March 6, 2016
The Trampoline of Death road from Mocoa to Pasto in Colombia has improved. The Trampoline of Death is a narrow road that spirals up and down around mountains. It’s off the beaten path for most backpackers, a 5 hour ride for those crossing the Ecuador/Colombia border. I was nervous at first but I heard that the views and experience was worth it. And it was!
NOTE: Buses run all day on Sundays in Mocoa, I checked!
I recommend doing it early in the morning on a non rainy day to avoid treacherous mudslides and the dark. We actually began the ride at 3pm, and got in at 8pm, in the dark. The reason why we went later was because we finished our activities in Mocoa earlier than planned and checkout at our hotel was at 2pm, so why not make the most of the day?
If you take the Trampoline of Death ride in the afternoon, it helps to have a good (or even native) grasp of Spanish—you don’t want to arrive to Pasto and appear vulnerable at night. Most people spend 1 night in Pasto and go on their way to either the border to Ecuador, or continue traveling in Colombia.
From the terminal in Pasto, a taxi to the center of town cost 4,000 pesos. My phone got good Movistar Internet reception as we got into the city and I was able to look up a decent hostel. We checked into the Koala Inn. A spacious private room with private bath with hot water for two cost 60,000.
The 5 hour minibus ride cost 35,000 pesos per person but we bargained down to 25,000. If you do this, be prepared to take the back seat. James got a backseat, I got a middle seat and I was fine. If you insist on getting the seat you want, simply pay more.
Before going on the Trampoline of Death, a girl who just did the ride told me that she threw up and regretted eating anything before getting on. So we skipped lunch and got a snack during the rest stop. She claimed to have a hard stomach but that the ride was too bumpy. It doesn’t hurt to take the advice and I don’t know if it made a difference. I’m susceptible to motion sickness but I didn’t get it on the Trampoline of Death.
The drivers take their jobs serious. They checked the tire pressure before the first huge incline and they re-inflated the tires again during the resting stop. When I asked one of the passengers how often he does the ride, he said, “About every week”.
According to him, the road used to be in really bad shape but that it was only recent that the infrastructure has improved. And just in time, too! The ride was scenic and beautiful! It made me see and appreciate how mountainous Colombia is. Sure there were times when the ramp would suddenly disappear and my mind would imagine the mini bus teeter tatter on the edge but I trusted the driver, he was responsible. I’ve had worse experiences many times with a Greyhound driver on better paved roads in California.
It was a great ride! If you do it, wear pants and take a sweater, it’s cold an foggy at the top of the mountains. If it rains the day of your planned trip or the night before, consider postponing the ride. Although it could also rain during the ride. Signs of mudslides were apparent everywhere and that seems to be the only danger. Finally, please get on the bus no later that 12pm. Safe travels!