We leave Pereira and take the very long bus ride to Popayan. After a couple days in Popayan (which I will write about later) we decide to go to San Augustin to visit their unique archaeological parks that contain burial sites from a pre-Colombian culture. From Popayan to San Augustin is only 126 KM, but the trip is a six hours, spine-jarring, teeth-rattling ride on unpaved roads through the Andean mountains. That is six hours to travel 79 miles.
During our time in the town, the highlight seems to be - lowlight actually - is that I get locked inside the ATM booth. The lock goes out into the latch but not back. I learn this too late. Mika is busy relaxing at our hostel, so I have to flag down a pedestrian who gets the bank worker who does not have a key and jimmies the bolt open with his pocket knife. My real fear here is not having to spend hours trapped in the booth until a locksmith comes, but that "Gringo stuck in ATM" will be the leading story of the San Augustin 9 o'clock news.
|Is he eating a child, or is this his dolly?|
The park is only 2 KM from San Augustin town. It costs COP 10,000 to enter, but you can get the combo for COP 16,000 which will include entrance to Alta de Los Idolos, the other UNESCO site. The San Augustin park also has a smalll museum containing more sculptures. Walking slowly through the park is fascinating as we pass by these ancient, stone relics of an extinct, mysterious culture. The sculptures vary from human to animal to other-worldly.
Alto de Los Idolos Archaeological Park
|This is a good angle showing exactly how the grave was found|
|The largest statue found in the area. The tombs are on the hill behind.|
|If I am to be buried I want my coffin cover to look as cool as this one|
Salto de Bordones
On our final day in San Augustin we motivate ourselves to get out and visit the Salto de Bordones waterfall. To reach the falls we take a truck back to Isnos and another that drops us off at the tiny Salto de Bordones town. From this spot our eye level is over the top of the falls in the near distance on the opposite mountain. Salto de Bordones is around 400 meters high and is the highest waterfall in Colombia and the third highest in South America.When doing the tours from San Augustin people only stay at this point for a few minutes. But from this point there are trails that will head down to the river and get us close to the bottom of the falls. Here at the trail head some kids are selling sodas in a bag and offer to rattle off some well-memorized info about the waterfall.
|Deal of the Day: For COP 1,000 (US $0.52) we get a detailed |
(and indiscernible) explanation about the falls and a bag of soda
|Better luck next time|
Two lessons are learned today: 1) What goes down must come up, and 2) Next time hire an elementary school kid for a dollar to guide us to the river.
|Finding this felled banana tree during our final ascent saves our grumbling bellies|
Around San Augustin it is impossible to miss the fields of sugar cane. The area is full of homes with small cottage industries producing panela. Panela is unrefined sugar made from boiling pure sugar cane juice. Colombia is the world's largest producer and consumer of panela. Agua de Panela which is pretty much just brown sugar water is a popular here.
On our 5 KM walk to Alto de Los Idolos we meet a young woman who invites us to visit her family's panela factory. To make panela the sugar cane sticks are run through a machine that extracts the juice. The leftover wood part of the cane is used to fuel the fires that boil the cane juice. We have a nice little tour and chat with the family. We also get a glass of pure sugar cane juice which gives us the kick we need to finish our walk to the park.
|A panela making facility. Shredding the sugar cane is step one.|
|Transferring the sugar cane juice from one vat to the next|
|Cooling what is left after the boiling process|
|Bricks of panela sold at the supermarket|