Popayan is a quaint little town in the south of Colombia comprising of white-washed houses and small lanes within the old town. One of the best activities to do in Popayan (and highly recommended by TripAdvisor) is the “downhill” bike ride from the natural thermal pools up in the mountains to the town center.
Their Thermals and biking tour costs COP 50,000 (approx USD 20) including transportation to the thermal springs and bike rentals. They will drive you to the thermal springs from where you have to ride your bike downhill to the town, but note that not the whole route is downhill.
We were picked up by Tony from HostelTrail at 10am and drove up to the thermal springs with bikes loaded on top of the van.
After reaching the thermal springs of Coconuco, we took a relaxing dip in the warm waters and spent some time there along with a bunch of locals – families and kids – in the two large sulfur pools and one small clean water pool. The entrance is included in the price of the tour. Changing rooms and showers are available onsite.
After sending about an hour at the springs, we were all set to ride our bikes down to Popayan. This 30km ride has a few uphill (not steep though) loops at kilometer markers 15 to 17 and then a few more. Overall it’s a simple and speedy ride which you can gauge while on your way up to the thermal springs.
The views of the valley and lush-green mountains are splendid along the way. Be careful of the traffic rushing through the roads, although drivers of vehicles are careful enough to slow down when they see you and also keep a distance from you.
One of the things recommended by the tour guide is to stop at the town of Coconuco and have trout lunch at a local restaurant called Sofi. It costs about COP 13,000 (approx USD 12) and includes a freshly fried trout, patacones and salad.
[Lunch at Sofi Coconuco]
At kilometer 28, there’s a cafeteria called “Estadero Don Luis” where we stopped for some hot chocolate with melted cheese in it. The idea is to have cheese slabs with the hot chocolate, cut the slabs into pieces and dip the pieces of cheese in the hot chocolate until the cheese melts. The flavor is very different and I wasn’t really impressed with the taste!
[Hot chocolate with melted cheese at Estadero Don Luis]
This is where we met with the artist – Fanny Rodriguez – who owns the cafeteria and lives in a house behind the cafeteria. She walked in the cafe and was filled with joy to see two Indian guys. She mentioned that India and her people are very dear to her heart. She invited us into her home to have a look at her art that she has created over the last 40 years. There were more than 30 splendid paintings she drew starting from her backpacking days across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran in 1976, to being a mother of two daughters and a wife now living in the hills of Colombia. She met her Australian-born husband in India.
[Estadero Don Luis restaurant owned by Fanny Rodriguez]
[Paintings by Fanny Rodriguez]
[Fanny Rodriguez – the artist herself]
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