Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Popoyan to San Agustin
The morning started with an 8am departure to San Agustin. There are still stories telling tourists that the south of Colombia is still not particularly safe (potential guerilla activity) and advising to not take night buses. We’re not entirely convinced of this, but there’s not much we can do. In general, our trips are short enough to be done in half a day, so it’s not much of a problem anyway. We bought our tickets the day before (25,000COP / $12.50ea) when we arrived back from the volcano. The only issue we had is they didn’t give us a real receipt, just a piece of paper with the time of the bus hand written and an instruction to return to the office at 7.30am. We decided to trust the bus company and asked for the name of the person who sold us a ticket, and took a photo of the stall to ensure we had proof we had prepaid for the tickets. Luckily the next day the same worker was there and recognized us showing us where to wait for the bus. I was relieved as we have been scammed quite a few times being “gringos” and didn’t feel like falling for a scam again. The worst thing about being scammed is knowing it’s partly your fault.
Our bus was a medium sized coach, and not even half full. The road wasn’t that bad in terms of road quality with some obvious new construction in recent years helping its previously bad reputation. There were a lot of curves and bends as we wound our way through the mountains. Rodora dozed off to sleep for most of the trip to avoid motion sickness as she was still recovering from the exhausting volcano hike. At one point Rodora woke up to a bizarre smell, at which point we heard shouts to stop the bus and turned around to see smoke bellowing out of the TV in the middle of the bus. The bus conductor went to investigate and immediately turned the TV off which cured the smoke problem. Rodora had read in the news earlier that same day that a Colombian bus had caught fire and 31 school children were killed. We were lucky as it could have been worse.
When we were close to San Agustin (5km from the main highway), the bus dropped us off at the side of the highway and told us to get into a taxi that was paid by the bus company. Unfortunately though there were 6 of us (including driver) and it was a 5 passenger taxi, plus we all had luggage, so it was a very squashed trip into town.
Time for food
When we got into San Agustin we stopped off at the supermarket to buy groceries for our two night stay as reviews online said the hostel food was overpriced. Our main staples (to keep costs down) are granola with yoghurt and banana for breakfast and for dinner pasta with variations of meat and vegetables with red or white sauce. If we’re going to be in a town for lunch we usually share a cheap menu of the day meal at a local restaurant. We found out the hard way if we both order menu of the day, we need hours to recover from a food coma as its way too much food.
We walked to the hostel which was about 10-15 minutes away from town. With google maps once again misbehaving we relied on directions from locals. At times like this we are grateful for our Spanish lessons in Guatemala. Rodora was still feeling ill from over exhaustion on the volcano hike and could barely make it up the hill. In hindsight we should have caught a taxi.
Hostal Casa de Francios
Rodora chose Hostal Casa de Francios as it was located out of town, had great reviews and boasted spectacular views of the countryside in a relaxed setting. We were not disappointed. This hostel was very similar to La Serrana in Solento further North. There were hardly any guests there meaning the place was even more tranquil than normal. A private double was 40,000COP / $20. What Rodora liked most about the place was the unique architecture of bottles within the walls of the building which can be seen in the photo below of the large kitchen.
The only downside to the hostel is the food prices are way above market price and we didn’t see one other person eating a meal at the restaurant during our stay. In town we found menu of the day for 5,000 ($2.50) but the hostel was closer to 10,000 ($5) or more for something similar.
Attack of the hungry horse
As we were here for two days Rodora thought it was a brilliant idea to finally get some laundry sorted out and decided to hang her clothes on the sunny fence. This was a bad idea. The horses came up to the fence and started licking her shirts. Rodora ran down to collect her clothes but before she got there, one of the horses grabbed her underwear in its mouth and started walking away. Rodora had to chase after the horse and get her underwear out of its mouth. Unfortunately it was too late and the damage was already done. What was left was a scrap piece of material covered in chewed up grass. Rodora learnt her lesson the hard way; do not leave clothes near a horse as horses eat everything. Toby found this quite amusing, Rodora on the other hand decided the horse was no longer her friend.
La Chaquira canyon
As Rodora was still suffering and not feeling well she decided to chill out in the hammocks and admire the picturesque countryside while Toby went on a hike to the nearby canyon of La Chaquira. This is actually one of the local archeological sites and is typically on horse riding tours if you go on one. The hike is initially on the road out of town for about 1km. Look for the signs for El Tablon or La Chaquira on the right hand side. This leads you down a dirt road where you’ll reach El Tablon after about 10 minutes from leaving the main road. This is a free site to enter and only has a few things to look at. You then continue through local farm lands for about another 15 minutes before reaching the house/bar/restaurant of La Chaquira.
The site itself is quite well developed with concrete paths and stairs as well as a steel and wooden staircase going towards a viewpoint.
It was roughly a 45 minute walk each way from the hostel and definitely worth a short trip if you have the time.
San Agustin Archeological site
The next day we visited San Agustin Archeological site which was our main reason for visiting San Agustin. We walked from our hostel to the site, around 3.5km and 1 hour. There are local buses and taxis from the centre of town if you’re not interested in the walk. The view walking down into town from the hostel is beautiful with vintage tiled roofs and rolling green hills in the background.
At the entrance we bought our tickets, 20,000COP / $10ea and we were told in Spanish what we could see. The entrance fee also includes entrance into other sites that are located in different areas. The map below provides the best detail of the different sites and their locations. However to get to the other sites we needed a jeep or a horse and we both new that 3 hours at the main site would be enough for the two of us.
We visited the museum first which showcases the discovery of the site and provides further details in both English and Spanish. After this we went to the Bosque de las estatuas (statue forest). This was really cool as it consisted of 39 statues originally from the nearby sites but with unknown original locations because of looters.
After this we went to the other main sites. This included passing numerous statues, burial sites and a fountain.
We explored the statues for about 3 hours before we both got bored and decided it was time to head back. This is when Toby made a new friend – a dog Rodora named scruffy. He wouldn’t stop following Toby and followed us all the way to town. What made it worse is even when we stopped so Toby could get a haircut it waited for us outside the barber shop until we were done.
We stopped at the central park to do some people watching and found a lady making a white toffee like substance. There was a constant flow of locals buying little cups of the substance so we decided we had to try it. It was sweet tasting and had a think substance almost like toffee. We asked her the name and she said it was gelatina.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/