiful landscapes, and unbelieveably nice people- amazing combo!!!
Let me start by saying that I know I did things that I wasn´t "supposed" to do, but I always went with my gut and came out safe and sound (except for when I thought I was going to get attacked by a rabbid dog-beast...).
So anyway, from Popayan went to Puracé National Park to attempt the ascent of the volcano, which I am not embarrased to say that I did not complete- it was barely above freezing, pouring rain, and the wind coming in at 90 degrees and strong enough to knock me over. So yeah, after I recovered from my hypothermia I went out to see 3 enormous condors flying in one of the nearby valleys. The national park also had hot springs surrounded by rainbow-colored grass, beautiful plants that onle grow 1cm/year, incredible landscapes, and wonderful people. I hitched rides everywhere (I know that some of you are rolling your eyes), sometimes on motorcycle, and unfortunately always on roads that are more pot-hole that road. It was fun and I never even got attacked by Guerrilas or FARC members!
After Puracé I hitched a ride in a potato truck to some really nice hot springs in a nearby valley (walking in the fields there is where I almst got attacked by the dog.)
Then I took a real bus to Tierradenro (which had a lunch-stop in a tiny reataurant at the top of one of the enormous valleys and would fry whichever of the varried dried meats you picked from the selections hanging on strings from the roof), some very underrated ruins that consist mainly of enormous, painted, underground tombs. I did tons of hiking there and climbed down into most of the tombs, they would put bons of elite community members in ceramic containers in the tombs as their second burrial, with belingings and natural paintings on the walls around them. There are usually sprial-style stairs down into the tomb and then a half-moon/horseshoe shape room with a few columns. The town intself may have been the bets part, though! I stayed with an older couple, and the wife was adorable and always craking me up. She made me drink coffee every morning and would go on and on about how much better panela is than sugar-which it is. Panela is a caramel-colored dried block of sugar-cane juice used to sweeten almost anything. One afternoon on my way into town I started talking to a tiny little old lady on the path and she ended up introducing me to all her friends in town, and the next day I helped her pick oranges and she made me lunch. One of the ladies she introduced me to in town tought me how to make Gelatina de Pata- yes friends, that means "foot gelatin." You boil the hooves in water for forever and then on the mix it together with a panela syrup. The mixing sounds easier than it is though- a wooden plank with a pole sticking out of it is tied to a pole (or lightpost if you´re in the city) and you have to beat the whole enormous glob of gelatin on it until it fills with tons and tons of air- it´s heavy though and you can´t let it fall!
That sums up Southern Colombia, from where I went back up North to do some
-caving- there were parts where you had to float on your back and sort of kiss the top of the passage, cause there was only 1" for breathing.
-hiking- between beautiful teracotta tiled villages that sold goat milk, cheese, and yogurt, caliming that it´s better than Viagra.
-bumper cars- yeah, thats right, bumper cars!