...Our trip through San Agustin, Popoyan and Tayrona.
Life can’t be posing too many problems when you have to sit in a hammock on a deserted beach and write your blog. Ahh Colombia. The only problem I have is that I have the flu. And its horse flu - which I have dubbed worse than bird or man flu. Much much worse!!!
I acquired this flu after riding a horse, hence the name. So – back story.
We left the coffee region and headed down to Cali via the local buses for a night of Salsa. General consensus has it that Cali has nothing to offer except Salsa (pretty harsh but only reporting what the masses have to say). That’s why we planned one night in Cali. Unfortunately that night was a Sunday night, and the start of Semana Santa (Holy Week). So no salsa. Nada. Nothing. When we arrived at the hostel the woman told us that the best place to see Salsa, due to everything else being shut, was the water park. “Awesome” we thought. We love waterslides, and this sounds like a ball. Salsa from 12pm – 10pm - people in bathers dancing to salsa by the pools, perfect. So knowing ourselves we decided to wait until four (we would have a much better chance to sticking it out until the end then). So, at four thirty our taxi dropped us off at the park, we bought our tickets and went inside. Half an hour later the water slide park was shut. The one slide that Lee managed to get on has to go down as the most expensive in history. Turns out, our Spanish interpretation of what was going on was a little off. The waterslide park has a discotheque, which shuts at 10, but the park shuts at 5pm. So at 5.15pm we went exploring outside the water area and found some rides. As luck would have it our ticket entitled us to five free rides as well – so not a total bust - so we joined the longest queue (obviously the most fun ride) and waited our half hour to get on the rollercoaster. You would think we would have learnt by then. The rides area closed at 6pm, so as we headed to the next ride we were quickly told that we couldn’t go on. Luckily it was proving to be a little amusing by then - not amusing enough to actually hang around though. So the discotheque was avoided (we watched them salsa and although impressive, not about to happen given our current moods) and we hopped a taxi back to the hostel.
We left ASAP the next morning – Cali, TICK! Our aim was to make it down to San Agustin which was a couple of bus rides away, reportedly taking nine hours, and over unpaved roads. Our first break came after a two hour chicken bus, when we arrived in Popoyan only to bump into Andrew and his mate Emy. Meeting up with the ripper again was great value and meant we formed a possie of six (found two kiwis loitering around too) giving us bargaining power of an earlier bus time. So at eight pm, after six hours on bumpy roads, on a bus with apparently no suspension, we arrived in the small town of San Agustin. The town is famous for its statues which were carved thousands (maybe hundreds – not sure, our guide only spoke very fast Spanish) of years ago in the area. So the following morning we grabbed some horses and began our four hour trek of the mountains and ruins of San Agustin. Now.........four hours slowly dragged onto six, and by two pm I was riding side saddle and trying to avoid my knee suffering permanent damage. Now don’t get me wrong, I love horse riding, and the day was brilliant. Lee and I had the best horses for a change and were racing each other at the front. It was like something from a movie (all be it with very bad riders as actors). BUT, the horse gave me the flu. That’s all I can think of. I was fine before I got on the horse, and then when I got off my whole body ached and I had to go home. The rest of the crew went onto the National Park to see some better preserved statues and I went home and lay on the couch – suffering. Early to bed and early to rise (early bus back to Popoyan) did nothing to help the situation. I now ached, had no energy and a very annoying cough. And I am sure the bumpy road bus back to Popoyan didn’t help either. But I was determined to push through.
Popoyan is another small Colombian town which celebrates Santa Semana in a massively over the top way. This is the second largest catholic Easter celebration outside of Valencia, Spain, so we were pretty excited to see it. Every night of the week, the town crowds the streets and nineteen floats of different religious scenarios are carried through the town. Each night also has a different colour of flower on the floats, with Thursday representing Christ’s eternal love for us through pink flowers (I am quoting – not my choice of words here), Friday being red to signify the spilling of Christ’s blood, and so on and so on. So we arrived into town, checked out the dorm room briefly and headed into town for the celebrations. The town is gorgeous and the floats didn’t disappoint. Carried by robed men and having the streets lined with children carrying candles, the sight was stunning. But there is only so much religious spectacle that those of us raised without it can take. The parade lasted for two and a half hours and they walked more slowly than the mythical turtle creature. By the end I was sitting in the dirt on the side of the road because that was all the energy I could muster, and that was after Lee had tried to hype me up on sugar using a bag of fairy floss.
So the next day, with the horse flu getting worse, it wasn’t looking likely that I would accomplish much. Leethal got me out of bed and we wandered around a little, with me taking frequent breaks for sit downs. I have never been so drained. I must have lasted about an hour before I had to leave Lee to explore the town without me, and went back to the dorm room to die (I didn’t, just in case you were wondering how that one ended).
I was saved by the surprise arrival of Myles though. We knew from Andrew that Myles would be heading down soon in order to catch him, but we were pleasantly surprised when he rocked up at our hostel looking for us. I was ecstatic, with no reserves in the energy bank I was thrilled that Lee would have someone to play with and off they went to pick up women and eat steak. Both tasks successful I believe.
The next day the snot kicked in. Thought you would like to know that. Now, not only did I have an all over body ache, no energy and an annoying cough, I had a mass of snot. And not the good stuff either, just the annoying one which is a constant need to blow your nose. Rubbish. So I spent a lot of time on the hostel couch and was only dragged out to watch our final night’s parade – which as it turns out was pretty similar to the first. In case you didn’t know, they nail Jesus to a cross, but it all ends well. So safe in this knowledge that the story wasn’t likely to have a sad ending, we left the festivities early and called our time on Popoyan. Stunning white washed city, with gorgeous churches, I just wish I could muster more enthusiasm for anything at this point.
So the next day we jumped a flight. I know – check us out. Local buses not good enough for us anymore (well at least not on what would amount to a 20 hour bus ride at only twenty dollars cheaper than a four hour flight), and we began our northern adventure. This is where I am writing this from. A hammock on the beach, whilst Lee is off under the water getting his advanced dive licence.
There isn’t much I can say about up here. We were staying in Taganga, a cute little fishing village which is starting to cotton on to the tourist trade, but still has some very raw edges to it, for a few nights, and visiting the beaches. That was lovely and just what the doctor ordered. My cough is still annoying, but less so, and the aching has gone. I still have no energy, but that is my excuse for lying on the beach doing ABSOLUTELY nothing. Lee has been doing his three day advanced dive course in Tayrona National Park and I have been sleeping on the beach with the class and have not yet (in three days) managed to get out of my jim jams, or into the ocean. Lazy, but if you’d ever had horse flu you’d understand.
So there is nothing to not love about Colombia (except horses). We will head out of the park soon and I will move from a hammock to a bed for one night before commencing the lost city trek. Should be fab. But for now, more sun awaits.
Love to you all
Em & Lee