Day 419: Crossing into Colombia + Las Lajas Sanctuary

We were slightly nervous about the border crossing between Ecuador and Colombia. It’s not exactly recommended to travel up through the southern region of Colombia, but it’s significantly safer if you only travel by day, which was our plan! As it turns out, crossing the border was ridiculously easy – lightyears easier than getting into England. Making our way to Las Lajas Sanctuary and then Pasto afterwards to spend the night turned out to be equally easy. Las Lajas Sanctuary is a basilica church built into a canyon in Ipiales just five minutes away from the border. Andrew purposely kept pictures of the church from me so I would be surprised when we arrived. We had all of our bags in tow, and climbed down the canyon (and then back up again) to check out the church before continuing to make our way up through Colombia, well, as much as we could before nightfall.

We forgot it was Sunday, and arrived right in the middle of a mass. While we walked around the outskirts of the church, a local (from Ipiales) stopped to chat. He ran an English school and told us he always liked to practice his own English with visitors passing through. He was so sweet, and little did we know that he would be the first of many lovely Colombians that we would meet throughout the rest of this beautiful country.

With all of the doors to the church open, I snuck a quick picture in from the very back just so you could see what the interior looked like. Beautiful, isn’t it? We walked around to the other side of the canyon, still with all of our bags on our shoulders (and Andrew’s back) to get some pictures. Andrew decided to climb up to the top of the canyon to get even better pictures. I stayed below with all of our bags.

On our way out, I handed my camera off to get a picture of us in front of the church. I had the picture lined up and everything so the entire church would fit into the frame… but that didn't seem to matter. In other words, I should have just whipped out my travel tri-pod. I had it with us after all… I cropped and straightened the other image down because I think this was the first time we were in front of a famous landmark or site with ALL of our possessions.

And then sheer madness broke out. For some reason, we were bombarded by families wanting us to pose for pictures with them. Despite Andrew carrying 3 of our 5 bags, one mother practically forced her young son into his arms. When I managed to sneak away to retrieve my own camera back, Andrew was kept with a different family and I was snagged and ordered to embrace one woman’s husband.

We stopped to catch our breath on the way back up the canyon and this little girl caught my eye. She was sitting with her mother and we exchanged a few smiles while Andrew was busy getting proselytized to by the woman sitting on the other side of him. Not wanting to get sucked into the conversation I continued making eyes with her as she curiously watched both of us. When they left, her and her mother stopped and said hello. A few minutes later, she returned to sing me a song. I really wanted to film it, but she seemed a little nervous as it was. The song went something like this: “Hello Hello I speak English. How are you? Good. Thank you!” It melted my heart.

(where we slept) 

(where we slept)