Colombia 6: La Frontera

“Pasto, Colombia to Tulcan, Ecuador”

We spent several more days in Pasto than what we had planned. We installed new tires on our bikes in preparation for the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route. Neon also installed a new cassette, new chain, and new chain rings on his bike, which after a series of problems, turned a couple of days into a week. He stripped a bolt on his crank, broke his mini-ratchet, bent our SteinCo Mini Cassette tool, and had to locate a seatpost adapter for a new suspension seatpost—all of which happened on a holiday weekend when most the bike shops were closed or had weird hours for several days …plenty of time to enjoy a few more espressos!

Thankfully Pasto has a number of bike shops, and we also ran into a local who knew all the shops and the people that ran them; he walked with us around town until Neon found what he needed.

It was a short ride to the border, full of mini adventures and surprises. We rode on a piece the Qhapac Ñan (Inca Trail), we rode on the Panamerican highway, we met Omar who let us sleep in his motorcycle shed, we took dirt roads to a beautiful church (Las Lajas) where a girl saw the Virgin Mary, we rode through beautiful farmland, we crossed the Colombia-Ecuador border, and we met up with two amazing women (Neon & Fidget of Her Odyssey) walking, kayaking, and cycling the length of the America’s.

We followed dirt roads (cycle routes) out of Pasto, one of which was the Qhapaq Ñan (part of the Inca Trail network).

Finally… Brassicas! I’ve been seeing more cabbage, collard greens, chard, and other brassicas now that we’re riding through cooler climates.

A briefly quiet moment on the PanAmerican Highway.

We dashed down a little dirt road, off the PanAmerican Highway, to look for camping. While we were discussing where we might set up the tent, Omar rolled down the driveway on his motorcycle. He didn’t appear at all surprised by our presence. We asked if we could camp, and he said yes, then offered to let us sleep inside his motorcycle shed. He even left us with the key overnight.

Morning view from Omar’s land.

We followed a beautiful dirt road the next day, through wild areas and farmland. We passed fields of tree tomato, curuba (another type of passion fruit), potatoes, lettuce, and green beans.

The outskirts of Potosí had a lot of character and charm. The older buildings were made of adobe mud bricks and the walls were two feet thick.

The church square in Potosí.

Santuario de Las Lajas…

Las Lajas has an history that dates back to 1754 when a local woman and her deaf mute daughter were caught in a storm at this location. Legend has it that the daughter spoke for the first time when lightning struck rock and she saw the Virgin Mary. Accounts of a shrine at this location date back to 1756. The current church was built between 1916 and 1949.

Thousands of plaques, asking for miracles, line the walkway leading to the church.

The church is built on a bridge a hundred meters over the Guaitara River.

Ipiales… our final stop, and town, in Colombia.

We left Ipiales at dawn, in hope of a quick exit from Colombia and entry into Ecuador. We had heard stories of it taking several hours, to all day, to get through the border due to the number of Venezuelan refugees. Our early start paid off; it took less than an hour and a half total to exit Colombia and enter Ecuador.

We made it to Tulcán, Ecuador in time for coffee…

…and that evening we met up with Her Oddysey (and we remembered to get a selfie this time, unlike when we met Brad of Bike Hike Safari (previous post)).

Up next: the bikepacking.com Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route!

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