Though Popayán is known as La Ciudad Blanca or the White City, our favorite building was Teato Guillermo Valenica. There was something about the style and color, and especially its magical statues that captured our imaginations. It was best late afternoon when the sun hit the statues just right....
Fondest memory: This was the tail end of the trip, that much was for sure. As long a time as Colombia was in the coming, it seemed even longer to pass. Plans to explore the forbidden kidnapping capital of drug cartels had come and gone but mostly what had kept us at bay was bad timing with regard to doing the trek around the El Cocuy massif that was truly the beckoning call to the country in the first place.
Well, the time was finally right. So right in fact that the trek was far easier than we had imagined with regard to navigation, due to an unusually dry year, even if it was harder physically than that same imagination could ever conjure. That behind us, along with another trek to La Ciudad Perdida, a plethora of quaint picturesque colonial towns, pristine beaches at Tayrona National Park, and tons of sought after and found local edible delicacies, we now were trying to tie up loose ends. Some of that involved seeing all the rest of the stuff the guides implored us were things that just had to be seen. One of those “things” was Las Lajas, a Gothic Revivalist cathedral built over a scenic gorge in the far south of Colombia. Unless you were heading to or from Ecuador, no one would venture there. We were doing neither but still.... (continued below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: The empanada in question was an empanada de pipián, which smallish ones served with a chili-infused peanut sauce noted for the area. Not only did they lead me to some but in a place so very local it positively breathed it, further emphasized by the preponderance of locals frequenting the little hole-in-the-wall. I was unfortunately alone, my wife the victim of a sour stomach in Colombia once again, but there was an open table and ordering was easy enough since it seemed all they had was exactly what I was looking for. They also had beer though no one else was drinking one. Oddly enough, Colombians do not seem to mix drinking with eating but that didn't stop me from doing just that. After all, a spicy peanut sauce goes a lot better with a Club Colombian than it does with a diet Coke. They were every bit as tasty as I had hoped for and went very well with the brew of choice. All that was missing was D but I would rectify that the next day when I made certain I returned here with her. This was the kind of place we come to South America for. It was just a bit odd that it took a couple of Scottish former backpackers to lead us there.
Fondest memory: So, we went methodologically to Cali to break up our journey from the Zona Cafetera and now to Popayán to do the same en route to Las Lajas. Cali brought us the lulada and more of the same was reportedly on our horizon in Popayán but we had traveled enough to know such things were never certain. Lulada or no lulada there were still many delicacies to explore, and one of the best ways to find such things is word of mouth. Generally speaking, word of mouth involves locals but we had certainly found that locals was a generic term and transplanted expats could serve equally well in such circumstances. Though the majority of our Colombian adventure had been hostel-free, we had found some great ones in the last few towns we'd spent nights in and Popayán was affording another such opportunity. The hostel was run by a few Scots and done in about an efficient manner as possible. The hostel was nice enough with all the amenities that backpackers crave but it was the owners that made the difference as is generally the case in such establishments. These were genuine people, drawn to the area for a love and knowledge of it, not just the lure of a quick buck. So, when I asked about a very version of empanada, they did not shirk, smirk, or shake their heads to say they'd never heard of it. They were not only knowledgeable of it, they knew exactly where to find it. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
When coming into Colombia (especially from Ecuador) and going to Popoyan, the guys at the border give you a much better exchange rate than the kioks here in the city.
There are only 3 places where you change USD Dollars/Euros, etc for Colombian Pesos. Western Union (inside the Plaza Colonial mall) is one of them and they give you a rate that is about 10% less than what you get at the border.
As of Jan. 14th
Border was: $1 USD = $2200 Pesos
In Popoyan (since Banks do not change USD $) was $1 USD = $2020 Pesos.
So don't be shy, change your money, inspect it to se if they are not fake and then you wont lose out on the exchange that much...and get small bills ($20,000 Pesos to be the top ok)
Now if you are alredy in Colombia, then try to get a good rate somewhere better than here.
When the Spaniards first came to the region they treated locals well but after some time their attitude changed. They became ruthless and demanding. A young man who protested was punished by being burned in front of his mother whose name was Gaitana. Since then Gaitana dedicated her life to revenge. She tortured, humiliated and killed many Spaniards. In the end, some say she committed suicide throwing herself off the mountain. Others, that she was tortured and killed by the Spaniards.
What a story!
People love myths in this area... So don't wonder if you see 'Gaitana' as a trade mark, a hotel name, a bus company or even as a name for a sweet...