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Published: November 27th 2008
This blog contains a short story about a very strange set of events that happened on our first night in San Agustin that managed to rattle Me, Jim and Jerry well into the night! It was nothing to do with the town or its people, it was more about our own fears enhanced by the world media and American gangster movies on Colombia.
Travelling through the South of Colombia and close to areas well known for FARC rebel activity managed to make me feel slightly nervous. You spend a lot of time on buses looking at all the weapons the army carry while wondering what you would do if/when you encounter the FARC... The whole idea of running into them is a very scary thought indeed!
With FARC controlling almost 30% of the country, you slowly begin to realise the seriousness of the government war on FARC rebels. They are well known for targeting foreigners and holding them to ransom. Only when you receive your first shakedown do you realise that the Colombian Army are you friends, although you wouldn't think it when you are made to stand with your hands and feet apart against the
The machine gun I got to play with!
bus at gun point while being searched! Your first shake down is a surreal and scary experience. Once you have experienced it a few times, it almost becomes routine, but it always remains a time consuming pain in the arse!
I have photos with the Colombian army and one even gave me his machine gun to play with. I´ve never travelled on such bumpy roads and right now I'm in the middle of the jungle. We have our own bungalow overlooking a canyon surrounded by three volcano's.
We have seen no other travellers and locals seem very surprised to see us. Few travellers have been through the south of Colombia, so its nice to see before lots of tourists move in. The army told us that there is no FARC in the area and they are under control. The Colombian government is actually at war in many parts of the country but as a traveller you remain completly unaware of the situation... On the surface everything appears to be completly safe.
After a long bus journey and a few shake downs we finally arrived in San Agustin. Slightly bemused that our bus
Following Shake Down
Me with the Colombian army following a quick shake down
dropped us off in the middle of no where, we caught a taxi into town and approached the official government office who provided us with our own little apartment.
We spent some time wondering around the town of San Agustin. Its an amazing place, kind of how you imagine England to have been 200 years ago. Children play in the streets while horse drawn carriages gallop past. Most of the shops and bars have saloon type doors while everyone seems to wear cowboy hats and travel around the cobbled streets on horse back. The people often stare at the strange gringos in their town while the girls try hard to capture our attention.
Slightly out of town everyone seems to own a horse ranch. There is a spectacular canyon and the water is supplied by the stunning Magdelana river and spectacular waterfalls flowing out of the jungle and down the sides of the canyon. There are the remains of ancient tombs scattered around the countryside together with amazing mountains and volcano's. I have had to learn to ride a horse again just to get around!
Most things in San Agustin are arranged with the locals while in
the bars. I have been on horse back through the surrounding towns, visited a few archaeological sites and spent the day helping at a special manufacturing plant!
The whole place appears to be caught in some bizarre time warp. Everyone seems to know one another and the entire place seems untouched by tourism. There are very few gringos in town and we seem to have the place to ourselves.
During our first evening in San Agustin I decided to go and find an Internet cafe to let everyone know I had got across the boarder safely while Jim and Jerry decided to go and find a suitable place to smoke some cigs that they had bought from the local gangster a few hours before. Everything seemed to be fine, we were all really happy to stumble across such a welcoming town in a paradise setting.
While I was on the Internet the lads returned to the apartment. They had the only key so left a note letting me know that they had gone out and would be back in 20 minutes.
As I walked back to the apartment I passed a large
The Three Amigos
Me, Jerry and Jim (left to right)
group of people talking in the street. They all stopped to stare at me while I passed and then continued to talk among themselves.
As I approached the apartment I could see some fluid that had been poured all around the perimeter of our apartment that was reflecting from the dim street lights. Slightly confused I put my had in the fluid and gave it a sniff. It was petrol! It had been specifically pored all around the apartment and our door? I tried to open the door but it was locked. Slightly confused I knocked on the door and shouted the lads but their was no answer. I thought the lads would have left me a note, but their was none. Concerned I decided to walk around town and into a few bars to look for my friends!
While I was out looking for the lads, they had returned to the apartment and noticed their note had gone and petrol was all around the apartment. Thinking I had taken the note they stuck a piece of plastic to the door thinking that would let me know they had been back. Concerned about the petrol they decided to
look for me!
While they were out searching for me, I returned to the apartment and noticed a piece of plastic stuck to the door. At first I thought it was a note, but on closer inspection I just thought someone was messing with me and threw the piece of plastic on the ground. I looked around but could not see anyone watching from the dark corners of the streets so decided to go looking for them again.
While I was out they returned yet again. Without thinking, Jerry wrote me a note and stuck it to the door. Thinking that I had received the first note he comically wrote ´Tag Your It´and then went to a bar for a drink.
When I returned for the third time there was no one around in the streets. It was dark and I was beginning to feel really concerned that I had not seen or heard from the lads. When I read the note on the door, I shit myself - ´Tag Your It´. Together with the fact that our apartment had petrol all around it, my first thought was that we were about be run out of town
by FARC rebels... I next began to think that the lads had been carted off into the jungle. I was shitting myself because their was petrol all around our apartment. I could not get into the apartment and I was completely alone.
I decided to get away from the apartment as quickly as possible and go to find an Internet cafe in case one of them had sent me a message. As I walked through the empty streets I was seriously paranoid that someone may be following me. Luckily the Internet cafe was still open so I decided to seek refuge and write a message to the lads. No sooner had I sat down they both stumbled in looking for me. I was very relieved to see them.
We sat in the bar and asked each another what the fuck was going on. We had all been rattled by the fact that their was petrol all around the apartment. I was even more rattled than the lads because the only note I got was ´Tag - you it´ which is the kind of thing you see in an American gangster movie just before someone gets murdered!
became clear that someone had stolen the first note although we had no idea why their was petrol around our apartment. We were very concerned that we were going to be targeted in the night. We just didn't have a clue if someone was trying to scare us out of town.
That night we were all really paranoid, neither of us willing to admit that we were shitting ourselves. When we stumbled back to the apartment we were happy the apartment was not in flames. I spent some time throwing water over the petrol and blocked the underneath of the door so no one could poor petrol into our room. Although it took a while, eventually we all fell asleep.
When we awoke the next morning, we were relieved that we had not been burnt in our sleep. Confused about the situation we began to ask around what was going on!
As it turns out locals often sit outside the apartment when the bars close to smoke marijuana. In an effort to deter them, the owner had turned up at our apartment and proceeded to pour a dirty petrol smelling lubricant around the perimeter so the locals could not sit outside our door and keep us awake during the night. Apparently the owner had read the first note and took it thinking it was written for him!!!
What a mental story hay, It scared the shit out of me!
SAN AGUSTIN IS A PERFECTLY SAFE TOWN. ITS AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL PLACE WITH THE MOST FRIENDLY PEOPLE I HAVE EVER MET. THE STORY I HAVE WRITTEN IN THIS BLOG IS COMPLETELY COINCIDENTAL. IT HAPPENED WITHIN OUR FIRST FEW DAYS IN COLOMBIA. THIS FUNNY STORY WAS CAUSED BY OUR IMAGINATION BASED ON THE CRAP PUBLISHED IN THE MEDIA TOGETHER WITH A FEW SCARY GANGSTER MOVIES. SAN AGUSTIN MAY ACTUALLY BE ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING & SAFE TOWNS I HAVE EVER HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO VISIT.
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