Statues, statues everywhere...

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, September 29, 2007

The bus departs from Popayán for San Agustín at 6.30am, quickly leaving the city and passing through foothills spotted with strange lumpy yellow plants.

We wind up the mountains in the old bus with shot suspension although it's not until  the road graduates from paved to gravel that we experience the true nature of the beast - vigorous undamped oscillations brought on by potholes and hard driving into uncambered corners.

And it gets very beautiful very quickly. Sometimes we get glimpses of deep valleys, an unending canopy of serenity covered by wisps of cloud. There is a kind of peace and stillness up here - the kind I always seem to find in cloud forest.

It also gets cold very quickly, from a comfortable 25 degrees to being able to see your breath - I guess we are at a significant altitude in the Andes mountains.

Mid-afternoon we're dropped at a what seems like a remote intersection. Half an hour later we're on the back of a pickup and driving into the village of San Agustín.

Our pension and its owners are a little eccentric. We ring the doorbell, and a man's head pops out from the first floor and asks what we want. The door then opens by magic which I later discover is a clever string and pulley system attached to the downstairs door-latch. The man - Angelino - and his wife Isabel turn out to be our hosts, the former with a well-worn face, sporting a permanent 3-day growth, his shoulders covered by an expansive poncho. The sprawling wooden house is a collection of  guest rooms opening onto passages that lead to the upper balcony which is crammed with bird cages, their occupants a range of colourful creatures with beautiful songs.

The local archeological site is definitely worth visiting - a collection of giant stone statues in-situ with wide eyes and broad noses. As usual our visit coincides with the local school outing, as well as well as a visit by suited officials from surrounding regions who seem to be more interested in chatting on their mobile than taking in the ancient sculptures.

We also discover how talkitive our hosts are. Our conversation with them continues into the early hours of the morning in which we compare and contrast the social and economic conditions in Colombia with neighbouring countries. Angelino is particularly fascinated by Anna's demonstration of how to snort coke through a $1 bill (should that be a $100 bill?) - learned from the movies of course! I'm looking carefully, but can't detect any sense of irony in his interest!
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