Colombians Turn Out To Vote.
Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
423Trip End Dec 31, 2018
We find ourselves stranded for a day longer than planned in a little village, San Andres de Pisimbala (population 800) for Election Day. Hardly anyone apart from Colombians ever visits. Of no small interest is the fact that this area has been closed to tourism for some time, due to its reputation as a guerrilla stronghold and has only just begun to see tourists. There are only two other non-Colombians in town, a Melbourne Author updating for Lonely Planet and his Nicaraguan partner.
We had been warned several days ago that there may be no buses on Sunday, Election Day, but still we hoped this was not going to be so. The buses have been diverted for bringing in voters and usual schedules, all cancelled
A festive air abounds in this little village today. Bright colourful buses and 4 wheel drives, loaded impossibly full inside and rooftops full as well, are bringing laughing and excited Colombians in from remote communities to vote. A huge pot of meat and potato stew sits on a fire and is free for voters. We have just eaten tasty deep fired empanadas with unknown fillings (some sort of meat and vegetables but not recognizable) and are now back at our little hostel room hoping that election festivities do not get out of hand later.
But why are we here? Well, we came to see Tierradentro. UNESCO listed (of course!), the site is comprised of dozens of intricately and colourfully decorated sacred burial sites hewn out of rock, deep in the ground, and left behind from an era of around the 7th century by indigenous Colombians. Our journey has been long and arduous with the last 3 hours of travel from La Plata undertaken in a 4 wheel drive dual cab over rough roads - with 22 people! Yes 22! We travelled in the ute back with 6 others in our small space. Passengers clung to the outsides, sat on the roof above us (where our packs were) and squashed in the dual cab. Opposite us sat an attractive young woman with a massive scar down her eye and cheek that looked like it was just roughly stitched up (after whatever serious accident befell her), and was never seen by a plastic surgeon
We unwound ourselves from the tangled mass of bodies at San Andres de Pisimbala and looked forlornly at the state of our dust caked backpacks and ourselves. As we gingerly loaded them on our backs we felt the pull of cramped muscles from our enforced squashed positioning. A hostel was close by to where we got off, so we took a room and the set menu lunch of a delicious soup and salad before heading straight down the road for the 2 km walk to the entrance of the Tierradentro Site. About 500 metres on our way we were startled by a voice and looked up to see 2 gun toting soliders sitting on the bank. They literally pop out of the woodwork in Colombia which is sort of reassuring but also worrying at the same time!
As we paid our entry fee and signed the book requiring our details, we realized we were the only ones at all there that day and only 2 people, Colombians, had visited the day before. This would have to the first UNESCO World Heritage Site EVER that we have been the only visitors for the day
The tombs required a pretty strenuous hike up a rough path but on arrival at the top, we were met by a guard, who took us to each tomb and unlocked the protective mesh gate at the entry. Steep rock hewn steps led down to into each tomb and inside we found them to be highly decorated with colour still quite vivid in the decorations. Various artefacts and giant pottery urns were found in the tombs and one of the tombs had been left with all artifacts insitu. Two museums are on site, one has many other artifacts and urns recovered from the excavations. Many tombs are yet to be excavated but there is insufficient funding to continue.
Our hostel served us an evening meal and it was while at dinner, the other Australian who has excellent Spanish, confirmed for us that we would not be able to catch a bus out the next day to our next destination, due to the elections. An enforced rest is not too hard to take when Avan is just recovering from a cold and I seem to be coming down with one.
So today has been a "right time right place" moment to see Colombian elections undertaken in a tiny indigenous community and then tomorrow we'll brave transport again, with a 6.30am bus back to 'civilization”.
Footnote: National Archaeological Park of Tierradentro is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
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