After a wonderful time in Parque Nacional los Nevados, we headed off to see what other beautiful sights the Colombian coffee region had to offer. The region is famous for its lush scenery, diverse landscapes and of course coffee. The views did not disappoint and we spent a few days roaming around back roads and enjoying a cup of fresh coffee in a cute town named Filandia. The region is spectacular and full of people farming coffee, bananas and much more from steep hillsides that create the dramatic views. The public transportation continued to impress as always in Latin America, in an old Willys no less!We know there were more hidden nooks worth exploring, but as always we cannot see it all so we decided to keep moving further south.Our sights became set for the market day in the small town of Silvia (considered the Switzerland of Colombia). Every Tuesday the Guambianos meet up in Silvia to sell fruits, veggies and handcrafted goods. The town is a bit off the tourist track, so we were excited to see what it had in store and hoped to interact with the famously shy and peaceful Guambiano people. Arriving on a Monday evening, we headed out for a walk to find a view point of the cute and tranquil little mountain town which reminded us of Steamboat in many ways. With a nice river running through town and rolling green hillsides budding with flowers and backdrops of large mountains, we felt comfortably at home.The market proved fruitful, colorful and amazingly affordable. We were able to purchase tons of food for under $7 which completely stuffed the small fruit hammock in the van. Eating healthy, especially fresh fruits and veggies help keep our batteries charged and we love it!The town was bustling with all kinds of activity. It was obvious the market days are very special for the locals who live far and wide in the surrounding mountains to visit with each other and share food and drinks once a week. It was cool to see the exchange of goods among a friendly and peaceful community where buses got packed to the brim before heading back out to the rural areas. Among all the liveliness, Matt found a hand woven wool bag made by a Guambiano woman and she was nice enough to pose for a picture. Needless to say, the market was a great success and more.In between shopping and exploring, we hung out with some fellow overlanders. Our new traveling friends among the bunch were from Argentina and had been on the road for over 3 years in their VW Kombi!Where we camped in Silvia was a very memorable place. It consisted of a small home and open space owned by a local Colombian family that plans to drive to Argentina next year with their family of four. They were very welcoming and really enjoy hosting fellow travelers.Matt and Tim even found some homemade stilts which began endless laughter as they tried to make a few steps on the deceivingly difficult circus toys.Unfortunately at this point on the trip, Sarah’s phone decided to malfunction permanently which deleted a good series of photos from our time with the family and many days after. Despite the phone’s death, our spirits stayed high and we carried on as if it’s possible to live without smart phones.Our next stop was Popoyan (the city of white) for one night, where we happened to stumble upon a food festival that boasted all sorts of good Colombian food and live music. Our quick in and out of the white city was really fun where we tried local chicharron (fried pork fat), tamales de pipian, and other local food while listening to live music and doing some goofy dancing in the park (photo easily imagined of 2 small and 2 tall white folks making fools of themselves in front of a country full of real dancers).
The following day, we made the long drive into the last big city of Pasto, where two Andean ranges converge into one, creating striking landscapes of canyons and mountains to drive through.Arriving in Pasto, we met up with a local climber and headed straight to the climbing access which would have been impossible to find without his knowledge. We climbed in this area for 2 full days with Tim and Andrea adjacent to a beautiful waterfall, wondering how we all became so lucky. Packing up, we headed out on our last leg of Colombia towards our first border crossing of South America. There was one more mandatory stop before the event, the sanctuary of Las Lajas. The famous sanctuary in the furthest southern reaches of Colombia was quite the site. It is an incredible architectural marvel and its legends are just are captivating as its beauty. We looked back on our time in Colombia while drinking some wine with Tim and Andrea, reminiscing of the people we’d met and experiences we’d had. These memories will be looked back on in with smiles and full hearts. But as always, it was time to move on and continue south into the little-big country of Ecuador! Vamos!