Chapter 4::Table of Contents::Chapter 6

Chapter 5
San Agustin

Tues Oct 10.

N and I awoke to the roosters cawing. He went back to sleep but I couldn’t due to the roosters, dogs, and N’s snoring from his cold.

Finally awoke for good. Washed our pots from the night before, rezzed the fez and had an explosive shit that came not a minute too early. Just about couldn’t find the T.P.

After breakfast of good scr. eggs, bread, dulce, and coffee con leche, and after one wrong turn - we went to the Archaeological Park. N was suffering from: 1) Worst back pains since we left; 2) a cold; 3) blisters incurred yesterday. In spite of all this - we managed to walk around for about 3 or 4 hours up hill and down dale observing the strange statues in the area. While waiting out a rain storm at Mesita B we were joined by 4 park workers. Very friendly around here. [1]

Before we went to the park we stopped by Eduardo’s [2] place just up the road. He, N, his beautiful lady friend, and I all smoked a bit. N & I both lusted in our hearts after the fine lady there.

After crashing for a while due to sunburn of the neck & forehead, and what looks like N.'s cold - we went into town for a typical & cheap meal with a real difference: Jazz Crusaders music and then Frank Zappa’s “Mudsharks”. A treat to say the least.

Settled the meal and listened to the dog symphony & baby squalling and not much later rooster crowing.

Wed Oct 11.

Awoke today with a worse cold, stuffed up nose & tender to the touch sunburn. No shits yet - tho.

Slept late (9:30) today. N. went into town early to buy some cigs and check on machetes [3] . Managed all three. I had awakened by the time he got back, so we made some oatmeal, with honey & raisins & powd. milk. With some bread N. got in town, we had a good meal.

The “blue gas” worked fine but the gasket next to the fuel tank went ka-pooey. After smoking a tad N was hot to go to town to buy a machete - get his pack straps reinforced with leather, and find a gasket for the stove. Of course by the time we got there [4] - the place was closed for lunch.

N & I sat in the park for a few minutes until some old guy with a metal pith-helmet type hat and a plastic bag containing who knows what came up and started this rap. I couldn’t understand any of it so I left during a brief intermission and went back to Camping to further nurse my nose.

N. came back later with a machete (260 pesos) and a prototype leather gasket for the stove. We tested it out on some terranaut stew: potatoes, carrots, rice, and soup with bread and honey. Not bad. The gasket worked but still leaks a little gas.

Found out about the possibility of renting a car to go to Alto de los Idolos & Piedras for 800 pesos. Will check with other tourists if we can find any.

Thurs Oct 12.

Columbus day in Colombia. The beginning of a 4 day holiday. Don Prospero at Camping says many tourists will come in today.

We went into town to try and round up some tourists after breakfast at the “mini”. None to be found save the 3 we saw in Neiva and in the Museo on Tues. They had gone to Los Idolos on Wed. by horseback without a guide and on the way back had been robbed at gun & machete point of money, camera & watch. They weren’t interested in going needles to say.

Sooo we came back to Camping and decided to take a walk up to La Parada. A much longer walk than we thought. Must have been 8-10km mostly up hill.

While in town looking for gringos - I purchased a nice Panama-type sombrero. [5] Without that hat I’d have truly fried my brains & neck even further.

After a couple of toots we trucked up the hill. [6] The site was small, just a little clearing with 5 statues all lined up on a row .

Down the hill a little ways was another statue rather dissimilar in that it wasn’t a face standing up but rather a whole body or figure kneeling, much like the chaac-mools in chichen-itza, but on its stomach instead of its back.

On our way down to see the little statue, we stopped for a couple of gaseosas at a little house just down the hill from the 5 statues.

The single statue was situated inside somebody’s garden. There was a house there, a horse tied up to a nearby tree, cows grazing in the field nearby, a statue in the garden, but nobody to be seen. We took some pics , another toot, and headed back down the hill. Much quicker coming back.

N. fried his brains a little due to no sombrero. My cold is getting better and my toes aren’t too blistered.

When we got back to the camping there were no less than 10 more tents erected whereas before - ours had been the only one. All Colombians - however. We rested for a little while then N. went back into town to try and get a different sheath for his machete & pick up his pack strap and some more leather gaskets. But the guy was closed.

