Bus Travels And An Amazing Archeological Site.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
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Trip End Dec 31, 2018


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Where I stayed
Finca El Marco

Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, October 29, 2011

Colombia has had some pretty bad press. There is a 40 year long civil war that is not yet over. Guerillas, Cocaine, Drug Lords, Coffee and Kidnapping are all emotive words that stain Colombia. But this is NOT the Colombia we are seeing - not yet anyway!

The Colombia we are seeing is beautiful, jungle clad mountains, with the deepest of ravines under dark threatening thunder clouds. The Colombia we are seeing has unkempt city outskirts with traffic snarls and belching buses, but then beautiful inner city squares with white colonial buildings and smiling helpful locals. Soldiers and Police are everywhere – just everywhere.

We are on guard and careful for our safety but sometimes this is an overreaction. To illustrate – we were coming down a steep hill after seeing some statues at San Agustin when a Colombian couple indicated they wanted to take our photo, and then a photo with them in it as well. We obliged cautiously, and chatted for awhile as best we could with our vague Spanish and their rudimentary English. However we moved on fairly quickly, and discussed between ourselves that this could have been a ploy to get us sidetracked while they robbed us. It was quite isolated and no-one else was around. An hour or so later as we were walking the 3 kms back to our hostel and looked to hail a taxi that was coming. It stopped and there inside were the"photo couple” smiling and indicating to get in. Still a little wary, we told the driver the name of our hostel and after a"Si Si” with enthusiasm, we got in. We were duly dropped off at the road to our hostel, with both the couple and the driver refusing any payment and lots of cheerful "adious amigo's" as they went on their way!  It could have gone pearshaped - even at the shared taxi stage, but it didn't and our faith in human nature remains high.

Our first 3 days in Colombia consisted of long hours on crowded buses, potholed roads, winding mountain roads and stunning scenery. 2 seperate bus journeys took us to the border town, then a taxi the 6 kilomteres to the actual border. The border crossing itself was uneventful (and quite quick) then a collectivo (shared taxi) took us to Impales where we caught a bus to the city of Pasto our first stop. We just had time to dump our packs at a hostel and go for a walk around the city centre and then grab a bite to eat before dark set in. Next day straight back to the bus station and onwards to Popayan another 6 and hours on the road and an almost kilomtere hike to our next night's hostel.

The Hostel Trail in Popayan was like a breath of fresh air with an English speaking manager from Scotland, much needed book exchange and Aussies, Swiss and Brits to talk to. We had not found fellow travellers for awhile and it felt good to have English conversation over a cheap meal of curry put on by the hostel.

Next morning it was on the road again early for our third straight day in a row on buses, this time to take us to San Agustin. The road was unbelievably rough, a real test. At one stage the 20 seater bus even got bogged in the mud. After 5 hours of bumping and grinding through the mountains we got dumped at a turnoff, with the conductor indicating the waiting taxi was there to meet us and it was part of the ticket we had paid for. Due to our lack of Spanish we had no idea the last 6 kms were to be by taxi! Unfortunately the taxi driver had brought along a tout, who spent the whole way trying to get us to go to his hostel and take his jeep tour. We refused and asked to be dropped off at the town square. As it turns out we should have retained the taxi to take us straight to the hostel as it proved to be quite a hike, with most of it very uphill!
 
As steady rain set in, we spent what was left of the day resting and reading up on the San Agustin UNESCO sight we were to visit the next morning.

The statues of San Agustin are from a mysterious group of people between the 6th and 14th centuries who buried their dead there and honoured them with statues.The statues looked to us eeerily like those we saw on Easter island. So far some 513 statues have been found and excavated. It was an uphill climb to get to the 'Parque Arqueologica" of several kilomteres from our hostel and then some quite steep paths around the site, but it was well worth it and easy to get around without a guide. So it was on an isolated path in the park where we met the couple referred to earlier, who gave us a lesson in trust.  

After a full morning at the site, and our unexpected lift back to the hostel roadway, we walked back into town and caught the next bus out to Neiva where we had hoped to be able to connect with another bus to take us out into a little known desert area of Columbia. However by the time we arrived in Neiva, it was getting towards dusk and after waiting almost an hour for a bus to Villavieja, we decided we would have to make a plan change and instead went and found a hotel close by just before complete darkness set in.  

Travel Tip: Finca El Marco is lovely and quite, with good meals. But !! be warned it is a good couple of kilometers out of town with about 500 meters up a very steep hill. We walked, but would recommend taking a taxi, at least initially with packs or luggage.
 
Footnote: San Agustin Archaeoligical Park is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
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