Bruce and I were very excited to see the ruins in San Agustin. We first learned of the ruins in a coffee shop if Bogota, Tocoa Cafe. The barista gave us a quick lecture about the coffee beans that come from the region. I did a quick Internet search and learned that San Agustin has a UNESCO World Heritage site for the ruins.
The morning of our rest day everyone was excited about getting coffee in town then heading to the park. Unfortunately, the tour director texted to say the park was closed for the day. Frustration ensued!
Bruce had heard that there were several options to see other ruins around the town. Jeep, horseback, or walk. We opted for horse back riding!!!
The tour guide and 3 horses arrived at our hotel around 11am. We were relieved that he spoke English. The horses here very well trained and basically walked on auto pilot.
The first ruin was El Trabon, 3 different carved stones that were removed from there original locations.
There was a museum on the property that had interesting artifacts from 3300 years ago around the dame time the stones were carved.
The next ruin was at a finch named chaquira. It was placed among boulders on the side of the mountain. There were also stairs that led down to tree waterfalls from the adjacent mountain. It was a steep hike down to the ruin. We were both fatigued and breathless after the trek.
We continued to the 3rd ruin that was on another farm. The first two sculptures we recognized from the tchotchkes shops. Then we walked further up the mountain a few hundred meters to see two sculptures that are still in their original location. These sculptures had color stained on them. The guide showed us 2 trees that if the bark is hacked away the sap is yellow or red. This is what the natives used to color the stones.
While riding between the sites, which were a few kilometers apart, the horses grew impatient with walking and picked up pace on their own accord. The first time it scared me to death, thinking the horse was running wild. The instructor assured me it was ok. I did not enjoy the cantering, I bounced all over the saddle and feared what it would do to my bike riding. When the horse took off on a gallop it was exhilarating.
I asked the instructor what he did when not instructing and said he apparently goes digging for buried graves, since archeologists are still finding artifacts. He exclaimed that he had so many treasures at his house, and he would show us after the tour. Throughout the whole tour he talked about past clients from all over the world. In fact, 2 guys from Belgium he had met the day before were coming to his house for dinner to eat guinea pig, a local favorite.
After the last ruin location we were heading back to town on the horses and the guide has us stop in front of several houses. He said it was is house and we can come look at his artifacts he had found. I honestly thought he was being hypothetical about stopping at his house, so I was surprised he invited strangers.
We sat in his front porch while he yelled inside to his family. Several different people and babies trickled in and out of the house to say hi. Someone brought us coffee, which was a nice treat. The guide went to another room and brought back a heist book from his previous clients. He showed us each page, and pointed to each comment about a “special tour”. Bruce and I were both perplexed and had no intentions of learning of this “Special Tour”
The guide brought out some replica stone carvings of the ruins, then he brought out the items he had found. He was adamant about us purchasing all the times but we have limited space to pack souvenirs, AND we did not want to leave the country with historical artifacts!!!
He also went on a tangent about how he is the financial provider for this family, his house is falling apart, his grandkids need shoes, blah blah blah…We planned to tip him regardless but this felt like a scam to get more money from tourists.
After we finished our coffee, the guide walked us to the road and said town was about a 5 minute walk and the hotel was another 3 minute walk. We were confused because he picked us up at the hotel and assumed we would ride the horses back. Maybe since we didn’t ask about the “special tour” we had to two step it back.
On our walk back to town, we passed a souvenir shop that had a glass case in the door way that had the same historical “treasures” the guide told us he had found. The shop artifacts even had the same dirt and sand rubbed on them.