We got a bus to Tulcan on the Ecuador side of the border then walk over the bridge into Colombia then get a taxi for 4 km to Ipiales. This is the first border we have had our fingerprints taken!! Met a random German guy coming the other way and he put us on edge- he had only spent 4 days in Colombia and was going back to Ecuador because he really didn’t like vibe, he said he had heard too many horror stories about people getting attacked etc that it sounds like he’d scared himself silly!! But it really made us feel on edge too.
We stayed in Belmonte Hostel which was 19000 pesos (£1 =3000) for a double room. There is nothing much here in Ipiales, a dodgey looking square which didn’t do much for our nerves and ladies of the night on most corners!! So we were glad of our early departure the next morning to Popayan.
Ipiales to Popayan took 8 hours and we arrived at 3pm, hanging around the bus station we decide to hot foot it to San Agustin, but this is another 6 hours away and another 20,000 each. We left at 1700 and it was meant to take 5 hours, or so we had been told…… Be warned, this is the most unbearable journey we have done on this whole trip!!!! It was the bumpiest and slowest road ever! We were wondering whether we had made the right choice going all the way in 1 day. Honestly, I don’t know how the bus managed to stay on the road, it was almost intolerable. As it got later and later and darker and darker we just wanted to be there. A little after midnight we were literally thrown off the bus onto the deserted road, in the pitch black, luckily it wasn’t raining.
And also lucky for us the bus driver knows a taxi driver from San Agustin so gives him a bell to come pick us up. I don’t know what we would have done if he didn’t know him….. Actually we heard that one of the hostels in the town paid the bus drivers to NOT come into the town so that their hostel touts/taxi drivers would then ferry tourists and ‘recommend’ other hostels. Very cheeky. But our taxi was fine. We stayed in Hostel Japonese which is set up in the hills again with great views, along a really steep and dusty track. It costs 12000 pp pn. There were hammocks on the big balcony bit outside our room and you could sit there and watch/listen to humming birds go by.
One day we got some horses and did a great trip out to the country side. Sylvio was our guide who was organised through our guy at the hostel. He couldn’t really speak English but with patients and a combination of mine and Rob’s Spanish we got the jist of the whole thing! We visited some ruins which were carved out of stone 3500 BC!! Some had natural paint from the tree sap on them, really vibrant colours and he showed us the trees which red and yellow had come from, amazing! Some statues were buried and only recently found, others were in tombs. There were 2 tombs at this site and only one had been dug up. They found loads of burial offerings of gold and clothing which have gone to people who could afford it or to the museums.
The horses weren’t that bad, mine was called Pepe and Darren’s was called Timotei!!!! We stopped at a lady’s house to have fresh Lulo fruit drink which was so sour but really refreshing. We thought it was like gooseberry to look at the drink but when she brought the fruit out it was the size of an orange but with a green and orange smooth skin with loads of spikes on it. It was a nice day out apart from when it chucked it down for about 30 mins which made the steep muddy tracks quite dangerous and we felt the horses sliding everywhere!! But we all stayed on and no one fell off!!
We also went to the River Magdelena and saw a really important statue there regarding mother nature, earth, sun, moon and water.
San Agustin has a really chilled out vibe and is quite old fashioned with horse and carts still carrying people and their belongings to places.