July 14th 2015
Rest day in Ipiales
After an awesome nights sleep tucked under the covers of a safe and quiet hotel I woke feeling refreshed and better about things. We headed into town after sorting out laundry (we were charged $1000COP a piece ($0.36USD) and a pair of socks counts as 2 pieces) and for $3500 COP ($1.30 USD) we picked up a taxi into Centro for the 4 of us. After briefly chatting with a group of Columbia guys on bikes who had just spent the last month cycle touring in Ecuador and checking out their set up for bike touring (beat up old bikes and 44 gallon jugs as panniers) we wandered off trying to find somewhere for breakfast after their parting advice of “you can cycle tour on little money so long as you have a big heart.”
After a few false starts on bakeries that were not really bakeries we ended up at La Terreza which is on the second level overlooking the main plaza. The coffee was apparently great but it was hit or miss on the rest of the food. My eggs were fine but Haley ordered a fruit crepe and it was a huge miss with melted cheese on top of dried fruit inside a crepe with ice cream and red wine reduction. Sounds nice enough it apparently wasn’t and why they would use dehydrated fruit in this country when there is so much fresh produce we couldn’t figure out.
After a brief visit to the church in the main plaza which is much nicer inside than its blue and white exterior we caught a taxi to Las Lajas for $10000 COP ($4 USD). The taxi driver even stopped at the mirador (lookout point or viewing area) for us so we could get a picture of the church from above.
Once there it becomes a busy congested area of hotels and cars and souvenir shops and restaurants and people everywhere, there was even Llamas or Alpacas ( I can never tell the difference) dressed up in stupid outfits if you wanted to pay to have your picture taken with them.
After walking down the well sign posted path lined with souvenir shops and Banos’s (have change as they charge $500 COP or $0.25USD but they give you toilet paper which is more than most places) for about 5 minutes you come to the church. It is rather impressive and does make you appreciate the building efforts that went into it but it looks new and well cared for which kind of detracts from it for me. I was expecting something a bit more rustic given its age but it does look like something out of a fairytale.
To go inside the church is free but there was a service going on when we arrived so after hovering at the back with the armed and rather serious looking military or police guys we soon left. We decided to check out the museum which is under the main church and after paying $3000COP ($1.10 USD ) each for entry we then wandered into a rather weird collection of stuff. I wouldn’t call it a museum as such and there didn’t seem to be any logic to their displays but I’m sure if I could read Spanish or was more religious I might have a different view.
The first section was just a bunch of old religious pictures and empty glass cases, the second room was full of pre-Spanish pottery and if you have been to a museum anywhere else in South America you won’t be impressed by the display. Then the last room seemed to try be a display on life in the olden days vrs life now but didn’t hit the mark on either of those points. After that it was back to where you paid for the ticket and up the stairs to check out a small room which obviously doubles as the theatre. This was more interesting as it actually had pictures of the church being build and throughout history so it was interesting enough to keep us there for a minutes. Unfortunately all though the museum they had blue and red neon flashing lights mounted on the floor beneath each display which just made it difficult to see and made you want to shield your eyes or have an epileptic fit instead of enjoy the display.
Once out of the museum it was back up and wandering the many paths to check out the ‘Falling Waters’ which was the rather obvious waterfall nearby or up to the statue which we didn’t do as we couldn’t tell if it was Saint Martin killing the dragon or an angle with a sword or what. Maybe if we had bothered to walk up there we would have found out. We instead chose to walk down to the river and try follow it for awhile but after walking all the way down there it was blocked off so we sat and enjoyed the view of the church from a different angle which would have made for great photography had the power lines not been in the way.
Then it was time for the slog back up the hill which tests you. We have pretty good fitness at the moment and even we were huffing and had sore legs though whether that’s from the climb or from cycling who knows. We chose a different path back up which meant more stairs but then a flatter walk once at the top. More souvenir store to navigate and we stopped in one for a juice and a snack before continuing to find a taxi back to Ipiales. There was no taxis so we were stuck taking one of the Collectivos which tried charging us $11000 COP to take us as far as the bus terminal instead of to our hotel like we asked. Finally one of the other drivers agreed to take us to our hotel for $13000 COP ($4.80 USD) and we finally Agreed.
A quiet afternoon of chilling in the hotel before a wander through town trying to find real food which we didn’t find and resorted to eating in the food court of the shopping plaza at the end of town (about 10 minutes walk from the central plaza). It was everything you expect from food court food but it filled the hole for another night so mission accomplished. On the walk back to the central plaza to find a taxi we changed money at the exchange place on the corner opposite the supermarket of the main square and got reasonable rates of pesos into American dollars in preparation for Ecuador.
Not sure why but he stamped every note he gave us which was weird and makes me suspicious of what it means when I try use it in Ecuador but he was in a proper shop as opposed one of the many guys and girls standing on the corner of the plaza yelling cambio at you and waving wads of money. A taxi back to the hotel for the standard $3500COP and we settled in for the evening.