From Quito, we headed directly for the Colombian border, somewhere along the way crossing the imaginary line where toilets start emptying in the opposite direction. We had spent less than two weeks in Ecuador, which was enough time to realize that Ecuador requires more than two weeks to fully appreciate. In Cusco we had booked our flight home from Bogotá for May 30th and with this fixed date in mind we had to budget time.

The border crossing at Ipiales is straightforward enough, but we were almost ripped off by a money changer with a crooked calculator. I had read online not to trust their math, so I double checked the numbers myself and spotted the scam.

As it was getting dark, we spent one in nearby Pasto, en route to Popayán.

While Arequipa, Peru is known as “the white city”, I personally think Popayán is more deserving of this title. You’d be hard-pressed to find a building in this city without a white stucco facade.

We visited a small gallery showing work from an artist named Diego Mendoza which consisted of pencil sketches of abstracted flowers. In the exhibition there were papers and pencils that invited visitors to make their own drawings following the artist’s style. Our inspiration was a hibiscus flower from a box of tea we had purchased that afternoon.

Calina and I came up with pretty different interpretations, which we pinned up on a wall with the others. The drawings were arranged on a map of Colombia to show where their creators were from, but we would have needed a very large ladder to reach Canada.

Later in the day I discovered “Exito”, Colombia’s version of Wal-Mart. These mega-stores can be found all over the country, and while their impressive size means they stock pretty much everything it also means it takes forever to find anything. It took me over an hour to find, select and pay for a bottle of wine.

That night we prepared a delicious pineapple and vegetable stir-fry which we served over a bed of rice flavoured with coconut milk. We are developing a deep appreciation for Caribbean-style cooking! We called our mom’s to wish them a happy mother’s day and reassure them that 27 days would go by in a jiffy. The next morning we were back on the road.