Monday 15th October – San Agustin
This morning I headed out to the Archeological Parque of San Agustin as the park would be closed the following day. I walked the 3kms from town out to the park not really having too much background information as to what I was about to see. After paying to get into the park I received my special ´passport´which gave me access to each of the many archaeological sites in the area – apparently there are quite a few! First stop in the park was the museum which provided a great history of the area and some information about the amazing carved statues that I would see over the next few days scattered around the San Agustin area. These statues are really unique and were used as idols to mark the entrance to the tombs of important people buried around the area. They were carved during the first century AD but unfortunately, many of the tombs were long ransacked by treasure hunters before research into them began in the 20th century. After visiting the museum, I wandered around the park – there were 5 different burial areas (called mesitas). Each of these had a differing number of tombs and each tomb had one of these idols in front like a guard or gravestone. The idols were fascinating, each one unique in design. There was also an area called the Fuente Lavasplatas (fountain of washed money) which was a rocky zone with water flowing over it. What is interesting about the Fuente is that there are many different carvings into the rock there. Super beautiful and interesting too. Next was up to the mirador for some great views of the surrounding countryside – and some more idols perched atop the hill. Final part of the park was an area called Bosque de los estatuas – forest of the statues where they have located many of the idols that were displaced from their original locations in the past. The park was amazing – so interesting! I also moved to a lovely new hostel called Casa de Francois – up in the hills where the dorm had an amazing view of the sunset – looks like my Colombian luck is improving!
Tuesday 16th October – San Agustin
Today I signed up for a jeep tour of the areas surrounding San Agustin. Apparently this is the most effective way to visit some of the far flung archaeological sites in the area. We were picked up by our lovely guide Evert in the 4 wheel drive and we made our way through some lovely countryside with views out over the Magdelena Valley as we drove down towards our first stop – El Estrecho del Rio Magdelena – this was an amazing natural feature where the vast volumes of Colombia´s longest river are pushed through a tiny gap in the rocky river bed, resulting in a powerful gushing stream that a number of people have died in the attempt of trying to jump across. We were also able to see some cool fossil imprints in the rocks of the river bed. Apparently this area used to be part of the sea millions of years ago.
Second stop was a forgettable museum with some deep tombs that we were able to walk down into. Not super interesting. We had a bit of a drive from here to the next site, and made a stop off at a local factory which was producing a local favorite – called Panela. This sugary treat is made from sugar cane – they take the juice from the sugar cane and then boil it until it forms a liquid substance that sets into Panela. People in Colombia use panela to make sweet teas and juices or just as a tasty snack! What was super interesting too was how they use the rest of the sugar cane – after drying as the fuel for the fires that boil the juices of the sugar cane. It was a very interesting process – and they also had some talking parrots at the factory which were really cute!
Next was a visit to my favorite Archeological site so far – Alto de los idolos. I liked this site because we were able to see more of the idols but the reconstructions of the tombs seemed to be more thorough. Everything seemed to be in better condition. Also the location was really beautiful – atop two hills. In between the two hills, standing like a guard was a grand statue of more than 5m in height. Very impressive! We had lunch in this place which was good because by this point I was STARVING!
Next stop was the Alto de Las Piedras – a smaller site but this one had one of the more famous carvings – called the Doble Yo. This one is famous because it has two faces, one on top of the other, something that was not common in these carving types.
The final two stops for the day were both waterfalls – The first, Salto de Bordones has a 400m drop down into the valley below. The second Salto del Mortiño was also really nice and turned out to have a lovely sunset which we could see from the hammocks with a beer. A great end to an excellent day of touring the area!
Wednesday 17th October – San Agustín
Last day in San Agustin today. I decided to take a self-guided walking tour around the area to see a few more of the archaeological sites. Luckily I was able to go with Maxine – a French guy from the tour yesterday – we spoke in Spanish which was really awesome and great practice for me! First stop was called Chaquira – a lovely idol carved into a rock face with lovely views of the Magdelena Valley. Second, as we walked up through the valley in the lovely countryside we found another called El Tablon, which had a couple more idols but wasn´t anything too special. The final stop for the day ended up being quite far away – it took us about 2 hours to walk to La Pelota – a statue that is very interesting because it still has a lot of the original paint work. Very impressive and totally work the hot and very long walk uphill! I enjoyed the walk back downhill into town and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing back at the hotel with a nice cold drink!