He came back & then we went back into town to eat. Wound up at the “mini” after first going to the Posada, but he had 30 people coming in so we didn’t stay. Came back, settled the meal, (my appetite is back) and went to sleep with the radios playing, drunk Colombians laughing, the dogs barking, and the roosters crowing.

Fri Oct 13.

Awoke to the sounds of humanity.

Found out that we may be able to get a ride to Alto de los Idolos with a group of Colo. in their jeep this afternoon. There will be only 10 or 12 of us in one jeep.

After going back to La Posada for breakfast, we came back to camp to find several of the tents and almost all of the tourists gone to visit different sites. Will spend a leisurely morn. and hopefully head out to some sites later ourselves.

The camping is just up the hill from the local swimming hole, laundry mat and bus wash. All day long folks are down there washing themselves and all the town’s buses . I haven’t ventured a cold shower yet due to my cold but N. says the water falls right out and hits you on the head just like ice. Civilization ain’t all bad. He was right.

After showering and washing some clothes while N. was in town, I found out through the Don here that some other Colombians (only 1 couple) were going out to Idolos, Piedras and the waterfall at Salto Bordeno (or something). N. got back in time to go with us. So off we went - hell bent for election down the two and then one lane gravel roads.

Jaime Rodriguez drives like Mario Andretti. Down shifting and sliding into turns, narrowly missing the bus that comes the other way around the blind corner, and trying to run down chickens.

We made it to Los Idolos and investigated the burial sites. Kind of like boot hill. Little burial mounds on top of a hill ornamented with little statues, one of a rat , one of an alligator, but most of the others funny little men. Then after a wrong turn and 13km out of the way - we went to Las Piedras. Another burial site on top of a hill. The little statues stand almost like a tombstone or gravestone in front of the sarcophagus . Then off to the waterfall. Not particularly extraordinary.

By this time big black clouds were brewing on the horiz. The waterfall contrasted against the lush green against the black sky was a nice site but you couldn’t get close enough to the waterfall for it to be impressive without walking a long way down to the bottom.

Now back at Camping after a not - so - fast - drive back, we’ve found that we’ve inadvertently reserved 4 instead of 2 horses for tomorrow. This matter we must (N. must) clear up tonight.

Sat Oct 14:

Got the horse matter taken care of. We’ll be going with Gomez’s brother or something.

Got up with the chickens, fixed some terranaut glop (oatmeal, milk, raisins, honey). The gasket for the stove works passingly well. N. got a whole sheet of leather with appropriate sized holes punched throughout. These should last us for a while. Then we tooted the last of our pot, mounted the horses, and rode off into the foggy mountain scenery.

The nags we rented looked like their 10,000km warranty had run out about 5 years ago. The guide would whistle and the nags would trot. Mine was just barely capable of a gallop. The best it could manage was a back-breaking canter (especially down hill). The first site, La Pelota, was reached by going down a switch back horse trail that looked something like a bobsled track, only cut into the mountain side . My nag was reluctant to venture down but a swift thrashing about the rump with a tree branch seemed to be all the impetus he needed to struggle down the hill.

Then back up another hill to the site itself. Only a couple of statues here. Little guys standing watching over the hillside . Then back along the same trail to the main road and then out to El Estrecho. Here the Magdalena river passes through a gorge only 2 meters wide .

On the way down the hill to Estrecho my horse went down. It skinned its front knees(?) rather badly [7] but luckily I didn’t fall off. I was hanging on to the reins & the saddle horn with one hand and my camera & my hat with the other. Had I not been hanging on to the saddle horn it would have been ass over teakettle.

Just about the time I was getting into taking pics. of the interesting rock formations in contrast with the water - it began to rain. We went back to the top of the hill and had a couple of gaseosas and empanadas. There we met and talked to some folks from Bogotá on vacation. After waiting about 1/2 hr. the rain was only coming down harder, so we decided to leave.

Back down the road through a downpour. I had my hat (which helped a lot), a poncho lent by Don Prospero at camping (initially intended for sitting ON), my Gortex jacket, and my camera underneath. Only my camera stayed relatively dry.

By the time we got to the 3rd site, La Chacquira(sp?) it was your basic thunderstorm action outside. But truck we must down this soggy creek bed to view some carvings right into the big rocks in the creek bed (an actual creek by now). I couldn’t take any photos it was raining so hard.

