Ellen and I have left Santa Rosa and moved on to Popayan, the first stop on our trip to Ecuador. We left Santa Rosa around 7am to catch a city bus to the bus terminal in Pereira. There are no bus stops in Santa Rosa – you have to flag the bus down somewhere along its route. We stood on the side of the road near the highway entrance, looking for a bus that would have room for us and our large bags. As our chosen bus puttered closer to us, suddenly a flashier red bus came careening along in the wrong lane, with the driver flooring it to overtake the other bus and reach our stop first. He slammed on the brakes about ten feet from us and opened his doors to let us onto the packed bus. Ellen hesitated, but I got on anyway. That kind of enthusiasm should be encouraged, I think. Ellen managed to leave her bag at someone’s feet and squeeze through the aisle to the back of the bus, but I balanced precariously in front of the open door for several kilometers before I had space to put my bag down and get a seat. We made it to Pereira safely despite the driver’s erratic driving.

In spite of our hostel owner’s warnings that there was only one bus to Popayan which left Pereira at 10:30 at night, we had no problem buying a direct ticket from Pereira first thing in the morning. Our bus was a 15-seater, including the driver, and Ellen and I were able to score two window seats for the six-hour drive. I have a confession to make – I love bus rides! I’m fascinated by the world going by outside the window, and it’s an excellent way to see all the places between destinations. I can’t read or write on buses, but I had my notebook on my lap so I could jot down interesting things I’d seen to share with Ellen, or scribble ideas for blog posts. In no particular order, here are some things that amused me as seen from the bus window.

  • A field of soldiers were doing calistenics, with a hot pink motorcycle parked at the gate. I was amused at the juxtaposition.
  • A juice stand on the side of the road also sold huevos de toro, which are known in Canada as Rocky Mountain Oysters. Why they are sold on the street with orange juice I don’t know – maybe the flavours go well together?
  • A construction project in Cali had a weather-beaten sign announcing an estimated completion date of December, 1997. Someone’s projections were off.
  • Two highway policemen were standing by the side of the road with weapons, cuddling a tiny puppy.
  • We kept seeing signs that looked like a sleepy face, and couldn’t figure out what it meant.
Road Sign

According to Wikipedia, this means headlights should be kept on low. According to my imagination, it means one should avoid falling asleep at the wheel.

  • Beggars on the streets of Cali kept trying the doorhandles of the bus. For some reason the woman in the front passenger seat actually unlocked the door for them, but they closed it again when the driver yelled at them.
  • A very well-spoken beggar poked his head in the window in front of me at a stop light, and asked us for money. He pointed out how 500 pesos was a drop in the bucket for us, but would mean the difference between going hungry and eating for him. He kept saying something similar to the English phrase “there but for the grace of God go I” and imploring us to think of how Jesus would treat the poor. He also reminded us that begging was better than robbing people. I was impressed at his arguments and eloquence, but didn’t give him anything.
  • We have passed stores called ferreterias all through Colombia, and I’ve never been able to figure out what they are in English. (They don’t sell ferrets, sadly.) Finally I realized they are hardware stores.
  • While women in Colombia wear all sorts of different styles of clothes and have a variety of haircuts, men’s fashion is more uniform here. Apparently mohawks are the hairstyle of choice for boys from ages two to twenty-five, after which a mullet becomes more appropriate.
  • Of the fourteen passengers on the bus, six of them were tourists (two other English speakers and two French speakers). Clearly, Ellen and I have strayed onto the beaten path.

After a surprisingly short bus ride (with no meal breaks, unlike long-haul buses in Costa Rica) we arrived in the beautiful city of Popayan, famous for its white architecture. We are planning to stay in Popayan for two or three days before moving on in the direction of Ecuador. After five weeks in the Pereira area, it’s nice to see some new sights and feel like tourists again for a few days.

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