Semana Santa in Popayan and More

A post slightly different from the others. It’s not about a long’n’tiring road trip on Colombia’s truck-infested roads. No, it’s almost exclusively about the famous Easter week in Popayan and the visit to 1 of the few markets of indigenous people in Colombia. In the remote village of Silvia.

Popayan 2 Silvia

Popayan, 16th April

We’re on the way to Popayan. To see Latin America’s most famous Easter processions. To experience this immaterial UNESCO World Heritage. And to find out how to survive the crowds in this town during Semana Santa. As we found the very last room in the very last sleepery in town, we definitely don’t want to miss this spectacle – together with an estimated 25 000 visitors flocking into town for this week.

Just some 100km to drive. Again crossing the Cordillera Central to the west. The road: a mix of newly constructed parts, construction sites, and parts simply not improved due to geological constraints. The usual Colombian mix.

Finally, it takes us nearly 4 h to arrive.

In the afternoon still the opportunity to sneak around. To get an impression of what to expect. Quickly we realize we’re definitely not alone.

The next impression: It’s really an atmosphere of a boisterous festival. As the Easter processions only take place at night there are numerous alternatives to keep all these visitors happy during daytime. Of course, most important street food in all varieties. But also, numerous exhibitions, street dancers, musicians with and without talent – and not to forget all the preparations for the night to observe.

The statues which will be later carried thru the streets of the old town are prepared every day in a different church. And all visitors have to marvel at them in the afternoon. And not to forget all the selfies to be taken in front of them.

In the evening, at 8 the procession starts. The statues on wooden platforms leave the respective church carried by 8 poor guys who have to move the 400kg of each platform at a distance of 2km. 

Of course, the whole length of the procession is lined by 1000s of people. Some of them waited for hours to see the spectacle. So, even don’t think about getting there after 6 pm.

At the Parque Caldas, they installed a viewing stand for those ready to pay a few bucks entrance fee. As we’re convinced, we couldn’t see anything with the crowd along the roadside we decide on this ultimate luxury.

By 9 we’re ready to see the procession passing by. Well, by 11 pm they finally arrive.

Strangely, it’s a bit of a mix of a police’n’army parade with the Easter procession. For us slightly disconcerting.

But finally, the statues pass by, carried for hours by these poor guys. Preceded by a bearer of incense. And flanked by worshippers carrying candles. 

Next morning. It’s Good Friday. The show goes on – by now even during daytime. By now the army guys have to carry the statue.

Of course, these 20 or 30 000 visitors sneak around until the next evening’s procession starts. And it looks like they’re on a constant search for a small souvenir for themselves or an incredible gift for auntie Valentina who couldn’t participate.

Soon it’s night again. As usual, the streets crowded with people eager to see as much as possible of the next procession. A task definitely not easy. Especially if you’re in the 27th row. But there are no limits to creativity and innovative ideas.

We decide not to follow the show from a viewing stand as yesterday. Today we’re in the street. Well, after some time, surprisingly we encounter ourselves in a group of journalists free to move wherever we want in the procession. Yeah, why not, as long as nobody realizes the 2 intruders. Works well for quite a while. Then we think maybe we should not push too much our luck and discreetly, but quickly disappear in the middle of the crowd at the roadside.

Of course, somewhen these processions take an end. Time to dismantle the statues, transport them to a safe place and make sure they will be ready again for the next Semana Santa.

Later in the afternoon, Prado cries for some maintenance work. Nothing really serious. Because by now, it rains every day we have to check if everything is still tight. To start with, the cover of the rooftop tent. It looks like somewhen we’ve touched a roof of a garage. The cover has to be repaired. Fortunately, we still have this tape used for damaged tarps of trucks. Hopefully, all is waterproof again. Then we discover that the rubber of a door is damaged. And the rubbers at the rear windows are dilapidating. Things not to repair immediately.  We have to bring some spares with us. Hopefully, we’ll find a covered holiday home for Prado when we’ll fly back to Swizzyland in a short time.

True, there’s another important issue not to neglect if Popayan’s Semana Santa processions have to continue for the next 50 000 years: the promotion of young activists. A few days after Easter. The very last procession of this year. The kids parade thru the streets. With mini statues. And their parents are getting incredibly nervous watching them. 

Silvia, 18th April

After a few days in Popayan’s Semana Santa – craziness we definitely need a change. We think Finca Pisoje is the place to go. A few km outside town, a ruined Finca converted by some enthusiastic guys into a historic guesthouse.

Of course, not to expect 5-star accommodation, but a very authentic experience in a wonderful building with a long history.

The next morning it’s quite gray and rainy. We’re ready for Silvia. Just a few km to the north, a quite remote village high up in the mountains. It’s 1 of the very few places in Colombia where the indigenous Nasa and Misak people living in the surroundings still come in their traditional costumes to the weekly market. Apart from this, there are no real sights in the area. The village – quite archaic, a rather rough world.

On the way, we experience the usual chaos on Colombian roads. This time not some broken trucks, road constructions, or landslides. Now an accident in the bad weather. Just 2h to queue up with an estimated 10 000 other vehicles.

True, Silvia is not exactly 1 of the world’s hotspots. It’s a rather sleepy place where we have to ask around where we can have something to munch in the evening. Nevertheless, somehow a special place with all these indigenous people sneaking around, their murals and …

… the certitude that your absolutes safe in this place. Despite the fact that it’s unclear whether or not FARC is still dominating the area.

The next morning – the weekly market day. The day when sleepy Silvia wakes up and people from all over the region flock in – mainly by these colorful chicken buses, the Chivas. They meet for a chat, enjoy urban life in sleepy Silvia, and engage in big business.

The market hall – a pretty old building. Entering there you immediately feel like being in another century. Today very busy with all the people coming from the surrounding villages.

So far Silvia’s famous market.

Well, there’s something else the place seems to be famous for. Its innovative, fashionable hairstyle. Just in case you’ll need 1 during your next visit to Silvia.

A little later we’re already on our way back to Popayan. Just to continue towards Ecuador. 

But that’s another story. And that’s for our next post.

Simply wait patiently until we’ll release it. And remain jealous.



On the Way to Popayan
Out of Colombia