By this time my boots (especially my rt.) had filled with water. Squshing up the creek in a fuckin’ thunderstorm to look at rocks. Then off to the 4th site, El Tablon, yet another group of statues on a hillside. Thankfully the rain had let up when we got there but that made me no less wet. Took a couple of snaps but by this time I was not feeling too inspired photographically. Then back to town.

This 5 1/2 hr. trip cost us 600 pesos and much comfort. All my clothes were drenched but at least it had stopped raining completely. I hung my boots & pants out to dry and went into town for a well deserved lunch. [8]

After we ate (at the Posada) a girl named Zuni sat down with us and proceeded to talk very friendly like for quite a while. We went down the street and had a jugo, then she accompanied us back to camping. We couldn’t decide if she was trying to pick us up or if she was just friendly or if she was a real space-cookie. N & I played friz. ’til sunset then the 3 of us walked back into town for a couple of beers. Zuni couldn’t drink alcohol because she was taking some kind of medication “for her head”. Maybe she is a space-cookie.

By this time exhaustion had caught up with me, so N & I left to go to sleep. No sooner did my head hit the mat that I was asleep. I didn’t even hear the dogs or roosters.

Sun. Oct 15.

One month in Colo. today.

After sleeping relatively late (8:30) I awoke to a symphony of back and shoulder pains. I’ve got aches where I didn’t even have places. Got up and washed out my jeans & sox from yesterday. If it doesn’t rain today, my boots might dry out.

Walked into town for breakfast at the Mini. The agenda for today is rest, sleep, dry clothes in the sun, and rest some more. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll try and get out of here.

I wound up sleeping a small part of the afternoon. After N. came back from town he found that Zuni was there. She must have come while I was asleep. We sat around and talked for a while - then went into town to eat at the Posada. It rained a little then and also later on that evening. My boots got dry enough to wear.

San Augustin is a picturesque little town situated between two mountain ridges. After being in town for a week, we had met many of the shop and restaurant keepers. All very friendly folks. Like the people at the little store on the corner who sold us kerosene the first nite and later gave us a free cup of coffee for no apparent reason. Or like the short, chunky, spunky, pretty little lady who ran the Mini who we later found out is married to the fellow we had gotten to know at the Posada. Not to mention the fellow who worked the field next to Camping who got N. a different sheath for his machete, Raphael Gomez, the horse renter, and a cluster of little kids all trying to rent horses.

One day while eating at another restaurant on the road out of town, we ran into some folks from Cali. 5 out of 6 were Americans. They had ridden the night bus and someone had slashed their pack while under their seats and made off with cameras, money, etc. People ask for the trouble they get.

All the houses in these small towns go right to the sidewalk or street. No front yards, just ditches. But once inside the houses vary. Almost all have an interior courtyard surrounded by rooms of various natures. Some have an actual back yard right inside, like the mini. Once inside there’s a platform around 2 sides and the rest of the yard is filled with chickens, a turkey struttin’ his stuff , little chicks, a green parrot who’d sit on his perch and eat bread, dropping as many crumbs as he ate down to the waiting turkey, a little black dog named “Mini”, and a coffee tree.

Almost every courtyard has plants in various types of pots from ceramic urns to old tractor tires. Then all the real little kids have sort of trading cards with cartoon characters on them. Like Popeye, Blondie, and Donald Duck. Not quite baseball cards, but they serve the same purpose. The horses stand and shit on the street.

During the 4 day holiday there were many folks in town, but on Sunday San A. had its own party. More people than we’d seen all week partying down well into Monday.


[1] Also went to the Bosque and Museo. The Bosque is perhaps the best part, with footpaths linking re-located statues of varying and interesting characters . Also saw the 3 folks from the restaurant next to the Res. in Neiva at the Museo.

[2] the guy who gave us the long ride yesterday

[3] and buy gas for the stove

[4] the leather shop

[5] The guy wanted 100 pesos so I offered 75. Got it without further ado.

[6] High in Colo. on colombian in the Colo. highlands on  Columbus Day.

[7] Our guide patched the scrape by applying liberal doses of mud

[8] Due to a bad saddle I bruised and scraped the inside of my rt. thigh rather thoroughly. Due to velcro closures-N did the same to his calf.

Chapter 4::Table of Contents::Chapter 6