Day 55 – San Andres and Tierradentro

Yesterday was a glorious day of doing nothing (and waiting for our laundry to be done) after arriving early in the day in San Andres. Today the plan was to check out Tierradentro, which involved some hiking and wandering around. We slept in, and it was glorious. Glorious, glorious, glorious. All night, we heard the stream flowing merrily nearby, night-time bugs and sweet silence. In the morning, a cock crowed to welcome the day but there was no obnoxious noise of huge trucks driving by, or a busy town waking up noisily at 6AM. In short, it was peaceful, relaxing and lovely.

San Andres was a wonderful place to take some time off and relax.

Sent Kay off to check on the laundry, which was drying in the laundry room. He snagged a bra and undies for me and left the rest drying, so we were able to go have breakfast in the hotel restaurant and then off to check out the tombs. We had pulled info from the Tierradentro page, but didn’t have a really good idea of where the tombs were located or how many we’d get to see. We read that Aguacate was a long hike and there were three ways to get to it, so we thought we’d take the “easiest” route up to Aguacate, and then the “difficult” route down to the museum and then across to Alto Segovia and Alto El Duende.

We discovered when we got down to a map of the Tierradentro sites that it wasn’t going to work out quite that way. A security guard across the street from the map told us we had to pay the admission fee (10,000 pesos or about $5 US) and then enter the park there. Ok. So we’d start on the side that has Alto Segovia and Alto El Duende, and then circle back across to Alto El Aguacate later in the day. We went to see the museum, which they had to open just for us. It was cool in that it contained a lot of info about the local area, agriculture, etc. but nothing about the Tierradentro tombs. After we checked out the museum, we started our hike up to Alto Segovia.

The trail to Alto Segovia started with this really cool bridge made of bamboo.
The bridge to Alto Segovia

It flexed a little more than I found comfortable as I walked across it, but it was a nifty feat of construction and very fun to look at. Then we started going up. And up. The trail was a wide road-type thing for a while, that they could probably have taken trucks or horses up, but we both agreed that we wouldn’t want to try it on the motos. It was quite vertical at parts, very rocky and washed out. I was caught off guard by how vertical it was. Before too long, we had to stop and take breaks for me to catch my breath (hey, you take a fat girl to a hike like this and expect stuff like that) but I was determined to see the stuff and wasn’t going to let it stop me.

Just as I was starting to dread every twist in the trail that might obscure a new vertical ascent, I saw a fence, a green gate and a sign at the top. Yay! We’d made it to Alto Segovia!

We arrived at the first tomb to find it covered with a lid made of 2″x4″s and chicken wire. There was a padlock lying hooked through the lid, but it wasn’t locked, so Kay opened it and looked down the steps. It was dark. I’d suggested that we bring a headlamp, so Kay brought his – and now he pulled it out and descended into the tomb. And got to the bottom only to find he couldn’t see a damn thing because his headlamp wasn’t powerful enough. Had we realized it called for that caliber of lighting, I would have brought my headlamp, which is much brighter (and heavier) than his, and a flashlight, too, for good measure.

Kay was frustrated at not being able to see anything and climbed back up. If this is what it was going to be like, it looked like we’d hiked a long way (ok, not that long, but it felt like it to me! It took about 20-25 minutes?) for nothing.

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We closed the lid and moved on to the next tomb, and Kay donned the headlamp and went down. He could see a little better in this tomb. I waited at the top, in the meantime, and while I was standing there, a guard/guide walked over to check on us. He saw that I was wearing the wrist band that indicated I’d paid the admission fee, and heard me talking to Kay who was down in the opened tomb – and he walked over and flipped a light switch nearby. Ahh! Lighting! Suddenly Kay could see, and said this tomb was awesome. He took some shots and climbed back up, and told me I should really climb down to see. Before I could get around to the steps, though, the guide/guard closed the lid on the tomb and told us to follow him to the next one. “Oh, well, no big deal,” – I thought – “there are tons of these things.”

I thought wrong, as it happens. Some of the other ones were cool, too, but Kay maintained that the first one he saw with the lights was the best.

So we followed the guard on to the next tomb, and then the next one. Kay went down to look at all of them, and I went to check out the ones he dubbed particularly cool and worth me climbing down. Partially because I’m lazy and didn’t want to descend/ascend three-foot stones down into what is essentially a hole with some paint on the walls, and partially because I have this problem with heights and didn’t like that there weren’t any handholds, and partially because I wasn’t all that interested in Tierradentro to begin with – this was Kay’s thing all along but it was clear he really wanted to go so I assented. Which I was regretting after the “road” across to it.

