On October 30th 1975 I was in San Agustin in southern Colombia.
I went with a guide and a few others to the site of Alto de los Idolos, which was on the other side of the Magdalena River. We met our horses at 9.30 in the morning and took the wide trail through the forest. We went down a particularly steep incline to the river, across a covered bridge and up to the highlands on the other side. There were waterfalls all around and for the first time in South America I noticed the large flocks of butterflies that hung around pools of water. Alto de los Idolos was a lovely site, not much visited in those days, with sculpture, tombs and crocodile statues. As so often, the archaeology was an excuse to get legitimately out into the country in a more remote place. My horse gave me a bumping ride and a couple of nasty sores, but I changed with the guide and my riding got better on the way back. We looked in on El Tablon where there was a statue with arms raised in funerary style. I have not often gone anywhere on horseback, but enjoyed this trip through the steep forests. The next day I spent most of the time lying on my stomach.
San Agustin was a good place to spend a few days in a little market town. I stayed at the Hotel Idolos, which let cheap rooms to foreigners, but also served food and was crowded all day on market day with men from the country tethering their horses outside and eating and drinking inside. One evening the foreigners all sat inside drinking beer and listening to a well-travelled American tell tales of the bizarre side to South American life, while local horsemen, drunk on aguardiente, were firing off their pistols outside. Rural Colombia was a good place to learn about the way things worked south of the Panama Canal.
The various archaeological sites were prettily laid in tropical gardens and had plenty of interest with their statues of humans and animals, carved rocks and various animal forms. However the museum showed the relative lack of sophistication of the culture. This is all now a World Heritage Site.
|Carved rocks: picture by Diana Herrera, CC|
|Figurative Statues: picture by Diana Herrera, CC|
View Tierradentro in a larger map