Colombia: San Agustin to Pasto

We’re coming to the end of our time in Colombia and shall mourn its passing, though the route towards Quito is promising much too.

One of the new friends Sarah left behind in San Agustin (Photo S.Hedges)

Rapid progress (for us) was the order of the first two days away from San Agustin – possibly because the road was paved and had lots of downhill. Possibly too much downhill, actually. After turning right just before Pitalito towards the Colombian Amazon it was only 30km before the descent back to the jungle began.

Landslides are a fact of life on these roads. This one's long-cleared, on the paved road down to Mocoa from Pitalito

Mocoa, at about 500m elevation is on the edge of little visited (by tourists, anyway) Colombian Amazon. It was the last time we’ll be that low for quite a while, and probably the hottest we’ll be too. Eastwards from Mocoa, there are no more mountains, only the vast Amazon basin.

Mocoa, at 500m elevation, was back to the jungle for us. We stayed at the Belgian run Hostel del Rio, next to a fast flowing, and popular swimming hole. Here, on the edge of the Amazon, there is wildlife aplenty. This, very well disguised insect had to be pointed out to us!

The road from Mocoa, the departmental capital of Putamayo to Pasto, capital of Nariño back in the Andes at 2500m is quite a journey. Most of it is un-paved, and involves a lot of slow climbing surrounded by spectacular drops, lots and lots of water and the prospect of cool altitude.

This is the only direct road between the departmental capitals of Putamayo and Nariño, and so it has a steady stream of traffic in both directions, grinding slowly up and down it. There are warnings not to travel at night in winter, given the landslide risk and isolation.
On the up and up. The going is thought-provoking at times, but rideable. The greatest challenge is to maintain balance and momentum along a doable line with goods traffic trying to pass in, often both directions at once
Shards of colour on the road
Evening light at our hard-won perch in the mountains above Mocoa. 40km in a day is all we can do, then we must find a flat spot for the tent that isn't a bog or at immediate risk of landslide...
Looking back we can see the beginnings of the vast swathe of jungle that is the Amazon
After the initital, massively hair-pinned climb from Mocoa, the road makes progress through the creases and folds of the mountainside towards the elusive pass in the distance
Water and lush walls of green flecked with colour surround us as we journey.
Iván and his friends are doing their first loaded cycle tour from their home in Pasto to San Agustin and points beyond. Within a minute of our meeting we're offered a place to stay in Pasto with his mother - all we have to do is ring and explain how she's been volunteered!
They warn people about prolonged descents - we need no help with this..
Looking back from the final pass before Pasto. We'd spent most of the day in conditions that are best described as Dreich or in less scottish terminology, freezing blustery rain with dense cloud. A proper test of the wet-weather gear after so long in hotter climes

From Pasto, it’s a final push south along the Panamericana to Ipiales and the border with Ecuador – we’re not far from being into the southern hemisphere!


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