Saturday, October 29, 2011

San Agustin, Colombia 21- 24 Oct 2011

The bus journey to San Agustin is horribly bumpy, 5 hours of bumpy ride on the unpaved road but lucky we had some amazing view to distract us from the rough journey. I met Jannie and Joann on the bus, there are travelling South America as well going down south to Brazil. We had the same idea of staying at El Finca Maco and we were the only 3 foreigners on the bus. We had to switch to a jeep at the junction 5km from San Agustin where the bus continues to Pitalito. We arrived around 2pm after 5 hours, not bad for the speed because normally it takes more than 6 hours.

The El Finca Maco hostel is 1km out of San Agustin town up at a hill top. The dorms are in a corn shape hut with a half open air shower. Each bed has a mosquito net. A big space in the middle of the hut, I find it pretty. :-)

We were starving, as we walked down the slope, we saw a restaurant with lots of locals. The price was 20,000 pesos for a set lunch that consist of salad, choice of beef steak, fish, fish fillet or chicken and dessert. As we were too hungry to walk to the town, we decided to eat here. It was pricy but it was delicious and big. I had a whole steam fresh water fish…ummmm…yummy !
We had a walk in the town of San Agustin, another colonial town and UNESCO World Heritage site. We bought some food for the next few days and head back to the hostel. The temperature drops to 10°c at night so better tucked in to my bed with thick blanket. :-)

We managed to book ourselves on White Water Rafting the next day on Magdalena River. I wasn’t so sure about how cold the water will be so I put on my titanium rash guard. At the shop we were given a jumper style wetsuit, a helmet and a pair of shoes. We were 5 and the captain. Magdalena River flows northward about 1528km into the Caribbean Sea. We are going to raft down just the 11km. The category of rapids ranging from level 1 to level 4. We started with a slow drift passing thru a few level 1 rapids and then it gets more challenging. During one of the Level 4 rapid, one of them fell in the water, we had to rescue him out of the rapid. It was an hour rafting over the 11km stretch of river. We saw many birds along the way. It was really fun!
We got back for lunch and in the afternoon we have booked ourselves horse riding around the countryside and valleys plus visiting 2 archaeological sites. The ride was good, it was better my second time. At least I could get up and off the horse without help but my knees still hurt. We rode up and down many steep hills for around 3 hours passing plenty of farms, coffee plantations and agricultural. We stop by 2 archaeological sites, my favorite was the 2 statue with color excavated only in 1985. By the end of the day we were exhausted, hands were aching from rafting and knees and butts were aching from horse riding.

It started raining early in the morning so our plan to visit the San Agustin Archaeological site has to be delayed. By lunch time it was getting slightly better, so we went to town for lunch and booked our bus ticket out. We were contemplating between 2 route to the south, we can either take a taxi to Pitalito(45mins), from there take a bus to Mocoa(3 hours) and from Mocoa take another bus to Pasto(5 hours by pick up or 6 hours by bus) this section is bumpy or take a bus to Popayan (5 hours) this section is bumpy, from Popayan take another bus to Pasto or Ipiales (6 hours to 8 hours). At the end we decided the 2nd option because it has 1 connection less and the long stretch is on the Pan-American Highway.

We were surprised to find out how busy it was in the town. I think if not all then 90% of all youngsters from the surrounding villages came to San Agustin on weekend. They traveled to the town by chicken bus but it was packed all the up to the roof of the bus. A bingo activity was held at the square by the political party to attract more supporters as the election is just next week.
We took a bus to the archaeological site 3km out of town. The San Agustin archaeological site is the only place in the world highlighted by 500 imposing stone statues carved in accordance to the mythology of their Indian sculptors. Most of the statues were part of the funerary paraphernalia of the ancient inhabitants of the area and were related to funerary rites, the spiritual power of the dead, and the supernatural world. We have a English speaking guide but his explanations to the statues and sites are always “it is possible” so we only believe 50% of what he said. We spent 2.5 hours walking in the park. I finished the night with 6 beers in the bar with the guide and few other guys from the white water rafting company. It has been a while that I have so many beers. :-)

We were not looking forward to leave San Agustin due to the bumpy 5 hours bus ride back to Popayan. Today we planned to make our trip all the way to Ipiales – the border town of Colombia. We left San Agustin at 8:30am, we arrived Popayan at 1:30pm. Found a connecting bus to Pasto but not to Ipiales, so we took it. It was another 7 hours ride in the bus to Pasto but this time round is better condition on a Pan American Highway. We were exhausted to arrive at Pasto so we decided to stay overnight here and continue to cross the border the next day.

San Agustin – Finca El Maco – P16,000 for a dorm bed with hot shower, towel and soap only 1 PC with internet available.
Pasto - Koala Inn - P16,000 for a dorm bed with hot shower, towel and soap and WIFI available.

Bus from San Agustin to Popayan – P28,000
Bus from Popayan to Pasto – P25,000
Mini Van from Pasto to Ipiales – P7,000
Taxi from Ipiales to Colombian border – P5,000 per taxi
Taxi from Ecuador border to Tulcan - $3.5 per taxi
Bus from Tulcan to Quito - $5

White water rafting at San Agustin 2hrs – P45,000
Horse riding at San Agustin 3.5hrs – P35,000
San Agustin Archaeological Park – P10,000
English speaking Guide – P10,000


  1. Thanks for posting this. I'm doing the same border crossing from San Agustin to Quito in a couple of weeks and this was very helpful.

    1. You are welcome. Good luck to your trip!