Loading Map...

San Augustin, Colombia

Written on: Wednesday July 30th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

It takes 6 hours to travel 100kms by bus over a spectacular but incredibly bumpy road, the smart locals hog the front seats so we draw the short straw flying around the back.  I worry for the box of chickens in the shelf above us, they don't sound very happy either - its our first experience travelling with animals, a novelty for now.  Half-way we stop at a little smoke-filled shack to be filled with a $1 lunch, the soup usually always has a big chunk of bony meat sitting in it that I never eat and am sure it gets recycled into the pot when we leave!  Sometimes I smuggle it out and treat a stray dog.
San Augustin is one of South America´s most important archaeological sites, an area filled with lots of stone carvings around tombs from between 6th to 14th century.  We got in the back of a ute to get taken around some of the ruins, passing through some really small villages on the way where people are living very simple lives in small huts with tin roofs.  A lot of sugar cane is grown around here, and we popped into a small factory where they were processing it into dark brown soap-sized blocks which is how you buy sugar from the shops.  As you can imagine there are a lot of interested insects hovering around, and just as our driver was explaining how it is made in an airtight room to keep the insects out, we were watching 3 bugs getting slowly stirred into the vat of boiling liquid.  Most small towns around here have cockfighting rings, its a big social time for the men usually once a week from 7pm till the small hours.  It´s too gruesome for us, so left that one unchecked from the list.
Its good to come to a ´proper´ authentic Colombian town - no nice architecture or shady town plazas, just a rough and ready kind of place with its fair share of crazy locals.  We met up with an aussie girl we met further north and she speaks great spanish, which gave us a break from our spanish/miming practice.   One evening we were sitting in a little corner shop table drinking some beers, and got approached by a roaming nun to buy some raffle tickets after she made us feel guilty for drinking, as only they know how to do.  She couldn´t tell us what the prize was, but we bought some anyway (didn't win).
Tourism hasn't developed enough in Colombia to have a good spend-up on souvenirs.  I decide to DIY a fridge magnet and buy a little mini-statue from a seller.  We are still struggling with spanish numbers, and money here is in thousands, which makes it even more difficult.  I think I am doing well by haggling this woman down to 2,000 ($1.50)  for one, and it turns out I am buying a collection of 24!
It was tempting to take the quicker route to the Ecuador border but with the Government crackdown on guerillas, they have become concentrated in this area, and you travel through a town considered to be guerilla HQ.  So we suck it up and take the bus back to Popayan - 100 kms in a bumpy 6 hours with another stop for lunch at the smoky shack, a little travel sick but safe and sound.