San Agustin, statues and lush valleys

Vallee rio magdalena

La casa de Francois

Casa de François!

To get to San Agustin we took a 3.5 hour bus journey to Pitalito followed by an hour journey in a mini pick-up van direct to the door of our hostel, La Casa de Francois. Before taking us up to the hostel, the taxi guy made us phone ahead to ask for a camping spot. We were told no camping spots were available because of bad weather over the last few weeks. We decided to test our luck and head up to it anyway. The hostel was situated high up on a hill but still close enough to walk to and from the town centre. When we arrived, same story, they didn’t want anyone camping because the soil was so damp from a week of bad weather. They showed us where the normal spot was and the soil was dry and normal. They seemed genuinely surprised so they let us stay after all! Phew, close call.

Vive le camping!

The staff and owner Francois were all so friendly and welcoming and the hostel a really cool place. The food in the restaurant was delicious, the showers hot, we were provided with security lockers so we didn’t need to leave our stuff in the tent, they gave us extra covers free of charge for the cold nights and they could book anything for us without any commission. Luxury!

San Agustin

San Agustin

Tente chez Francois

Our amazing tent!…

We planned to spend a lazy evening starting our blog again after some serious time off due to broken computers. We were well and truly into it when we met a crazy French guy who would not stop talking. A nice guy but boy did he talk. He got through 5 beers in the space of just over and hour and he just chatted and chatted. A very cool character, very different, but we couldn’t work and we couldn’t get out of it without appearing rude. What made it worse, for all those surfing lovers out there, we were watching live the Tahiti pro surfing final and JMs idol Kelly Slater won! JM ended up missing most of it!! This guy didn’t even get the hint when we increased the volume on the iPad to watch it – Frustrating, but he was great entertainment!
Before bed we booked a 4×4 jeep day for the next day, taking us to some smaller archaeological sites and driving us around the beautiful countryside. Everything in the region is spread out over quite a distance with difficult roads in-between, so we thought this would be a great way to see the surroundings. 9am pick up. Lie in at last!

Selfie rio magdalena

Selfie in front of le Rio Magdalena

Let’s go!

After a cosy night in the tent, (temperatures a lot lower than in the desert!) a quick hand wash of clothes and a yummy breakfast, we were picked up by a local man with his 4×4. Four other guests staying at our hostel also joined us and off we went..

4-4 tilt

A proper 4*4

Stop 1: Rio Magdalena

The first stop planned for the day was the Rio Magdalena river at its narrowest point. The river travels all the way through Colombia for more than 1500kms. The spot where we stopped measured only 2m wide and had crazy bubbles in the waters. For info the main photo of this article is a view of the valley in which the Rio Magdalena flows.

Rio Magdalena

Narrowest point of Rio Magdalena

Stop 2: Obando

The village of Obando was home to a miniscule museum with some ancient tombs. It didn’t exactly wow us but you could see the local villagers were running the joint so it was nice they had some business. In-between each of the sites visited, we drove through the most stunning scenery, it was just out of this world. The sun was shining, the mountains, valleys, rivers, waterfalls, farming land, little local houses and their gardens, were all incredibly beautiful. It was just spectacular.

Museo tomb

Museo tomb deep end

One of the tombs at the Obando Museum

Museo art

Painting made in Colombia

Unfortunately on our trip we had two issues; 1) we couldn’t really stop for photos when travelling in the jeep because he was driving like a lunatic and there wasn’t time and 2) the fellow travellers were a little weird. They either didn’t enjoy it, some would just wander off and be lost for ages, two people just slept most of the journeys whilst others were more preoccupied with what they were doing the next few days and what they were eating that night rather than living in the moment and appreciating what was in front of them. It was crazy. JM and I enjoyed it all and blocked out all the random negative chit chat.
Stop 3: Alto de Los Idolos

After Obando we visited Alto de Los Idolos, the second most important archaeological site in San Agustin and in fact in the whole of Colombia. Almost all of the archaeological finds in San Agustin are tombs with beautiful, detailed statues guarding them, something we’ve never seen before. Again the site was not too big but it was interesting and different. We had a quick lunch in San Jose de Isnos due to a few delays from one Colombian woman who just wondered off and went missing for 45 minutes… That’s another story!

JM main statue Los Idolos

Soph statue los idolos

Los idolos park

The beautiful Alto de Los Idolos

Statue with bird

Statue crocodile

Le crocodile

Statue 2

Statue 1

Stop 4: Alto de las Piedras

The next site was Alto de Las Piedras, a very small archaeological site, but beautifully situated with more tombs and animated statues. The surrounding countryside was AGAIN stunning!



Hello Mr bird

Soph statue las piedras

Soph close-up statue

Bird of paradise

Stop 5 & 6: Salto de Bordones & Salto de Mortino

The next stop was the beautiful waterfall, Salto de Bordones. Although the view point was far from the waterfall itself, it was pretty darn impressive, including the valley it was in. Same for the last stop of the day another waterfall Salto del Mortino.

We had actually packed our swim stuff for the day after we heard we were going to some waterfalls. I think the two we visited were a little on the big side!

Salto de Bordones panorama

Panoramic of the valley and Salto de Bordones

Soph salto del Mortino

Salto del Mortino viewing platform!


A family run sugar cane farm. The heat and noise from the building was too much for us all after 5 minutes!

The day trip was from 9am to 4pm and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The scenery in Colombia continues to wow us. The locals were extremely friendly even when we rocked up at a family sugar cane farm completely uninvited and had a nosy around. The archaeological sites were small but very different to anything we’ve seen before and then who doesn’t like humongous waterfalls???  The price 12 euros each, not including a few entrance fees = Not bad. We had another great meal at the hostel and our crazy friend joined us for only an hour or so this time. We spent the night in the freezing tent again!

Boiling sugar

Sugar cane


Sugar cane bits

What do we do with the rest? We burn it!

View from Los Idolos

New day, new statues

The next morning we found ourselves awake bright and early due to the freezing temperatures. We are used to the early morning but not the coldness!!

We headed straight to the main archaeological park of San Agustin, an easy 3km walk to the entrance from our hostel. With no one around we took avantage of the sunshine, the quietness and the great statues! We spent almost 2 hours in the park. A really beautiful place.

Excavation photo

Excavation 70 years ago!

Parque double statue

And now in 2016!

Zoom statue Parque

Parque beauty tree

San Agustin’s main archaeological parc.

JM parque

Parque bird statue

Parque bridge

Bamboo bridge in the park

Parque trio dolmen

Parque mountains view

Impressive view of the San Agustin hills

Parque Soph path

Most comfortable bus journey of our trip so far…….NOT
We walked back into town, booked our bus to Popayan for a few hours later, headed back to the hostel, a late breakfast and then back down for the bus. The bus was more of a big car. Very uncomfortable, the driver drove like a maniac and they journey which took 4.5 hours felt like 12. Half of the road was unsealed. We are used to unsealed roads, particularly in NZ but unsealed roads with troughs and boulders everywhere was a new experience. It was a miserable experience. Oh and what made it worse was the farting dog sitting behind me and a woman being violently travel sick for 3 hours behind JM. Fun fun fun.
We could potentially say it was the worse bus journey we’ve taken on this trip so far and that’s saying something!
The worst was the unsealed road. The beautiful scenery either end of it made it a tiny bit more enjoyable. It was stunning. Anyway, feeling like we’d been stuck in a washing machine fire 4 hours we arrived in Popayan and walked to find our hostel.

Parque selfie

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