San Agustin to Popayan takes about 6 hours by bus, by private vehicle it would be about an hour less. Most of the road is un paved in poor condition and a normal car would not be able to make it. Anthing with higher ground clearance such as a SUV or Pick Up could do it without much difficulty. Inquire about road conditions before heading out as landslides can stop travel in the area for days at time, especially during the rainy season.
Getting to Popayán from Cali was no problem at all. That was part of our reason to stop in Cali in the first place with frequent buses between the two and a relatively short three hour travel time. Since we had reserved a room at Horsetrail Hostel in Popayán we had a leisurely breakfast in Cali and grabbed a late morning bus. We paid 20,000 COP ($10) each for the very luxurious bus from Boliviano. As is rare in Colombia, the bus terminal is close enough to town to make walking even with your pack not much of a problem so that we did.
After our stay, we got a bus from Popayán to Pasto which cost 28,000 COP ($14) each after a little haggling, comparatively cheap since the trip took about six hours to the three the Cali bus ran.
There is a regular bus service from Popayán to Cali and numerous bus companies are available, such as Expreso Palmira, Expreso Bolivariano and Velotax. Minibuses also serve the route. Though the bus terminal is only 10 minutes walk from HostelTrail, I took a taxi as I left quite early in the morning.
At the information desk I asked about the bus to Cali. They told me that the first one was going to live within 10 minutes. The company was Velotax (www.velotax.com.co) and the ticket was 12.000 COP (December 2008). The journey took 2,5 hours.
In Cali I had to take another bus to Armenia. There are frequent departures so I did not need to wait very long. I took Expreso Palmira minibus (www.expresopalmira.com.co) and the ticket was 20.000 COP (December 2008). The journey took four hours. From Armenia minibuses depart every 15 minutes or so to Salento and it took another 50 minutes to get there.
The route offers great views of this mountainous region out of the window and I very much enjoyed the journey.
There are only a few daily buses from San Agustín to Popayán. You have to book ahead since some of them only stop if there are reservations. I booked a previous day at the Tourist Information Office on the main street (Calle 3). Next morning at breakfast I asked René, the owner of El Maco, to call a taxi for me. When the driver brought me to the office the guy explained that he was going to drive us (me and four more passengers) with his jeep to Pitalito which is about 6 km out from San Agustín. There we had to wait for the bus to Popayán.
It was a small Cootranshuila bus. The aisle was full of bags and boxes, and the driver kept picking up people along the way who ended up sitting on the floor. The dirt road to Popayán was rough (no asphalt pavement most of the way) but the view out of the window at the wonderful cordillera cloud forest hills was amazing. Since there was a lot of rain it was almost impassable at some points and the driver had to stop frequently to check the tyres. In the past, the road was controlled by guerilla soldiers. But nowadays it is safe with military presence along the way. We had a short stop for lunch at the place in the middle of nowhere.
From San Agustín to Popayán it's only about 130 km. The trip usually takes about 6-7 hours and so was mine. It seems I was quite lucky. The next day I met somebody who's journey took 12 hours. At the Popayán bus terminal I took a taxi to HostelTrail which was not very far.
From Hostel Trail Guesthouse I walked to the terminal in about 10 minutes. Take Carrera 11 until a roundabout where you take right and there is the terminal.
There are frequent buses going between Popayán and Cali. I was met outside the terminal by someone from a bus that was leaving within 5 minutes. The price for the ticket was 12 000 pesos (July 2008). It took 2,5 hours to Cali and there the bus stopped next to the taxi queue outside the terminal. I took a taxi from the terminal to Iguana and it was 5200 pesos.
There is one direct bus from the village San Andres de Pisimbala to Popayan and it leaves every morning at 6am. Later you can always go to La Cruz and take another bus from there.
I wanted to take the direct bus at 6am and was at the corner well in time. At 5.50 a chiva (the old open colourful buses) came and I was told to go with that bus. We often stopped and more people or just vegetables and other things came on the bus. When the young man who collected money (3000 pesos) came climbing on the outside of the bus I asked him again where I should change buses and the answer was "up there". I soon found out why there was no direct bus that morning. The heavy rain during the night had washed away the road just before Inza. We left the chiva and I was very glad I had put on my boots that morning because it was very muddy. One man was there with his wellington boots to rent to women with sandals.
On the other side of the landslide the bus for Popayan was waiting. I put my luggage in the bus and we were waiting until 7. Then there came another bus heading for Popayan. a small better bus than the one I had put my luggage in. Well, I thought, my bus would probably take a longer time to reach Popayan, but not too long. We went to Inza and stopped at the square. I saw the other bus leave and we were staying. People were eating and shopping and we did not leave until 7.40. The road was a narrow unpaved road. After one hour on the road we caught up with the other bus that was standing still. The men from that bus were out fixing the road. They had almost finished and we could continue.
After that we stopped at a restaurant where most passengers ate and I had a soup. We also stopped at a few shops as some of the passengers wanted to buy things and there was also a military control when every bodies identification card was controlled . At 12.10 we were at the terminal in Popayan. The price for the bus ticket was 12 000 pesos (July 2008).
It was a journey I enjoyed very much.
In Popayan I didn't know where Hostel Trail was situated so I took a taxi from the terminal. It was 3000 pesos. You can also walk.