We left Salento and headed south on the PanAmerican Highway. Although we’re supposed to be driving this highway from the USA to the tip of South America, it seems like we’re rarely actually on it! We do a lot of zigzagging in our travels.
It’s the Sprinter Life way. That’s how we roll.
We were both a little nervous heading south. We’re finally leaving the middle part of the country and we’re heading into the area where the FARC has been active. READ ABOUT THE RECENT FARC ATTACKS IN THIS POST
I was’t sure what to expect, but as we headed south towards Popayan there were more military and police road blocks. This was good news for us.
We began to see the High Mountain Battalion soldiers patrolling the roads. These Colombian special forces are trained to go into the mountains and jungles to pursue FARC.
We saw 20-30 of them humping heavy loads at around 6,500 feet of altitude. They’d walk uphill on the roads, and then disappear into the mountains.
At one road block I pulled in to consult the authorities about the safety conditions ahead. We were told that we’d be fine until Popayan, but after that we should NOT expect to see any more police until Ecuador. That basically meant that FARC was on the scene.
We decided we’d just roll with our standard Sprinter Life strategy. Read and Run! I’m not going to lie to you. I was a bit nervous.
We made it to Popayan and checked into a hotel. The town seemed safe enough.
It’s hard to believe that only a short distance from here is where FARC detonated a deadly car bomb just a couple weeks ago. We saw Marines everywhere, so we felt safe walking around in the afternoon.
This morning we hit the road and the scenery was exciting right off the bat. This is how they roll in southern Colombia. Yeah, I know, the photo is a little blurry. The truck was probably going 40 miles per hour, so it was hard to capture it crystal clear.
Sure enough, as soon as we left Popayan we stopped seeing military and police checkpoints. The roads also went to shit in a hurry.
We both smiled, recognizing the look in each other’s eyes. It was that same feeling that we had when we soloed the Grand Canyon a year ago.
Sitting above the big rapids knowing that it was just the two of us brought a sense of acceptance to all that we cannot control. Yet at the same time, it also brought a willingness to go anyway, together.
We rolled south and took in all that the southern Andes had to offer. We passed through FARC’s hood without incident and made it safely to Pasto, a border town close to Ecuador. Tomorrow we will cross into a new country.