Soon after the Troll Boy’s rest from conquering the volcano of Cayambe, the beginning of the trip in Colombia began. Although Colombia was a country of ill repute, it has turned into a jewel for bike touring, with friendly people, wonderful gradients, and fewer aggressive dogs. We crossed the border from Ecuador into the town of Ipiales, and were immediately presented with a fantastic day-trip to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.
Las Lajas is a small church built into the side of a hill, with a waterfall behind it, and a small river flowing through the spans of its arched bridge. We enjoyed exploring the chapel and crypts under the church, as well as taking time to walk to the waterfall to view it from afar. We had heard good things about Colombia from many people, and were happy to be treated to one of the highlights of our trip upon entering it.
From Ipiales, we continued to ride north toward the town of Pasto. Along the several-day ride, the birds seemed to sing more sweetly, there were more flowers lining the road, and it truly felt like paradise. In one of the towns we camped in, the police department insisted that we set up our tents in an area where their cameras could view us at the same time that the local town watch checked in every few hours. The panorama of the mountains from the town was glorious as we sat and chatted as the sun fell behind the horizon.
The next day, Sunday, saw us biking the last bit of distance to Pasto amidst hundreds of other bikers. What at first started as a trickle of bikers soon turned into a flood as racer after racer passed us and shouted encouragement during the uphill on their much faster road-bikes (see if you can find Cody and Jon in the picture).
When we reached the finish-line at the top of the mountain, many of the bikers cheered, and we stopped to chat for a little bit before rolling the last stretch into town.
Bike touring tip #8: Bike in Colombia!
In Pasto, we were able to meet up with Don Sergio and Dona Marta, an enormously generous and friendly couple that graciously allowed us to stay in their house for the duration of our time resting in Pasto.
In addition to meeting their family and learning about the Pasto region, we spent time recovering our strength while playing Catan and enjoying the vistas from their balcony.
On one of the days in Pasto, we headed to Lago de Cocha, recommended to us by friends in Iowa City, Antonio, Laura, and Gabriel, who were also extremely helpful in giving us key information about our route through Colombia, and set us up with many contacts along the way.
The lake covers what was once a Colombian town, but the area was flooded in order to make use of hydroelectric power, and now houses a beautiful town that offers boat rides around the lake and to the island in the middle, which is a natural reserve.
Amazed with the immediate beauty of Colombia and the bountiful gifts that we received from both people and country, the Troll Boys turned their sights to the city of Popayan.