Wednesday 30 April 2014

Campesino's, blockades and statues in San Agustin

Currently writing this post from San Agustin where we are stuck due to campesino (farmer) blockades. 

After Salento I had headed to Cali to break my journey in a different place from when I travelled North. I enjoyed one night at El Viajero hostel with a free salsa lesson and then headed South to Popayan - back to Park Life hostel.

I managed to meet up with Lucy, aka the stalker and after a reunion with lots of wine, we made the possibly poor decision to head east to San Agustin, a UNESCO pre Colombian archelogical site, with some more friends.

The journey to San Agustin wasn't fun - Regina and I were stuck at the back of the van with a family of incredibly car sick people around us - sick hit me when one tried to throw up out of the window and blew back in - eeuurrgghh!!!

When we eventually got to San Agustin we found a hostel in the centre - Diosa Lunar - whose owner Humbeto promised he could arrange anything. On the way in we'd heard about the strikes but everyone thought it would be a few days until Popayan area was effected. When we arrived in San Agustin we weren't too worried - but we met people on the way out and by the following day there were road blocks set up - some were letting people through every few hours.

Determined to get in our experiences of San Agustin - the largest archelogical site in Colombia - we headed off on a 5 hour horse tour of the sites and statues near town. Not everyone had been on horses before/in a long time so we took it slowly.

Lucy and Regina on the way out of town - Regina managed to bond with her horse Chaquira

Lucy still doing good!

I was a tad more comfortable on Rod than I had been on riding in Salento the previous week.

We visited El Purutal, where we saw some well preserved painted sculptures

The statues were found by farmers and preserved in their orginal sites. Their being buried helped preserve them.

These statues were defaced by someone with extra paint but restored to 90% of the original. Even with just the original paint they are bright! Our guide Alvarro showed us some of the trees that the red and yellow colours would have come from.

The next site we saw was the La Pelota site.

This motive of an owl with a snake is used in lots of places.

Quite a few of the human depictions have fangs

The archeologists interpretations are vage about the use of the statues - some like the painted ones guard tombs, others seem to depict the gods of sun and moon and some are other religious icons.

La Chaquira was the next site with stunning views over the river Magdalena.

View over the river gorge

These carvings in the rocks look out over the river

Me mimicking the carving!

El Tablon was the final site we visited with the horses before heading back into town just as it started raining.

This was one of the statues at El Tablon - the eyes in this one represent Eagles which were a sacred bird. He is also wearing a nose ring and breast plate - which we saw examples of in the gold museum in Bogota.

This little guy has the fangs.

Some of the statues at El Tablon were incomplete - just the outlines could be seen on the rocks.

Back in town we had a few beers at the roof top terrace of our hostel and collapsed in bed exhausted!

We managed to get up (late) the following day and walk up to the archelogical park just outside of town. By now we'd heard from a few tourists that the road blocks were in place - but we decided to visit the park and then visit the police.

In the park some of the tombs and statues are in their original sites or mesitos and some, including the best examples of the carvings, are in the forest of the statues 'Bosque de las Estatuas'.

The ceremonial altars - the central figure has two guards who have animal headdresses 

Funerary jars in the tombs

Another owl snake combo

Stone carved tomb

Some of the statues in the forest:

Do you think he's going skiing?!

After walking back into town we visited the police who seemed to tell us that there was no way out of town due to the road blocks. We were told that if sufficient people registered with the police who urgently needed to get out (e.g. Flights out of the country) then they could arrange a helicopter to take us to Bogota.

So we registered and seemed fairly happy about this, free chopper ride!

Then the following day we heard there was no police helicopter unless we got stuck here for a lot longer. So next option was to get a car to take us out - unfortunately it seems we've missed the sweet spot where we could have avoided the road blocks and now we'll need to bribe our way through (the road blocks have multiplied over the last few days).

Luckily our hostel owner Humbero 'todo es possible' knows a man - so fingers crossed we'll be back in Popayan Saturday!

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