Saturday 6 April 2013


Hello from Popayán in South West Colombia. Popayán is a former regional capital set 1760m up in the green mountains. It is full of historic churches, colonial architecture and students, being a major University city. The historic centre is also in suspiciously good condition having been fully restored after a major earthquake in March 1983 that destroyed much of the city. The fact that the city is in a high risk earthquake zone (there are numerous active volcanoes nearby) means that the architecture is very low rise, mainly two storey buildings in rococo Andalucian style.

I have only had one free day to explore the city and surrounding area, so I was up early this morning to explore the historic quarter while it was still quiet and cool and then up into the mountains to visit a natural hot spring and bike back to the city. The springs were really relaxing if you put the smell of sulphur to one side and the 30km mainly downhill bike ride back was great fun even if the curse of poorly maintained hire bikes struck again (buckled wheels and dodgy gears).

If I have learnt anything while travelling in South America, it is that if you want to use a half decent mountain bike you have to bring it yourself. They have zero concept of bike maintenance and safety out here, which is very, very frustrating as a mountain bike simply will not fit into my backpack!

Tomorrow we are off South towards the boarder with Equator. I have really enjoyed my time in Colombia and would highly recommend a visit. You are stuck by how friendly everyone is. I think this is partly because it was off the tourist map for so long and therefore everyone is really happy to show foreign visitors what Colombia has to offer. The old stereotypical view of drug cartels, domestic terrorists and goalkeepers with crazy hair is all very 1990’s and the country has moved on a long way over the past 20 years. It is also the only South American country where cycling is a big sport, so on this alone it gets my vote!


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