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Published: November 24th 2013
Our first real destination in Colombia was the cute city of Popayan. It is called the "white city" because of its 2 stories high white painted buildings and supposed to be really pretty, so we went there even though we didn't really have anything special we wanted to see there except the city itself. Arriving at the bus station the city didn't look that special, but it changed once we got to the old town. Every house was painted white, all signs were small and discreet, and the city got especially pretty once it got dark and lights illuminating the buildings were turned on.
As mentioned we didn't really have any plans for Popayan, so we spent one day walking around the city, enjoying the beautiful buildings and relaxing. We also looked through our plans for Colombia and the rest of South America, and realized we were trying to squeeze in way too much for our remaining two months. In order to maintain our relaxed pace and our options to improvise we rationalized away roughly two weeks of destinations and plans. Now we again have the slack in the plan that has made this such a great journey!
One of the places we didn't decide to skip is San Agustin, a town known for stone statues created around 2000 years ago by a culture long time extinct. The next morning we therefore went to Popayan’s bus station and after some searching found a small bus just about to leave for San Agustin. We had read it is a bumpy ride, over 100 km of unpaved road, but bumpy was an understatement. It was 100 km of shaking up and down, so much shaking that it almost hurt. In the end the bus didn't even go to San Agustin, but luckily the bus company had arranged a cab to pick us up.
Also in the cab was a guy from the bus company, or as it turned out, from the agency selling the tickets on behalf of the bus company. He started his sales pitch in form of information about the city before we left on the 5 km ride to town, and once we got to San Agustin he dragged us into his office to explain everything about the jeep tours and horseback rides they were offering to see the more remote
statues. Almost the same thing happened when we arrived at our hostel; the guy who came over with the guest book started his sales pitch directly when we had scratched our passport numbers in the correct column.
Despite of all the tour promotions we kept our heads cool, and decided to first visit the Parque Arqueologico that you could visit on your own and make the big tour decisions only after that. The Parque Arqueologico contains several sites were statues have been found, but also all statues that have been removed from their original positions guarding graves by grave robbers. The statues are mostly of human size, and depict human and animal shaped figures. They were usually placed as guardians of graves, and often have clubs and sharp teeth to scare off people. Almost no other traces of the culture that made them has been found, and very little is known of them.
The statues were impressive, but after 4 hours of statues we felt we had seen more than enough. When returning to the town we therefore checked for possible busses onward to Armenia and the Zona Cafetera, and when we found a
promising looking bus leaving the same evening we decided to take our chances with a night bus and skip the jeep tour we had considered for the next day. Coomotor, the bus company we had found, turned out to be a good choice; neither noisy movies nor vendors disturbed our sleep on our journey to the birth place of Colombian coffee.
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