From Bogota we took a night bus south ten hours to San Agustin, a town which apparently hasn’t really been particularly safe to visit until the last several years. Our bus was a modern luxury coach and very comfortable, and we were further comforted (at least that was the idea) by the experience of having an employee videotape everyone’s face at the beginning of the ride so the cops could have a visual record if something happened.
Thankfully everything went fine, and we found San Agustin to be a nice little town set amongst some absolutely stunning countryside. The vegetation seemed to be mostly of the temperate-jungle type, and we saw all kinds of new plants and flowers. This area is famous for some very early indigenous ruins and statues from a culture that no one knows much about, so on our first day in town we walked out to the town archaeological park where several sites are grouped together. Most of what we saw were large flat boulders with fierce looking figures carved onto one or two sides of the rock. They were mostly human figures, with some birds and jaguars thrown in. Overall we found them interesting; not of the same caliber of some of the other indigenous sites we’ve seen, but definitely worthwhile.
More exciting to us was the lush countryside that was all around, which we got to see much more of the following day when we set out on a horseback tour. Our guide was a nice young guy from town, and he lead us on a circuit of some of the other nearby sites. Again the artifacts were kind of secondary; they didn’t seem much different from what we’d seen the day before. Riding the horses was great fun though, and we went to some amazing viewpoints and past lots of small working farms. It felt a bit like riding into a past century, and I found myself daydreaming about living on a quiet little finca in the tropics, working the land… but then I remembered I’m allergic to weeding. We bought some guarapa, a fermented sugar-cane juice, from a little shack along the way and shared the bottle while sitting at one of the ruins, looking out at the hillsides and river canyon below us. That guarapa was pretty good stuff; about the strength of wine and barely over a dollar for 1.5 liters. We thought it was tasty. It was a great afternoon; muy tranquilo.
Our last day we spent wandering around town, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and eating some good food. We were kind of sad to be leaving; our hotel was a nice place with a little balcony off our room, and a courtyard filled with hammock chairs and plants- all for just over $10 a night. I especially enjoyed having one of the resident parrots sit on my shoulder and chew on my hair, and there was even an old turtle wandering around the floors. We were headed for Colombia’s famous coffee region though, so it wasn’t that hard to book another night bus out of town.