Tombs in Tierradentro

Trip Start Sep 20, 2010
Trip End Dec 18, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hospedaje Lucerna

Flag of Colombia  , Cauca,
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

From Popayan there are two choices to get your fix of pre-Columbian archaeology, San Agustin and Tierradentro. San Agustin is the place for statues and due to access is more touristy. Tierradentro has some interesting hypogea (or underground tombs) and is a very bumpy 5 hour bus ride so not as popular. On Borga and Luisa's advice we decided to brave the bus to Tierradentro. I say bus but given the quality of the roads it was more of a hardcore truck. We bounced and rocked our way to Tierradentro and in the end it wasn’t really that bad. The only negative was whatever way they shoved Liz’s bag into the boot they must have caught it on a nail and it got a bit of a rip. Nothing major and a bit of duct tape sorted it right out but Liz did almost shed a tear that her 'pretty’ bag had got its first scar. Makes it look tough I think.

We jumped off the bus at the little group of houses that surround the museums at the entrance to the archaeological park. Straight away a little old man came out of his house to ask if we were looking for a room. He and his wife (they must be in their 80’s) have a little ‘hospedaje’ that they have run for the last 30 or so years. Their guest register is one book and as they only get a guest every day or two that one book goes back to 1995!

The five main sites are spread over quite a large area. It took us about 6 hours to visit them all. The first two contain the most impressive examples of the excavated tombs and are pretty easily accessible from where we stayed although the heat did make even the short uphill walk to these pretty sweaty. Each site is very well maintained given how few visitors they seem to get. All have a guard on site who opens all the locked entrance gates to each tomb and all are covered with a roof to protect them from the elements. None of the tombs are very big but quite a few have some weird art and carvings which has survived pretty well. The 3rd site has no tombs but a collection of statues found around the valley. We stopped in San Andres de Pisimbala for lunch and to take a few pictures of its large thatched roof church.

After lunch we set out towards site 4 which is similar to the first 2 although not as large but does give some nice views of the valley. The fifth site is the tough one. It’s located high up on a ridge that separates this valley from the next and has a chain of 40-50 tombs along the top. None have really been excavated due to access. It’s a 2 hour sweaty uphill hike, but it’s not really the archaeology that’s the draw but the views. They are stunning. We sat at the top for quite a while with an incredible 360 degree panorama before heading back down. Tierradentro is definitely well worth a visit. Tough to get to but really peaceful and very beautiful.
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