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San Agustin to Ipiales

May 23, 2012

The road to San Agustin from Popayan had been slow and rough so we decided that on leaving we would go the other way. This involves driving South on a good paved road to the Amazon gateway town of Mocoa. We drove from the mountain heights of San Agustin at around 2000m down to only 500m at Mocoa. We knew that to get back to the PanAm we would have to cross over the mountains again and head over a pass at 3000m.

Little did we know that the road from Mocoa at only 130km would take us over 7 hours to drive. Our first inkling of this was when we filled up with diesel at Mocoa and asked a truck driver about the road and he told us that it was a 7 hour journey but we didn’t really believe him.

Shortly after Mocoa the road turns into a bumpy, narrow, stony track which heads up into the mountains. This road was fairly busy with small trucks no bigger than us – and it was pretty precarious passing oncoming traffic as much of the track had cliffs on one side and vertical drop-offs on the other.

We didn’t manage to get over 15km/hour on this track at any stage and judging from the speed of the other trucks (driven by far more reckless drivers) no one was managing any faster.

The entertaining bits of the road were when we had to pass under several waterfalls and drive through the stony bottomed river that flowed from them.

After 4 ½ hours we managed to get to the paved track the other side and gratefully found a small roadside restaurant to park outside for the night. As it was getting late (we’d been driving since 6.30am and it was around 6pm when we stopped and getting dark) we had dinner at the restaurant – a potato soup for only 50c each.  With hindsight it would have been quicker going back towards Popayan, it’s a greater distance but the road was quicker and less hair-raising!

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