|San Agustin was interesting. One of the most interesting parts is how you get there. You go from Popayan to La Plata in an overcrowded combi bus...it is a very very windy way over a very very bumpy road.( By the way...for those keeping track...I did not get sick!) That leg of the trip took about 6 hours including a stop for lunch at a small town along the way. And finally when you arrive at your destination(a highway intersection) it is a 5 km walk to San Agustin. Luckily San Agustin's trusty tourist office manager was there to offer us a ride into the town. He was an anthropologist with surprisingly gainful employment...Have you heard of an anthropologist with a job related job? He also happened to own an apartment style kind of room which he offered to rent to us for the few days we were there AND he set us up with a horseback riding tour at a decent price. We were set. The next morning we got up, apparently not early enough to get breakfast, because by the time we got our disgusting honey coated pancake it was already time to go,and went for our horse riding tour.They have really nice horses here, they are bigger and in a lot better condition than those found in Peru.We went for a ride to see the various archaeological sites they have in the area. Most consisted of funerary statues of various sizes removed from their original locations and placed in an area protected by a metal roof. Our guide, Juan was eager to please and was prepared to offer us all sorts of things beyond the scope of our tour. For instance he let us try wild fruits such as lulo, raspberries, coffee beans, an incredibly sour( he told us they were sweet and delicious) mandarins and one other fruit I don't recall the name of. He also offered to take us grave robbing and seemed rather proud to call himself a Huaquero(grave robber). When questioned whether or not this was illegal he justified himself by saying that the government was only concerned with large finds. And ambassadors and what not are his main customers...sounds about right. He had some artifacts for sale if we so desired, but we preferred not to involve ourselves in such shady activity. Depriving a nation of its ancient history isn't on our agenda. Our tour ended at the entrance to San Agustin's main archaeological site. It is very nicely set up and maintained. It contained more of the same kind of statues as well as some displays of the original tombs...They look like a box made of stones with larger flat stones on top. The statues would ordinarily be standing in front of the tomb to protect it. Juan said sometimes when he goes grave robbing he will feel something tap him on the shoulder. When he turns to look there is nothing there. He claims this is the spirits expressing their disapproval.
He then offered to bring us some special chicha drink made from 7 types of fruit. He brought it to our apartment later that day, but we didn't let him in. He was a grave robber after all. We paid for the drink, which apparently isn't alcoholic, though if you don't let it breathe it builds up a lot of pressure. Which we found out later in Tierra Adentro when I decided to try some and I had to depressurize it for about 10 minutes. Working at a chemical plant came in handy! By this time it tasted disgusting however and we had to dump it down the drain.
At the same site they had a museum with some of the things they had found inside the tombs on display as well as some information on the San Agustin culture's way of life. It is the oldest known culture to have existed in Colombia.(1000 BC until the arrival of the Spanish). The following day we were up early to make the journey to Tierra Adentro.