// MY NAME IS DANIELAnd after years of dreaming I've sold everything I own and set off on the open road. I've made this site as a sort of photo journal of my travels. The map shows where I've been (red), where I've stayed a month or more (yellow), and where I plan to go (white). And so, armed with little more than a backpack, a camera, and a dream, I now take the road less traveled by. So it goes.
IPIALES NARINO DEPARTMENT From Ecuador I crossed the Rio Chiquito into Colombia. I was becoming familiar with the process at this point. In South America there always seems to be two towns, one on either side of the border, rarely more than a few miles apart and sometimes so close they are physically bisected by the border. After staying the night in Tulcan, on the Ecuadorian side, I took a morning taxi ride to the immigration post to get stamped out of Ecuador, then walked through a short no-man's land to the immigration post on the Colombian side to be stamped in. Just beyond the office was a parking lot full of minivans waiting to take passengers to the town center of Ipiales about two miles up the road. Given all the news and media that makes its way to the US, I was a little nervous to visit Colombia but those fears were unfounded. This was a country of unbelievable people and while the recent hardships had been great, the road to recovery was fully in sight. And it didn't hurt that my first impression of the country was the staggering Las Lajas Sanctuary, a catholic cathedral spanning a river canyon. Note that the church was built right into the stone itself, which you can see in the photo of the main hall below, the back wall is pure rock.
SILVIA CAUCA DEPARTMENT Hidden in the mountains of western Colombia is the tiny town of Silvia. This is a market town for the indigenous Guambiano people, one of the most distinctive groups in South America, given their blue ponchos, pink trim, and bowler hats. It's also one of the rare groups where the men are just as likely to wear traditional dress as the women (in my experience, it's normally the case that indigenous women wear traditional dress while men just wear soccer jerseys, sneakers, and jeans). I stayed a few days here, enjoying the green valley landscapes and fresh air. You can see the house where I stayed in the last two photos. Also note the (very colorful) public buses used in Colombia, called colectivos.
CALI VALLE DEL CAUCA DEPARTMENT If you read my Ecuador page, you know that I lost nearly two months worth of photos when my computer fell in the Amazon River. Generally I upload backups of my photos online (for this very reason) but week after week I was looking for a place with sufficient internet to do so. Unfortunately tragedy struck before I ever found such a place. Like Ecuador, I was left with almost no photos of the country, despite having gone so many places. The photos you see here (and the ones above) were taken on my smaller backup camera. Most were taken by one of my traveling companions (her photo below!) who had no camera of her own so I lent her mine. If she hadn't saved these photos to her computer, I'd have almost nothing. And indeed a few cities I visited, such as Pasto and the colonial white city of Popayan, are completely lost to me. It's as if a whole piece of the trip is missing. But c'est la vie. Anyway, back to Cali: This is the third largest city in the country and not long ago was home to ongoing narco gang wars that gave Cali some of the highest murder rates in the world, but the security situation in Colombia has improved greatly in recent years, the civil wars have all but ended, and Cali is trying to encourage the return of tourists. The graffiti in the final shot says "Are all the Members of Congress bad? Or did you just vote bad?"
LETICIA AMAZONAS DEPARTMENT I actually visited Colombia twice. The first time when I traveled along the Andes Mountains from Ecuador and then a month later when I traveled by cargo boat down the Amazon River from Peru (which is when I lost my computer and my photos). It was on that second visit that I came here, to Leticia, a small city buried deep in the Amazon rain forest at Tres Fronteras, which is the point in the jungle where Colombia, Peru, and Brazil meet. The city (and indeed the entire Amazon basin) was flooded when I arrived, so we had to navigate wooden planks put up through the town center which you can see below. The owner of the hostel I stayed was originally from Switzerland (and I believe had gained some fame by paddling a bicycle on a canoe the entire length of the Amazon). He'd been living in Leticia ever since and pointed me towards an indigenous village a few hours from town, where an old village Shaman administered traditional spiritual ceremonies using the plant Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca has been commercialized in Peru, with Shamans running retreats and mass group sessions but in Colombia it was still predominately a private village affair. I could probably write a book about the experience of just reaching this remote village, finding the old shaman, and then the ceremony itself, but suffice to say it was a once in a lifetime encounter. Below in the last two photos, you'll see the village as well as the (rather creepy) hut in the jungle where I took the private ceremony and slept the night with nothing but a candle for light.