The Journal  

12 January 2006


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


Pasto, Colombia

January 1-2

The Pan-American leaving Cali spends 50 miles in the low, hot coastal llanos before returning to the Andes mountains. Our guidebook called the road to Pasto “spectacular,” and for the first time since we started consulting it, made an understatement.

The mountain landscape of southwest Colombia looks as if it has been eroded from the earth's surface, with vast valleys dropping away precipitously from a road that snakes its way along high ridge lines. The narrow, metal bridges that cross the valleys offer amazing views of towering peaks, devoid of trees, but covered in a rich, velvet green of vegetation. Along the way, we passed through short stretches of pavement that were wet from cascading waterfalls that nearly fell into the road.

The following photos are on the road to Pasto, Colombia.

In some places the road passes through unlit, concrete tunnels, which you ride into nearly blind from the midday light and exit before your eyes have adjusted to the darkness. The well-paved highway twists and cuts back on itself as it circumvents volcanoes whose peaks disappear in the clouds. From one ridge you could look over and see the road ahead, moving parallel in the opposite direction, with mountains stretching as far as the eye can see. The impossibly steep slopes were populated by herds of cattle and horses, and the occasional farmer working a terraced patch of corn. We passed fairy-tale like villages that were built to the edge of cliffs that fell thousands of feet to boulder strewn streams, where the water rushed thick and brown.

A road that you hope will never end eventually opens into a high valley that holds Pasto , a colonial town and the last major stop on the Pan-American before it reaches the Colombia/Ecuador border. In Pasto , we spent nearly an hour trying without success to find a hotel with parking, before deciding on a hostel in an old, four story building. I parked the Guzzi just down the street at a 24-hour garage. The hostel owner mercifully gave us a second floor room when she saw our pile of luggage.


The main street through the city of Pasto.

Like Cali , Pasto was shut down for the New Year's holiday and the only restaurant we could find open was packed. It was dark by the time we finished dinner and we returned to our huge room, with wooden floors and high ceilings, to go to bed early in anticipation of the next morning's border crossing.


All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus