We felt slightly worried about not finding any accommodation in Santa Marta as we had called around several hostels before leaving Cartagena with no luck of booking. We don't usually book in advance but we were now faced with Easter holidays. Upon arrival we settled into a cheap, clean and quiet hostel called Casa Familiar that we found straight up to our relief.
After spending three nights sleeping in Santa Marta, we felt very tired of this place and eager to move on. While in Santa Marta we visited the beaches of Playa Grande, Taganga and Bahia Concha in the Tayrona National Park. Although these beaches were as crowded as they could be, we enjoyed all these beaches with their pretty surroundings and tranquil water.
In our last journal entry I said that we were going to fly to Bogota from the coast and that we had taken our last long distance bus in South America. I was wrong, we changed our mind and were soon on another ten hour overnight bus to Bucaramanga to meet a friend we met in Lima called Nicolas.
Nicolas had just flown home from working in Rio de Janeiro in Brasil and was home for a short time before flying to London in England for more work. This was great timing and a real treat to see Nico and his home city. The first night we caught up with Nico and met his brother Felipe who showed us the nightlife of Bucaramanga. Waking the following day, Bronnie and I jumped in a taxi with one of many of Nico's cousins that we had met the night before and travelled to Nico's family home. We were welcomed into a beautiful home set in a stunning countryside. Here we spent the best part of the day relaxing and drinking beers in the jacuzzi. The pool they have has an amazing view of the hills where parapentes and paragliders take off. Bronnie and I had an incredible time with Nico and Felipe and are so pleased to spend some time with them in their home city.
We left Ecuador feeling slightly nervous but confident about our expired visa. Upon arrival at immigration, we waited in line as usual and then approached the desk. When the immigration officer found that the exit dates on our visa were three weeks old, he questioned us and then sought of looked at us with an expression of "computer says no". All was good, they joked with us that we were in big trouble and then that we would be there waiting for another 8hrs. Instead after waiting for one and a half hours we were cleared by "the big boss" who was called in to sign us out. All in all a fairly smooth transition if anyone is wondering about overstaying their visa in Ecuador.
Soon after entering Colombia, we found ourselves our first overnight bus to enjoy. We arrived in our first port of call Popayan. Here we stayed in the clean and well run Hostel Trail, explored the white buildings of the colonial city and ventured to the hot springs that were nearby. We failed to swim in the hot springs at Aguas Hirviendos as they represented over crowded cess pits to us though not as bad as the ones in Baños, Ecuador. The hot springs of Agua Tibia weren't a lot better but were bigger and set in a beautiful location. There were quite a few people walking around covered from head to toe in in mud because apparently the mud and water at the hot springs has great healing powers. We opted to stay clean and walk around the lush green farmland taking in the first taste of real dairy cream that we had had for months.
It was already proving hard not to fall in love with the friendliness of the Colombian people, so friendly that they reminded us of how friendly the people of Brasil are. They have been very helpful, courteous and warming to each other and us.