To reach Colombia, I took a less-traveled border crossing through the Putumayo region of shared Ecuador/CO border on my way to meet my old friend Jhon Freddy in the jungle (la selvaaaaa!!!). The border crossing is incredibly simple – it was just a night bus from Canoa to Quito, at 5:40am hop another bus bound for Lago Agrio (Ecuador), take a truck to la puenta (the bridge at the border), then hop into another truck bound for La Hormiga, Colombia where you can find another bus on a very bumpy road to Mocoa, the capital of Putumayo.
It’s just that easy. Unless you’re Canadian.
If you’re Canadian you need pay a $171,000COP reciprocity fee to enter Colombia. That’s about $57, unless you get ripped off at currency exchange like yours truly and pay about $75USD because despite all information posted online and onsite, you can only pay on the Ecuador side with Colombian pesos. And there is nowhere to get Colombian pesos for 27km (which equates to 1 hour drive time). Luckily, after 3 motorcycle trips back and forth across the bridge, an opportunist offered to change my American dollars for pesos at a terrible rate. I figured by paying the ridiculous exchange I was burning off some karma, so I gritted my teeth, smiled, paid the man and went on my way. Easy peasy.
Arriving in Mocoa I have to say I was a bit disillusioned. Jungle towns in the Amazon have always surprised me with how loud and industrious they are, and Mocoa certainly is not an exception. Surrounded by such natural beauty, it was a shock to my system to stay awake with party music till 2am and be woken at 5am by the thoroughfare of big tanker trucks rolling their way out of town via main street. I can’t complain much though as it was a good stimulus to get meditating early and my hotel was cheap anyways – 15,000COP (~$6.50CDN) for my own room.
Mocoa boasts an incredible waterfall – well, actually there are 4 waterfalls, but the namesake, El Fin del Mundo, is the final one and really does feel like the end of something. The water falls off an abrupt cliff to the ground, 70m below. It was a great excursion – I finally met another foreigner, a German named Manuela. She was in the region to find a Yage (Ayahuasca) ceremony, so we had lots to chat about. It was very serendipitous to meet each other as we both travel sola, are the same age, and in very similar situations. We were the only foreigners either of us met in Mocoa.
The natural, untouched beauty of the region is astounding. It’s like a big playground for running, hiking, swimming or birdwatching. The people in the area are super friendly and always up for a chat, despite my (still!) poor Spanish. On the way back we stopped to watch a group of circus performers juggling, doing acrobatics and walking a slackline across one of the waterfalls. I love how on a Thursday afternoon this is nothing unusual… the vagabond lifestyle always inspires.