San Agustin, Colombia.
San Agustin with its rolling green hills and lush countryside should be high on anyone’s list visiting Colombia. I loved the place!
It’s slightly off the beaten track as though it’s only a 4 hours (slow) drive from Popayán in the south of Colombia, the road to get there is a bit of a nightmare.
Our journey wasn’t great as we were seated at the back of the minibus right above the back wheels and felt every bump and pothole in the road to the point where, on a few occasions, our heads actually hit the ceiling! We arrived eventually, however, after an uncomfortable few hours driving in the heavy rain on the side of the mountain on a dodgy uneven track.
San Agustin is steeped in history and the main tourist draw is the hundreds of mysterious freestanding monumental statues (approx 500 have currently been excavated) carved from volcanic rock and thought to be from a pre-Inca tribe who lived in the hills hundreds of years ago. Now, the legacy of these statues is one of the continent’s most important archaeological sites.
We had booked 3 nights at La Casa Del Japones, a place that Andy and I both loved. It’s on the edge of the town about 200m up a steep hill (not the best to try and walk it with all your bags like we did) but the views over the town and surrounding hills are pretty amazing, so it’s definitely worth it!
The place had a proper chilled vibe to it with loads of outdoor space and hammocks to relax in to enjoy the beautiful view. Libardo, who runs the hostel was a legend too. He loved animals and he had loads: a cute little dog called ‘Blondie’, a few cats and best of all three kittens and three puppies – both litters only a couple weeks old!
The first night we got there we bumped into a couple from Australia whom we had met in Bogota and we ended up staying up and drinking with everyone in the hostel till the early hours (that pretty much happened every night at the hostel), so our first full day was a bit of a waste – we did nothing apart from go for a hungover walk around town and had a disappointing Mexican lunch.
We didn’t do much in San Agustin aside from visiting the main archaeological park to see the statues (which we didn’t) then there isn’t that much else to do. We spent our time mainly hanging out in a hammock, drinking beer, reading and playing with the kittens and puppies.
One activity we did do, however, was go on an amazing horse ride through the countryside – the first time both of us had actually ridden a horse before, which was brilliant.
Our guy at the hostel hooked us up, the price was 80,000 COP for the two of us (about £20 for 3-4 hours with a guide), which was cheaper than anyone else quoted in town. It turned out the stables were opposite our hostel and the guide taking us was Libardo’s brother-in-law.
Even though both of us said we had never ridden before, they saddled up the horses and helped us hop on, showed us how to speed up, slow down, turn the horse left and right and stop and then it was lesson over; we were off and having to keep up with our guide.
My horse was pretty chilled as I think he was a bit older and so it was fine, but Andy’s was named ‘Loca’ and he asked the guide if that meant ‘crazy’ to which the guide replied happily enough,”si senor!”.
The horse ride was amazing as we trotted through woodland and beautiful countryside. We visited San Agustin Archaeological Park where our guide took us to La Chaquira, a statue by a viewpoint where we could see right over the valley and down to the river.
As our confidence grew on the horses we were allowed to go faster from a canter to a gallop: definitely up there with my favourite memories of our trip so far. We can’t wait to do it again!
It was hard to leave our little paradise in the hills (with the kittens and puppies!) but we had a flight to catch in Cali – to Lima!