Over the past few weeks Popayan has been hosting ‘los juegos nacioanles de Colombia’. The games have brought people from all the different regions of Colombia to the white city and the streets have become even more crowded (who would have thought it possible). On Saturday it was the bike race and all the roads in the city centre were closed…resulting in a lot of frustrated Colombians.
Saturday, inconveniently, was also the day we planned to make the 5 hour trip east* to San Agustin in Huila. Getting from the city centre to the bus station speedily was no easy task and this meant only one thing…time to hail a mototaxi.
A mototaxi is just a motorbike taxi…easily identified by men driving around on motorcycles with a spare helmet hanging off their arm, they are available to any willing pedestrian looking to risk their life. So we jumped on two mototaxis and headed for the bus terminal.
My helmet was completely for superficial reasons as there was no strap. It sat loosely on my head providing very little reassurance and even less protection. Thankfully we made it to the bus station on time but in true Colombian fashion the bus left half an hour late.
The jarring journey on what was mostly untarred road was compensated for by the beautiful landscape thousands of feet up – verdant, undulating ridges that climbed from the misty valleys below.
When we finally arrived in San Agustin we were greeted by more green. Green doors, green windows…green everywhere. Even the locals seemed to wear generous amounts of green, I actually saw a young boy wearing a Celtic top.
We stayed in a small eco-esque hostel called Finca el Maco. The rooms were little tipi type huts with thatched roofs; the structures were made of bamboo and the walls, dried mud. The hut I stayed in also featured a very novelty open air bathroom, with just a stone wall protecting
That night we all headed to town and I figured this was a good time to try out some Colombian alcohol. I started with club Colombia, a light Colombian beer. It was better than most lagers and beers I have tried in the UK; however I still wasn’t that keen so I moved swiftly on to Aguardiente, an anise-flavoured liquor made from sugar cane. It tastes like Sambuca mixed with vodka, but less strong. It’s supposed to be taken as a shot but it also goes well with lemonade. Just after leaving we stopped off at one of the fast food outlets on the street – a woman standing at a grill beside the road making skewered meat kebabs. They were good but I was also slightly drunk so I can’t be too sure.
On the way back to Finca el Maco we stumbled into a reggaeton club. A Colombian girl pulled me up to dance but unable to speak Spanish, or dance reggaeton or salsa I awkwardly tried to explain that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. After five minutes of awkward grinding and ass shaking (on her part of course) I returned to my table.
The following day we decided to go on horseback to visit the stone statues that San Agustin is famous for. Don Pacho, the tour leader, arrived with the horses and we set off. Not much is known about the statues but it is thought that they were monuments for the dead. Many are anthropomorphic and some feature what are thought to be sacred animals.
The views en route to the different archaeological sites were outstanding. The rolling hills were rich shades of green and coffee fields clung on precariously to steep ridges, and although I got absolutely coated in mud and returned with a lingering horsey musk, the whole trek was more than worth it.