The towns of Mocoa and Pasto, Colombia

Nov. 8, 2022

I was in Mocoa for 2 nights and enjoyed the visit. It's a nice little pueblo in a small valley at about 600 meters (about 1968 feet). When I first arrived in town I also recieved a message from a friend in Barranquilla telling me to be careful because Mocoa is in a "Red Zone". Here in Colombia there are red zones - areas where any of the various narcotrafico groups/illegal armed groups/guerrilla groups are located. So, when I was out exploring the town I went by the police station and spoke to two officers and they told me the town is fine, the armed groups are all out in the mountain jungles and don't come into the towns. I also spoke to the hostess at the hotel and she told me basically the same thing. And again, I spoke to a man I met when out walking and he, too, said the same thing. So, nothing to worry about walking around in town.

I posted many pics of the town in the photo album. It turned out that I was there on a festival weekend. On Sunday there was a big fair and one horse race. Pics in the photo album.

The hotel I stayed at, Hotel Inga Real, was kitty-corner to the main plaza. When I made my reservations I specified a room as far to the back away from the street as possible. They gave me a room in the middle of the third floor so there was only one other room between the street and me. It was a bit on the noisy side until the town quieted down for the night. The room was certainly large enough and had a nice bathroom and hot water. I always ask about hot water before making reservations because here in Colombia many hotels do not have hot water, especially on the coast, where the water is typically sufficiently warm without it being heated.

After Mocoa, I visited Pasto. Pasto is another very old city, this one having a population of more than 450,000. It is the capital of the Nariño department (province). Pasto was founded in 1537. Most of the city lies between 2,520 meters (8,270 ft) and 2,700 meters (8,900 ft) in elevation. There are some communities that are high, about 3,000 meters (9,800 ft), up on the sides of the Galeras volcano, which tops out at 4,276 meters (14,029 ft). The weather is very pleasant with an average high all year round of around 69° F (21° C) and an average low of 55° F (13° C). Pasto has its own Carnaval called Carnaval de Negros y Blancos (Black's and White's Carnival). It takes place the first week of January. As for rain, if you're familiar with the amount of rain in the Seattle, WA area—the two cities are very similar. The road across the mountains from Mocoa to Pasto was gravel, very rough, and often only one lane with steep and deep drops. The elevation of the pass is around is close to 2800 meters (around 9000ft). Here in Pasto, you can find buildings that are more than 400 years old and still being used. In at least one of my photos, you can see a derelict building wall with the corners exposed. You can see that the walls are about a meter thick.

In Pasto I walked around the city and took pictures of many of the historic churches and general city pics, check'em out in the photo album. There's much more to see but I want to keep going and get into the part where I feel I'm finally going on this 'round-South America' trip. There are a few more historic churches, the La Cocha Lagoon is a volcano crater lake with an island called La Corota which is a wildlife sanctuary. The volcano Galeras is visible in at least one of my photos, though there are some clouds obscuring the top.

The hotel, Hotel Vymar, is quite nice, especially for the money. The rooms are big and have an integrated closet and desk. The bathroom is big and the shower is surprisingly big with a rain shower head and hot water. The materials they used for the interior finish are of good quality, as well. There's also a restaurant/bar as part of the hotel. I think there are a few pics in the photo album.

Pasto and the surrounding area should be on your list of places to visit if you have the chance to visit Colombia. Next stop: Ipiales.