Written by Neon
Talking with a local in Pasto, he mentioned the city was surrounded by volcanoes and large lakes. The volcanoes were visible from the city, though the lakes were tucked away so Fidgit and I didn’t see them before leaving. We were on a mission, and this was our last country to cross in South America. After taking time to plan ahead from Pasto, we were off and walking north once again.
Heading out of the city, I knew we would be getting into a hot area, both politically and climate-wise. I didn’t know how quickly it would happen or how much the heat (climate) would take its toll. We descended from Pasto down along the valley below. The temperature rose as we walked through the day to a scorching . . . well, I don’t know what it went up to but it was HOT. As a generally cold person, I don’t say that lightly.
Over the next few days, we would wind down and up along river valleys, staying below 1,000 meters. The shade was minimal, the dust was heavy, and the semi-trucks passed in droves. Though we weren’t aware of much political tension, there was more military presence – mostly focused around bridges in the area. We often got stared at, though most people kept to themselves or were excited to yell a quick ‘Hola!’ from their seat on the porch.
Fidgit and I tried to keep cool the best we could through this area, purchasing icy drinks and sno-cones when possible. Anyone who has spent a lot of time in high temperatures will likely agree that there’s a point when the heat starts turning your brain to mush. One morning, as my brain was trying to turn mushy once again, a cyclist rode up. He introduced himself as Daniel, a solo cyclist from Austria, and mentioned that he’d heard of two women walking across the Americas- they called themselves ‘Her Odyssey’. I told him that was us, and then let him know Fidgit was ahead of me. He offered a ride on his bike to catch up to her. No question, I hopped on the seat and we were off! We caught up to Fidgit in no time. Daniel ended up walking his bike alongside us the rest of that long, hot day and kept my mind from turning to mush with stories of his travels and questions about ours.
Having another travel buddy, even for a day, rejuvenated both of us. The next few days were a blur of covering kilometers on our way to Cali. We had a friend of a friend named Becky that we were planning to meet up with in the city. We ended up making it into Cali the day Becky was heading out of town for a conference, but she was kind enough to spend some time with us before her evening flight. She and her housemates also let us stay at their apartment. We had a couple of restful days in Cali, learning more about Colombia from her housemates, the Andres’s. We left the city rested and motivated to continue along our way.
Cali is situated in a large open valley. We had already walked for a couple days along the valley before reaching the city and it took us another five days to walk the rest of the way through it. Most of the walking was uneventful, though there were a couple of times we were concerned. One of those times was when we nearly got robbed at knife-point before a policeman came out of nowhere and patted down the teens who would’ve been our robbers. It was an eye-opening experience for Fidgit and I, one that we are glad we haven’t repeated. After that particular experience, we also became more aware of how we were perceived by others and took time to discuss and modify our outward personas as necessary in some areas.
The Cali valley was also hot walking, so Fidgit and I were getting up and walking earlier, trying to keep cool. We were grateful for the shade trees that lined the roads along this stretch- around Cali, it had been mostly sugarcane fields.
The days were blending together, getting up and walking each morning, afternoon breaks with lunch, making it somewhere in the evening to sleep. Rinse (sometimes), sleep, repeat. We walked and walked, making it to the end of the Cali Valley and began to ascend slightly. We were heading towards to Los Nevados range of mountains in Central Colombia, hoping to fit in one last mountain romp before our descent to the Caribbean. Along the ascent, we stopped for another quick rest in the city of Armenia.
Armenia is a small city near the edge of the mountain range we were planning on going into. We were able to relax for a couple of days before heading into Parque Los Nevados.