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Thu Mar 20 2014: Final Days in Colombia

We're headed south to the border town of Ipiales. Yes, this means we are finally leaving Colombia! I can't believe we've spent over 5 months in this country! Such a beautiful part of the world, despite the bad reputation it has in the media.

Green velour-covered mountains on the way south

Our route for the day is straight down the Pan American Highway as it winds through the Atriz Valley of the Andes highlands. It'll take us the entire day to travel the 350kms from Popayan, but it's a smooth and flowing ride interrupted only by a couple of construction sites and the city of Pasto.

Stopping to peer down into the Atriz Valley - very picturesque!

Sometimes it's easier to go through the mountain than around it

Camera's flash illuminates all the tiny particle of dust in the tunnel

My selfie got photobombed while stopped at a traffic light in Pasto

Riding into Ipiales

We're hitting the wall a little bit with travel fatigue. Although it's exciting to be entering a new country, I think we need to put our kickstands down for a couple of weeks or more, so we're going to be on the lookout for a nice place to do so. Hopefully somewhere where there's no rain...

It's still raining everyday here BTW. I'm debating not mentioning it on the blog anymore. I'll just tell you when it doesn't rain... :(

Damn birds. I'm trying to take a picture here!

"Need a light, Neda?" *kikiki*

We were looking for a bit more variety than the tipico (local) food, and there was an okay-looking Chinese restaurant across the street from our hotel, so we drop in for some spring rolls and fried rice.

We had time to reflect on our journey through Colombia: beautiful and diverse scenery, amazing people that we've met, frustrating traffic in the big cities and strange customs. They play this funny game in Latin America, it goes like this: whenever you see an Asian person, the first one to yell out, "Chino!" wins. I don't think it's derogatory or anything, they always exclaim it like they're surprised. Heck, outside of the Chinese restaurant above, the only other Asian I've seen in Colombia is the one staring back at me in the mirror! I'd be surprised too.

The strange thing is that I don't even think they are trying to get my attention, because this will happen even when I'm riding my motorcycle, and from almost-out-of-earshot-range behind me, I'll hear: "chino", so it must be a game they are playing amongst themselves.

I think the game is called, "Punchbuggy Chino". First to see one and call it out must get to punch the other Latin American in the shoulder or something... In the Chinese restaurant I saw the owner and turned to Neda and exclaimed, "Chino!" She shushed me, and punched me in the shoulder. That's *NOT* how you play it, Neda!!!

Las Lajas Sanctuary

After a couple of days, we venture just outside of town to see the famous Santuario de Las Lajas, a basilica church built on the steep slopes falling away into the Guaitara River. The original church was built in the 18th century, but this current incarnation only finished construction fairly recently, in 1949. It's quite impressive seeing it jut out from the side of the canyon.

Outside the church were hundreds of these plaques set against the canyon wall

Most of the plaques give thanks to the Virgin Mary

The scale of the church was massive

Inside, I felt like we were in a video game

When I was a kid, I used to play a video game called Quake (and Doom and Castle Wolfenstein), I could swear they modeled the maps after this church, especially the lighting.

I can tell from the look on her face, Neda knows where the rocket launcher is

Strafe Left! Strafe Right!
Neda: "What on earth are you doing? And why are you holding that camera like it's a gun?"

So gothic-looking, yet it was probably only built in the last century.

Game paused. People praying.

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