Las Lajas

February 16, 2010

Today’s agenda s a full one: Ipiaples and the beautiful Sanctuary of Las Lajas, a basilica church nestled in a crack between the mountains of southern Colombia. Then cross the border into Ecuador and hopefully make it to Quito all in one day. I have breakfast at the hotel and hit the road.

It’s a beautiful ride up and out of the La Cocha valley.

So I get a little mixed up in Ipiales again…I’m riding down this street I don’t like the environs so much, but then I spy some military guys. I like stopping to ask police and militarias directions because I feel safe.  So I pull over to the curb and shut off the engine. These kids with guns are not more than 20-22. Three of them all three come over and start chattin with me. They do not care that I am lost…they want to know all about  me, where I come from, all about the bike how many cc’s, how much does it cost, what’s this (GPS) etc. Theya re all relaxed, so relaxed that one of them rests on his machine gun…the only problem is…


First I try to curl my toes out of the way…not working.
Next I try to slide my booted foot gently out of the way…not working.

Finally, I just move my foot out of the way real quick-like, and the soldier nearly falls over, and I nearly fall over with the bike trying to get away from the gun.


I was too nervous to take pics there, but as I rounded the corner I took one over my shoulder…impressive armature! In hindsight I am glad it was only a machne gun on my foot and not one of the tanks on my foot…

I got out of town pretty esaily with their directions, and back onto the Panamericana sur.


Gosh, pretty nice road for the main South American thoroughfare…

Ipiales, Colombia.

I decide to have lunch here…I am hungry and not sure how long the side trip to Las Lajas will take. I stop at this  panaderia (bake shop) and have a tamale, fresh juice, and a bunelo (a typical Colombian fried bread thing). The area is a little seedy, so I park the bike right out front where I can dine and watch the bike. There’s a lot of interest int eh bike on the street, many people stopping, looking, touching, etc.  The boundaries in Latin America are a little different than in the USA, so I try to walk a good line between letting things be the way they are, and watching for my personal safety and that of the bike.

I have to pay to park. Las Lajas is obviously a MAJOR tourist attraction. Luckily, the sellers here are a little more respectful of where they are selling (a holy place)–they are not calling out to tourists, trying to pull you into their booths.

These are thank-you’s to Mary, blessings from families, etc.

Holy Water.

The walkway back up.

I LOVE the contrast. The  incongruity  of it all. They were BLASTING music all the way down…

I suppose everywhere the trash needs to be picked up…but sheesh…mid-day in a place of deep spiritual connection and reverence? How often do you get a pic of THAT? I laughed all the way up the (steep!) hill.

You know, when I pulled in, I thought these were statues. I jumped when one got up and left…

Ok, not too far to the border. But, oofa, I don’t feel good. Stomach is a little weird. Just “off”…cannot explain it.

Leaving Colombia is quite sad for me…I made many good friends, overcame many fears, have eaten some of the best food of my trip, and seen some of the most spectacular scenery so far. Three weeks was not nreay enough! I want to come back and see the the whole North coast. I hope the elections this fall brings Colombia a new president that is equally committed to fighting the guerillas, and maybe will help the people a little more <end of my political opinions>

Colombia was marvelously efficient in handling my exit paperwork. It took less than 10 minutes to do both my bike and MY paperwork.

Aduana office: you actually got to go inside and SIT DOWN! First time! Border crossings are looking up!


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