After the climb, Tim and I had planned for a big night out in Quito before splitting up. But we had to reevaluate when John, the owner the climbing outfit that put us on the mountain, pointed out that Quito was well out of Tim’s way. We were hesitant to spend a night in Riobamba, until John said, “I’ll tell you what. You guys have been cool. Why don’t you crash at the house tonight and we’ll BBQ and grab some beers.” Nothing could have sounded better, and that was before we knew that John grilled the best steak this side of Argentina.
The next morning, Tim headed south to Guyaquil. I stuck around for a few hours to finish a freelance project from John’s dining room table, before heading north. I’d heard nothing good about the six stops I had to make between Chimborazo and Bogota. Of course, with low expectations, it’s no surprise that I enjoyed them all. Highlights were Community Hostel, where I met a good group of people and ate dirt cheap meals worthy of a five start hotel, and dancing in Cali, the world capital of Salsa. The latter felt a bit like subbing into a professional soccer game after learning to toe-punt, but it was a lot of fun nonetheless.
Upon returning to Colombia, there were immediately reminders of why this country is so popular. When the driver of the eight hour bus to Cali addressed his passengers, he got a unified “buenos tardes” in response - as if from a class of third graders on a field trip. The police officers that boarded the same bus at a routine checkpoint were talkative and friendly instead of serious and intimidating. Strangers often smiled at me as I passed them on the sidewalk.
Then, finally, I was back in Bogota, anxious to see familiar faces. It felt like a homecoming.