November 5-6, 2007
The next stop on my tour of Colombia was Tierradentro, a little-visited region near Popayan. Well, at least it's near Popayan on a map. However, the bus to get there took most of the day because the roads were unpaved, full of mud and potholes, and posed a serious mudslide risk in many places.
Toward the end of the day we arrived in the tiny town of San Andres de Pisimbala. I stayed with a Norwegian couple at a sweet old lady's house as there were no regular hostels in town. We took a walk around the area and soon ran into a party of sorts in the road where a bunch of the locals were getting drunk on chicha, a strong liquor made locally from sugar cane. They were friendly people, but soon I got annoyed with a guy whose breath smelled like someone defecated down his throat. He was extremely intoxicated and insisted on talking to me from such a short distance I thought he was going to kiss me as soon as I let my guard down. The Norwegians were ready to leave after the same guy pulled the girl away for a "dance," but actually did try to kiss her several times. But the good news was that I felt like I could strike up a conversation with any random person, drunk or sober, without feeling like they were trying to get something from me.
The next day I walked to the tombs, which were the area's main attraction. There were three locations scattered around the region, each with several large underground burial sights that were created well over 1000 years ago. A lot of them were plain, but most had painted walls, carvings etched in the columns, or pottery scattered throughout the interior. But the one thing all the tombs had in common was a staircase where the steps were so large, even I had to jump to reach them. I think the ancient people of this region were all at least eight feet tall. That being said, the best part of visiting the tombs for me was entering them. As I jumped down the stairs, I imagined what the inside was going to look like, and as my eyes adjusted to the light, the images from thousands of years ago slowly became clear, sometimes amazing, sometimes disappointing, but always a surprise.
There were a few other things between the tombs like museums and statues that had been collected and arranged under one roof. The area was green everywhere, there were lots of coffee plantations with piles of beans drying under the sun, the locals were unbelievably nice, and there weren't any tourists other than myself and the Norwegians. Tierradentro was a great introduction to the Colombian countryside.
The photo album for this entry is here.