Yes I know I am like 3 weeks behind! I am working on it!
Week 11 of my trip started off where I finished up with my sister in Bogota and ended with her leaving me in San Agustin. After the bike tour, we spent 2 more days in Bogota. On Sunday, we woke up early and went on a graffiti tour. This graffiti tour was one of the best graffiti tours that I have ever been on.
The graffiti scene in Bogota has been on the rise for years and most of the city has graffiti murals covering the walls. They have even started art classes in schools that teach the graffiti art. Our guide was a Colombian born in NYC during the height of the graffiti/hip hop scene there and has moved back to Colombia and has a huge knowledge set of the graffiti art. He could name the artist, the year, the style, and what each mural meant. We mostly stayed in Candelaria only wandering out a bit at the end to see some political murals that are not allowed to be painted in the Candelaria district.
There are two stories I would like to highlight about the tour. One is the way that graffiti spread to the main graffiti avenue in the center of town. One 16 year old kid was shot and killed for doing graffiti on a wall and the entire community was outraged at this because the kid was unarmed and that was excessive force. Right after that, Justin Beiber comes to Colombia and wants to do some graffiti. He was broadcast doing the graffiti and even protected by cops while doing it. The community was outraged so they took to the streets and painted miles of walls along the main avenue while the local people in the area helped them and brought them food.
The other story is that when we were looking at some of the main political graffiti’s there was one artist that showed up a lot. We found out that this artist goes by an alias on the wall and is actually a college professor. His college and students have no idea what he does in his free time.
On Monday, Kelly and I went to see the Salt Cathedral. This required getting on the large double bus and then a small shuttle to the town. We walked up through the town and made it to the cathedral. Basically this cathedral was built by salt miners in an old salt mine. It was largely built for tourism reasons because the money uses all the money for universities and other projects in their town. Yet, it didn’t matter that this was built by tourism, it was stunning!! Included with you ticket price is a guided tour in English or Spanish. We entered the cathedral and at first it was very cheesy with lights going everywhere and flashing. Then, we entered the stations of the cross. The awesome part about it was the they were only different forms on the cross and they tried to give a representation of the cross that went along with the station. Such as the cross buried further and further as jesus fell. They were all beautiful and the lights on them were always changing color and giving it a different appearance.
The actually cathedral was so beautiful as well and we got several different shots in there. Yet while we were in there we could only smell popcorn!! It made us hungry so what was the first thing we did at the end of the tour? Go buy the popcorn and it was amazing! Then, we saw a light show which was less impressive and we both fell asleep. There were all sort of shops down there as well including the amazingly expensive emeralds.
On the way back we had a little trouble because I had us get off a stop early on the bus when we thought we had gotten off a stop late. This messed us up for awhile, but eventually we figured it out! The buses at that time of day were crazy crowded! I have never seen people packed into a bus like that. We returned to the hostel, grabbed our bags, and jumped into a taxi to go to the bus station to buy tickets to San Agustin. We had to wait at the station for awhile but we were lucky to get the fancier seats on the bottom of the bus that reclined most of the way. It was nice because it was an overnight 12 hour bus ride there so comfort and ability to sleep was very important!
We arrived the next day in San Agustin and stayed at this delightful hostel called Casa de Nelly. Kelly and I had out own cabin and bathroom which was such a nice change. The breakfast was good and the dinners were amazing (falafel and hummus when we were there.)
The first day we booked a horseback ride that was going to go to some of the archeological sights around. San Agustin is known for two things: amazing burial sights dating back before christ of faces and animals carved into stones and for giving tours through cocaine processing. We chose to do the former and skip that later as I don’t think Kelly’s work would have appreciated her seeing how cocaine is made. I talked to a couple of friends who did that tour and they said after doing that they know they were never do cocaine because of all the chemicals added.
So, riding horses we made several stops along the way to see our first heads, to hike down a cliff and simultaneously see an amazing view of a river, a couple of waterfalls, and a face carved into the rock. The final stop, we got some juice (amazing!) and then went and saw some burial ground with the only statues with some color. Our guide also showed us different trees that had both yellow and red sap which they used to dye the stone. I really loved riding the horses and our horses were all friends which meant that they were competing the whole time. My horse would try to pass and Kelly’s would go out of its way to cut it off. It one horse started trotting or galloping, the rest would start as well. We got to gallop a lot which was loads of fun. That night for dinner we ate at the hostel falafel and hummus which was amazing!
The next day we walked to the archeological park. Here there are 4 different burial sights. There was a museum first that gave more detailed information about the burial sights and thats when we realized how old these civilizations were that they dated back to hundreds of years before christ. The stones were used in two different ways. To put on top of a tomb or to be guardians in front of the tomb. The burial sights were very cool! There was one that was a couple of meters tall! They also build a fountain and made carvings inside of it. That night we walked to town and bought some food and brought it back to make spaghetti.
The final day in San Agustin we went on a jeep tour. This gave us access to all of the final sights that were nearby, but a bit further than horses or foot. By the end of the day, I was a little statued out I have to admit. We went to two of the other archeological parks that were included in my ticket from the previous day. We also went to see a river and a waterfall.
Weirdly one of the coolest parts of the tour for me was going to a place where they made panela. Panela basically is their version of unprocessed sugar. They make it in the countryside and then add it to sweets or just water to make aguapanela. We got to watch them roll the sugar cane and then boiling down further and further until it gets more concentrated. Then, they pour it on a table into molds of these giant rectangular blocks. The men there were so nice and they let us try the hot panela and it was so sweet and amazing.
At the end of the tour, the dropped my off in a small little town with all my luggage so that I could take a bus to Popayan. Kelly was returning to Bogota so she went back to San Agustin to catch her bus. This was the weirdest bus ride I had ever been on. First, I get to the office and no one will tell me what was going on or let me buy the ticket. Then, they assured my there was space on the bus. Yet, when I went to get on the bus, there were no seats because people had large bags of feed in seats and they wouldn’t even let my put my luggage below the bus. So I am getting on this super crowded bus with all of my stuff and hitting people with my backpack. I keep apologizing, but they are laughing and just telling me its ok it Colombia. Then, I sit next to a young boy (maybe 16) and just try to organize my stuff and my thoughts. We stop off for a dinner/bathroom break, but I was too scared to get off the bus in fear I would miss it. It gave me a chance to eat some food. So, he comes back and I get out of my seat to let him sit down and then in pops the girl from across the aisle into my seat. I was very confused and then sat in her seat. Then, the two of them proceed to make out the rest of the ride, like super heavy stuff. They were so young! I don’t even know if they knew each other before this dinner stop. Kind of a really uncomfortable bus ride. Finally, I arrive in Popayan and go to bed.
My day in Popayan was really chill. I went and got a leisurely breakfast at a cafe with really great wifi. I even enjoyed two mocha coffees. Then, for lunch I to a restaurant labeled number 1 on trip advisor and got the famous empanadas of the region. The were vegetarian and you dip them in peanut sauce. I also ordered a tamal and an amazing juice. The food was so good. Then, I returned to the hostel and finally took a bus to Cali. On the bus to Cali I met two women (one about 40 and the other a grandma). We talked for the whole ride and it was so fun. I enjoyed learning about the region and life there. Also, it felt so good to be talking Spanish again for a couple of hours. The were just so nice! I will save the night of this day in Cali for the next post! I know I am so far behind!! Trying to catch up!