Wednesday, May 22, 2013

San Agustin

In the morning Marlynn and me (haha, that sounds like a Jennifer Aniston movie) set off to San Agustin. The internet said it would take about four hours to go about 120km. This is because half of the road is a dirt road, and half of that looks like someone's driveway. Some of it is in the process of being sealed, which is good but you do get stuck at roadworks. Given the geographical region, there is still a strong army presence along the road. We were stopped once for an army shakedown, where they patted down all the men. I thought they were going to pat down the women as well, but unlike at airports, there were no women to pat down the women. In the end they didn't touch us so that was good, but they did search through all our hand luggage. Not sure what they were looking for. Guns, drugs, fair trade chocolate. Who knows. Anyway, 15 minutes later we were back in the bus and on our way again.

The bus we were on didn't actually go all the way to San Agustin but dropped us off at the turn off about 5km out of town. But they'd phoned ahead and a taxi came to pick us up and took us all the way to the hostel. This was included in the bus ticket price, so that was nice and saved us getting dumped in the middle of town and trying to work out where we needed to go.

San Agustin is basically Colombian countryside. It's very pretty though. We stayed in a place called Gamcelat on recommendation from a Danish guy we met in the hostel in Popayan:

The guard dogs:

Oh look. This is what milk is actually for. Calves.

Pink bananas! I still haven't eaten them but I really want to.

Apparently the local supermarket has the best meat in town. As vegetarians we cannot confirm this.

The next day we decided to go to the Archaeological Park and then do the walk to the la Pelota and el Puratal historical sites. All up, this is about a 10km walk. We started walking towards the Archaeological Park but didn't make it. By mistake (and by listening to a local that tried to get us to rent his horses) we instead we turned off the main road towards the other sites, thinking the Park was this way too. Basically we were walking up country roads not really knowing where we going. Although not much happens around here so the local people intrigued by two Gringas walking around continually told us we were heading in the right direction.

And it was really pretty with all the coffee and banana plantations everywhere.

However, after a while of not really getting anywhere and no signs, I started freaking out a bit that walking along reasonably deserted roads is how you get kidnapped by bandits. Marlynn told me to shut up and we'd be fine. She seemed much less concerned about these types of events occurring than me. I'm not sure if this is because she's Dutch, or 19, or because she speaks far better Spanish than me, so could probably talk her way out of a dodgy situation.

Anyway, after a while two police officers on a bike came down the road and stopped to flirt with us (busy day obviously). Then they just started taking photos with us (not asking if we minded), so we started taking photos with them. It was all very relaxed and a bit odd.

Here I am getting fake arrested!

After they left I felt better that there were no bandits waiting in the bushes to kidnap us. And the cops also told us we were going the right way. However, after another km or so the road turned into a track. Then a track that cows use. But finally at the bottom of the cow track, we came across tourists and found the statues.

We then started walking to the next site, la Chaquira. Thankfully when we got back onto the sealed road a ute stopped and gave us a lift. The back of the ute had women and children it already, meaning it was probably fine. People here are really friendly I have to say. And it saved us a couple of kms in walking. Hooray.

After these statues we had lunch and headed off to the final site of the day. The views over the valley were stunning.

At this one, we met some new friends (each travelling alone) Pieter from Belgium and Taylor (not Swift) from the US. Then it started pissing down rain and the nice views rapidly disappeared behind the clouds so we walked back up to the entrance and decided to wait a bit for the rain to pass. There was a bar/ cafĂ© but no one was there. However, they'd left their fridge unlocked so we helped ourselves to a beer each and left the money behind the bar. No one came out at all while we were there. Then the Aussie couple we’d met in the supermarket yesterday turned up and sat with us for a while and we all ended up walking back up the hill to the road and going into town together. 

After the Aussies left the four of us went to Taylor’s hostel for coffees and to escape the rain. By the time we left, it was dinner time, so Pieter took us to a local restaurant called Surabhi he’d found yesterday with a surprisingly good vegetarian menu. We ordered the veggie menu of the day for $5000 pesos, which came with a fresh juice, soup, rice, beans, platano, some corn thing, a lentil pattie and salad. Awesome.

The next day we went to the Archaeological Museum and had some fun with the statues we could get close to:

These ones were fenced off, which made for less interesting photos:

I have more photos of statues, but you get the idea. It was a cool place.

So despite the rain and walking in mud San Agustin was great. It is a very relaxing and peaceful place and I liked it a lot. I keep recommending it to other backpackers I meet heading south.

Next stop: the desert!