Friday, 19 November 2010

Puente Trip: Neiva and San Agustín, The Series- Part 2: SAN AGUSTÍN

On to the next town people...... San Agustín also located to the south of Colombia boasts picturesque mountain landscapes where history and eco- tourism are alive.

The day was Saturday 13th November, 2010, the place was the Bus Terminal in Neiva, the time was 2:30AM and I was sleeping on myself like a drunken old man. What happened was that we wanted to take the 2AM bus from Neiva to San Agustín because we wanted to have an entire day of adventure in SA. Being the smart people we are, we decided to do an all nighter, go straight to the Terminal and sleep on the bus. The 2AM bus didn´t come on time and thus, I was sleeping on myself in the people Bus Terminal. Finally, about minutes to four the bus showed up and by this time I was extremely tired, annoyed and grumpy. There´s nothing to say about the bus ride except that I slept for five hours under a thin coverled on an airconditioned bus.

I was awaken by a woman´s voice asking for the coverleds and announcing that we were in San Agustín. With sleep still evident on my face and "yampy" in my eye I had my first view of SA- lush, green mountains against a clear blue sky- simply marvellous! Suddenly, this guy comes out of nowhere and starts talking to us. I immediately entered a state of "pissivity" because I had just got up and it was too early to be talked to in Spanish by this really annoying fellow who had us standing there for like five minutes. Looking back at that incident, I could understand why he was so... ahm, enthusiastic about us renting his horses. Tourism is the main source of income for people in this town, he was just doing his part to ensure that his family had food on the table. So Enrique* (not his actual name), Garvin´s World salutes you and your work ethic!

With Enrique behind us, we made our way to El Jardín/ The Garden, a quaint hostel where you pay 12,000 pesos a night to rest your head. On entering the hostel, I noticed that the courtyard was filled with an array of plants and colourful flowers as well as some noisy birds- I think they were parrots- in a cage. The owner of the hostel was a short woman who seemed to be well mannered and pleasant. She carried us to our room which had six beds and a private bathroom. It was really cozy albeit a little small with scratchy sheets, a door that wouldn´t lock properly and the little "towel" they gave to all occupants. As we were settling in, Olga- our friendly, neighbourhood tourist actitivy planner person- graced us with her presence. A squat lady with short hair and toes that hung over her shoes with a face that screamed, "I LOVE MONEY!" Olga´s main purpose was to tell us about the fun activities we could do and to organize said activities for us. The activity for Day One would be a Jeep Tour and the activity for Day Two would be a Horseback Tour.

The Jeep Tour cost us 30,000 pesos each and Olga busied herself with the preparations. As we were waiting for the jeep to arrive, we had the pleasure of meeting Ray, a retired Norwegian viking. Ray actually knew where Trinidad and Tobago was, having been there himself and he would be going on the tour with us, so why not be amicable? Ray was a really cool, entertaining guy and I liked the fact that he had travelled to different Latin American countries, something that I would like to do one day. Ray spoke only a few words of Spanish and it was hysterical the way he tried to communicate with the natives. However, Ray´s views were very Euro- centric in that he believed that everything was better in Europe and he had no problem voicing his opinions. One would think that if everything was better in Europe he would travel within Europe. Anywho, enough about Ray, I should talk about the Jeep Tour and what I saw before this blog post goes on FOREVER!

The first stop on the Jeep Tour was the Río Magdalena, the biggest river in Colombia that runs through a lot of cities. We visited what you would call a stretch of the Magdalena where one could take photos, climb on the rocks and just take in nature´s beauty. I really wanted to take a swim but my friends pointed out that that would be almost impossible given the fact that the river probably has some really strong currents. Ah well, it was just wishful thinking. The second stop was an Archaeological Park where we had the opportunity to see some tombs from the times of the indigenous peoples that occupied the region. In the museum itself, there were different relics from the indigenous times as well but what really stood out to me was a mural that was painted on the wall of the museum. The mural depicted the lives of the indigenous, before and after the arrival of the Spanish. Basically, at the beginning of the mural one could see that the indigenous lived a life in harmony with nature, worshipping their statues and being happy. As the mural progressed it depicted the lives of the indigenous and of course, the eventual arrival of the Spanish. The artist used fire, blood, tears, skeletons, animals and men, all intermingled to show the destruction that the Spanish brought upon the indigenous peoples. I spent a long time looking at this image because it was so vivid and as a History student, I appreciated this piece of art for what it showed. The third stop on the tour was to another museum where we had to hike to the top of a hill- mountain. Hiking to the top was a pain but the view at the top was worth every drop of sweat. Words can´t truly describe how amazing that view was but a few come to mind like majestic, breath- taking and inspiring. We froliced under the San Agustín sun, taking photos, jumping around, enjoying life and looking at tombs and statues *insert moment of nostalgia* The last two stops were to two waterfalls, they were just as beautiful as everything else in San Agustín.

The tour ended at 6PM and we returned to the hostel. I felt so inspired and refreshed from my tour. There´s something about culture that enriches your life, makes you reflect on everything that you´ve been through and gives you impetus to go on and conquer the world. My next blog post speaks about one such "life changing" experience. Until next time!!!