Getting from Cali to Popayan was the first time we arranged over land travel in Colombia without the help of a Spanish speaking friend. We are a bit pathetic, being in South America for almost 3 months our Spanish is about the same as when we left Canada. On the up side our understanding of Spanish when spoken to us has gotten better. We have done quite well getting whatever we need even with the language barrier.
People in Colombia are seriously the nicest strangers we have encountered while traveling. Their kindness and willingness to help comes as quickly as their smiles and they smile very readily all the time. So we felt pretty confident we could get from Cali to Popayan without to much trouble.
Buses run frequently from Cali to Popayan and the trip is about 2 and half hours.
That time frame suited us just fine even knowing Colombian bus rides always take longer than advertised. The price was right to, all three of us from Cali to Popayan for about$40 CAD. We looked forward to our ride through the mountains to The White City of Popayan.
The night before we left we shared our plans with our AirBnB hosts and were met with a common response specific to them. A look that said, “Really, don’t do that”. I don’t know if their hesitation was out of fear for our safety or what their look of concern was about. The buses that go between Cali and Popayan have no air conditioning, maybe it was that. Who knows? But it didn’t cause us to consider changing our plan.
We moved our luggage down to the lobby in one trip the morning we were to leave our rental. We have 9 bags: 4 suitcases, a day pack, a messenger bag and a camera bag, a toy bag and my purse. Rob keeps telling me what we travel with isn’t that much but the number of bags we have makes me feel a feel a bit vulnerable. Before we left Cali I tried to nix one suitcase. I am really passionate about living minimalist so the idea of leaving a few things in Cali, including one suitcase I absolutely hate, sounded like a great idea to me. Not so much to Rob. His voice of reason prevailed and we left with 9 bags.
We piled them by the front door in the lobby and Rob went out to flag down a bigger cab.The security guard at the front was the same as the night we first arrived. He approached to help us almost immediately. We had a cab in no time and between our broken Spanish and the guards broken English we directed the cab where we needed to catch our bus, confirmed price and we were on our way.
As we made our way to the bus terminal our cab driver tried talking with us. He clearly thought there was a better place to catch the bus to Popayan so having a basic understanding of what he was trying to say we decided to go on his recommendation.
We drove along for not very long and approached the place that looked like a place to catch a bus. We stopped at a red light waiting to turn in and a bus passed us going in the other direction. It had Popayan on the side and our driver looked back at us basically saying `You wanna get that one. Snap decision, Sure!
He then began honking wildly and waving his arm out the window and the bus stopped and waited. The light turned green and our driver spun a u turn to get us to the bus.
We quickly (sort of) unloaded our bags and the bus drivers assistant, a.k.a. porter and ticket salesman loaded them in the back of the bus. We thanked our cab driver, paid him and we were on our way to Popayan.
I love bus rides in Colombia, they were always better than we expected.
And in this case it was no different, no air conditioning? No problem.
Comfy seats, windows wide open, all good.
One thing not so good but expected however was the amount of stops it needed to make before leaving Cali. Colombian time always takes longer than originally stated, always.
It took us an hour to leave the city. Good thing it was comfortable and we had lots of yummy snacks.
There are a few things you can count on on a bus ride between towns and cities in Colombia and these are:
- Music, sometimes loud but always good and happy.
- The bus will stop and the drivers assistant will hop out and try to sell tickets to wherever the bus is going. The assistant will also hang out the door while the bus is driving calling out the buses destination to find more customers.
- The trip will always be longer than advertised. Always.
- Vendors will board the bus when it stops to sell stuff, usually snacks and refreshments. Water, juice, fruit, chips, religion. Oh, and some times colon cleanser…whaaaaaat?!
Yes, colon cleanser. So as we wound our way through the Andes enjoying the amazing view and cool mountain breezes the bus stops and a man with a rather large rolling case gets on. He proceeds to hang out at the front of the bus and when the bus gets back under way he starts his sales pitch.
Of all the sales pitches we have heard so far on buses his was by far the longest. Didn`t know what he was saying as he held up the giant jar with Colon Cleanser clearly printed on the front but you sure could tell he believed in his product. It was obvious he was passionate about it.
We didn’t buy any colon cleanser.
Then 3 and a half hours after we boarded the bus we arrived in Popayan.
As I had mentioned, the trip was longer than advertised.
But no big deal and ahhhh…. Popayan.
It is called The White City and also linda (beautiful) and both are totally true. As we made our way from the bus station to our hostel we felt so glad we had a week to explore this city. The historic center is huge and filled with sprawling squares and centuries old churches. Definitely different than our arrival in Cali, our first impression here was all good.
Of course we did arrive in the middle of the day as opposed to almost midnight. But we did walk around after dark that night and felt just as safe as when we arrived. We have one more bus trip to take here in Colombia, longest one yet, 6 hours to Pasto. I can`t wait to see what will be offered for sale on that trip.