Before we’d even left Ipiales this morning I saw two things that I’d never previously experienced. Firstly, a traffic warden noticed a car illegally parked on a narrow side street. He proceeded to give the vehicle a good push on its side, setting the alarm off in order to get the driver to come out and move the car. Then as we were driving out of town, the truck was struggling to get around a tight corner. On the opposite side of the road was a parked motorbike which was partially obstructing the turn. A lady walking her dog noticed this and proceeded to drag the motorbike a bit further up the road in order to leave sufficient room for the turn. What a nice person!

Driving the 340km to Popayan took ten hours. Colombian roads tend to be a bit hit and miss. Many of them require tolls to be paid but that doesn’t necessarily result in decent quality or fast highways. On the truck you could take it in turns to put your iPod, phone or whatever onto the stereo. We had a Manu Chao album on, which I thought was an ideal Latin American soundtrack. This didn’t go down well the masses, at least the loud minority of the passengers. A safer option of chart tunes was then selected and when some domestic Australian pop nonsense went on I took this as a cue to listen to some podcasts.

We eventually arrived into Popayan just after 4pm, leaving not long to have a look around before dark. It seemed like a decent city. There were lots of attractive white-painted buildings in the centre and a great main square with plenty of people buzzing about. Colombians seem to be fairly outgoing and often keen to practise their English skills. Two young ladies came up to Tim from Bristol and I in the main square and asked if we spoke English. Then they inquired what a drake was. If I was quick enough I would have said an average R’n’B artist rather than a male swan. They also asked what change meant. We explained some of the various definitions, albeit rather poorly. They then blabbered away to each other in fast Spanish, presumably arguing who was right, said thank you and walked away.

I invited out for a meal tonight with a few of the group, presumably to the equivalent of Papaya’s Wetherspoons or Nando’s.  However someone had found a restaurant in the Lonely Planet that was home to some big name chef. Unaware that we were going anywhere fancy I wore jeans, trainers, a short-sleeved shirt and tracksuit top. I’m surprised they let me in as most of the other clientele were men in shirts and ties, and ladies adorned in dresses. On this trip so far, my evening meal would normally consist of something cooked in a hostel, the remaining half of my lunchtime sandwich or maybe the occasional visit to a Chinese buffet. Therefore this was by far poshest place I’ve been to while travelling. It was actually up among the swishest restaurants I’ve ever been to. You were served six courses, although the sorbet palate cleanser (which I successfully blagged about being familiar with) can be barely classed as a course. The food was great though. The meal, a couple of beers and a tip came to around £20 which you can’t argue with.

Popayan city centre
More nice white buildings in the main square