A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: AnnaMickus

Vampires and drunken horses

Plata o plomo en Colombia


View MAP OF THE JOURNEY on AnnaMickus's travel map.

This time it was horses. And bulls of course. And 10 different sound systems blasting VERY loud music next to each other so that at no moment could you hear less than 3 different songs simultaneously, and at no moment weren’t your ears hurting from the ridiculously high volume. And it goes without saying that the music played nonstop for several days so that you even had to listen to it while sleeping.

And this time is was rum and aguardiente. Lots of it. And of course there was tons of beer. And let’s not forget the absurdly drunken people. The extra spice this time was that the heavily drunken men could be riding a horse making the poor horse do ridiculous moves trying to obey its master. Another extra spice was the cocaine. It wasn’t visible, but we heard there was lots of it around.

And of course there were street stalls selling all kinds of greasy sausages and unrecognizable animal parts. The most impressive one must have been the lechona, a whole baked pig that was stuffed with rice, meat and peas. The one mostly fitting our diet was the arepa, a thick corn pancake served with different kinds of fillings.

Obviously we managed again to arrive in a town during fiesta time. And you have probably guessed what country we are in – Colombia! Actually we arrived a few days before and decided to check out what the fiestas are like in this new country we just arrived in. Well as you already noticed, it is quite similar to the ones we have already witnessed. The horses were a new thing, though. We got to see these weird horse competitions where the horses walk this strange fast walking but with a slow pace. Then they walk over a stretch of wooden floor so that you can hear the fast steps of the horse shoes bang towards the wood. And when the audience sees a horse they think walk well they scream and applaud and cheer with their beers and glasses of aguardiente and rum. Rum seems to be really popular here, as does aguardiente, a cane alcohol flavored with anise.

On this festival we ourselves have been quite of a sight as well. People here seem to be more interested in gringo tourists than they have been elsewhere. One night when we were sitting with our new Belgian friend, Tom, in one of the beer tents (yes, we managed to find one where you only could hear the music from two other tents) people just kept coming up to us wanting to know who we are, shake our hand and wish us welcome. One guy new the words to every song (except one) and sat with us and sang for us for half an hour.

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The festival started with a bunch of horses riding through town

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It was interesting to sit and watch the fiesta evolve during the evening. Some people seemed to concentrate on the drinking while others were more interested in the dancing. And of course some fancied both. A funny thing was that even really tough looking guys were standing like small puppies around the dance floor gathering strength to ask somebody to dance, and when they finally did they danced to this really fast and joyful music really seriously with a concentrated face. When the song was finished they ran off the dance floor. Other couples knew their thing and danced like professionals to all kinds of different beats. But of course the music was Latino all the way, just different types of it like salsa, cumbia, reggaeton and loads more that I don’t know the names and the differences of.

First we didn’t think the fiesta lived up at all to Bolivian standards, but later we had to admit it got pretty close. People got incredibly drunk and could pass out right there in the chair they were sitting. Many didn’t bother to even go to the woods for taking a leek. They just stood up and went to one side of the tent and made their business right there one meter from where we were sitting. And at one place they had a corner dedicated to peeing right next to the tables sp you just had to turn around and do your business. Well at least they didn’t unzip right there in their chair, I mean, that’s already something, right?

Well it hasn’t only been fiesta here in San Agustin. We have also done some walks and checked out some cool statues, we have chilled in this lovely hostel we found by coincidence, we have celebrated a birthday, and we have taken a special tour... But first I have to tell you about our trip to here from Ecuador. It was...shall I say... interesting. To begin with, we had to wait 8 hours at the border, because suddenly they supposedly didn’t have any stamps at the Ecuadorian border to stamp us out with. Uuh, well that’s only natural that there are no stamps at a border crossing... Another rumor was that there was no electricity so the ’system’ couldn’t be used. A third rumor we heard was that somebody had stolen 300m of optical cable and that was why the system was down. Whatever the reason was, we stood there practically the whole day waiting for the doors to open just in order to get an exit stamp. We saw a lot of stuff during that day, the most funny of which was a group of middle aged Finns that were travelling through America on their huge motor bikes. They had started in Alaska and were going to Argentina. Pretty tough guys, huh?

After spending a night on the Colombian side we got up early in order to get to San Agustin the same day. But it wasn’t supposed to take long anyway, because looking at the map it should only be about 150km. Oh, how wrong we were. Again. I guess we never learn. The first part from Pasto to Mocoa looks like 60km on the map. It took 7 hours. And the road, oh man, it was beautiful but oh, how crazy. I have to tell you that THIS must be the world’s most dangerous road. It was so narrow that at times when you looked out the window you couldn’t see the road, just a 200m drop down to nothingness. And it was winding and bumpy as hell and it just went on and on and on... At some point the people around us started pointing out the window and jabbering about like crazy. They pointed at a slope beside the road where the vegetation was strangely cut of all the way down. This was the place where 3 months ago a bus went over the edge. Nobody survived. Great. The only thing making up for this thrilling experience was that the surrounding nature along the road was just fantastic. We were driving through beautiful rainforest with small waterfalls here and there. And all the time it was getting warmer – we were getting down from the mountains.

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The death road

So we got to this cute little town in the evening and headed straight for a pizza because we were really hungry after the 11h bus ride. We were wondering where we should stay the night when a woman asked us if we needed a place to stay. She and her husband lived just outside of town in a lovely garden and they were renting out some rooms. It sounded perfect, so after our pizza we headed up the hill to this gorgeous place overlooking a beautiful valley and the town. There was a wonderful garden with all kinds of plants and there were hammocks to chill in. In other words it was just perfect. We spent many days there enjoying the views, drinking wine and piña coladas and eating home made whole meal bread. Sadly this beautiful place would become our place of hatred...

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View from our porch

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A fascinating thing about San Agustin is that there are a lot of pre-Colombian cool statues spread out in the surroundings. We did a couple of walks in order to check out these mysterious things. All these statues seem to represent people of some sort, but some of them have animal characteristics like jaguars or frogs. They seem to have functioned as some kind of tomb stones. A few of them where set in beautiful places looking over some stunning views.

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Checking out how coffee grows

Oh, and as I mentioned already we got to celebrate a birthday here. It happened to be Anna’s birthday a few days ago so we celebrated that with some piña coladas and chocolate cake together with Tom and Paulina. When we got into town in the evening, our favorite bar offered us some weird shots that they lit on fire and that we drank with straws. After having a few beers at a local bar, the evening ended with a bottle of local champagne that tasted like bad chewing gum and made us almost throw up because it was so nasty.

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Happy birthday

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Enjoying weird blue shots

One day we went to visit a local family that used to live in the Putumayo region growing coca for a living. They were forced to move from there after they had been threatened to get shot to death if they didn’t leave in 2 hours. So they came here with the whole family and were now living off growing coffee and the occasional tourist who stayed with them. The money they earned now was much less than before. They offered us some homemade chicha and gave us a special tour there in their house...

A glimpse from the special tour

We also met another family who had been forced to move from their home, this time from the rain forest. The head of the family was a guy around 40 years with wife and kids and his father. The guy and his father were shamans and had been trained in the jungle for several years my master shamans. This guy was a medical shaman, but one of his masters was more of a spiritual one, and could turn into a jaguar if he wanted. As it happened, these two shamans also performed Ayahuasca rituals, so Mickus got a new opportunity to try this mystical wine of the gods. You can read more about his experiences in the separate entry.

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Is that a mushroom?

During the whole time in San Agustin we had been eagerly waiting for the 4th of November, because that was the day the world was hopefully going to change: it was the day of the presidential elections. We had already arranged with Francoise, the owner of the hostel, to watch the spectacle on his tv as he said he had an English spoken news channel (CNN International) that was going to air it. We had inquired about the channel already a week prior to the election and reconfirmed it several times during the week. So we were all excited and had planned to get drinks and make some popcorn and watch the thing the whole night. But as it got time to start watching the show our hopes and expectations were shattered into pieces. When we asked Francoise to put on the program he nonchalantly just said that he had remembered wrongly; he didn’t have the channel he had said he had, but that he would inform us how the elections went. THAT PIG! He couldn’t have bothered telling us when he noticed he didn’t have the channel! So now we had just a short time to find another place to watch it. We packed our bags, stormed out of the hostel and swore on revenge. I guess we should have listened to our own advice in the first entry of this blog: NEVER TRUST A FRENCHMAN.

Despite a multitude of calls to several hotels in town and out of town, and the help of a really friendly taxi driver, we couldn’t find a hotel within a 50km radius that would show the elections in English. Luckily we found this dirty little hostel that had cable and showed many local channels and one Spanish channel that had 24h coverage of the show. So we didn’t totally miss the elections after all. Better than nothing. We opened a bottle of rum and a bag of crisps and started watching.

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Posted by AnnaMickus 15:16 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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