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Alto Segovia had around 10 or more tombs (neither of us can quite remember) and Kay checked them all out, and I checked out a handful. One tomb had an example of some really well-constructed pottery inside.

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Others contained painted drawings and carved faces.

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Some were nifty, and some were essentially just holes in the ground with not much to see besides the impressive steps down into them.

While Kay was checking out the tombs, I chatted with the guard/guide guy (and then the actual guard when we got toward the latter tombs at Alto Segovia) about the motos, the trip, etc. My Spanish is still crap, but I’m able to tell people how big our engines are (everyone seems surprised when we tell them we’re riding 650s), how long we’ve been on the road, where we’ve been, where we’re going, etc. Almost everyone asks where we’re going and where we’ve been in the country, and whether we like it. Columbia is a big two thumbs up – it’s beautiful, and away from the cities, the people have been very friendly and helpful. In the cities, it’s been much like cities anywhere.

At one point, he asks if we’re going up to Alto El Duende. He indicates that it’s a steep ascent and mimes something that I think means it’ll be hard and a lot of work for me. That’s ok, we tell him – we’re going anyway. It’s only a bit higher to Alto El Duende at this point, and then we can also go up just a bit more and across what is essentially a horizontal track to check out the statuary at El Tablon. He asks if we’re going to Aguacate, and with the difficulty I had getting up to Alto Segovia, I know it’s right out for me. So we say no, and he sorta laughs in relief.

We continue up the trail toward Alto El Duende, and I point out to Kay that the guys at Alto Segovia had a pair of binoculars, and are probably following along and laughing at me hiking up to Alto El Duende. Because what else are you going to do when you’re stuck on a hillside all day? Watch things. So we turn around and wave at one point – dunno if the guys were watching then but I amused myself with that. After more huffing and puffing up another vertical ascent (and Kay was even starting to show signs of wear at this point, so it wasn’t just the fat girl) we made it to Alto El Duende.

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This site was smaller and had fewer tombs, we could see right away. Learning our lesson from the other side – that there were lights in most of the tombs – we decide to start with the guide/guard guy and have him turn on/show us where the lights are. So we walk over to the far tomb where the guard guy is standing and chatting with a tourist, and I notice that they’re talking about roads to various places while Kay starts to go down the tomb. So I tell Kay “Hey, they’re talking about roads” and we go over and ask about the road to Silvia, which is the route that most adventure riders seem to take to get out to Tierradentro. He indicates that it would be no problem for the two of us on motos, and we’re encouraged about potentially taking that route back.

Kay resumes the tomb-touring, only to find that the tombs at Alto El Duende don’t seem as good as the ones at Alto Segovia. Very few of them have lights, but there’s a flashlight there for tourists to take down in the tombs. So Kay checks out all of them while I sit on a bench in the shade and enjoy the view. He returns to say that one of the tombs had some really nifty, well-preserved black paint, but for the most part, it wasn’t anything particularly special or interesting. So we ask about the trail for El Tablon to the statuary, and head off in the correct direction.

El Tablon involves more vertical ascending, but eventually we climb out on a rough dirt road to Santa Rosa. We walk along the road for a surprisingly long time, and end up chatting about deep things to pass the time. Eventually we see a sign for El Tablon, and after some false starts, make it to the statuary. Which is extremely disappointing. After the statuary at Copan and even Atlantas de Tula, El Tablon is just… sad. There are six or eight status under a tin roof, that seem to have been moved here intentionally from who knows where.

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We look and take a few pictures and then head back to the road to go down into San Andres. Neither of us realized at the time that there’s a much more direct path back to San Andres, so we end up going by road which leads sort of the long way round. But Kay practices taking “action shots” of all the motos that pass us on the road, and we see lots of interesting people on motos, so we enjoy that.

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Along the road down to San Andres, we encounter the Swedes who are camping in our hotel. We’d met them yesterday and it turns out they toured the tombs yesterday, did Aguacate this morning, and were on their way up to El Tablon this afternoon. They confirmed that the site at Aguacate wasn’t particularly interesting (wasn’t bad but wasn’t particularly good) but that the view from there was spectacular. Kay and I agree that we’ve seen a lot of spectacular views and expect to see many more, and it’s not worth hiking three hours on a “rough” trail that will certainly take me longer than that.

On the way down the road, we find what is properly the town of San Andres (I think) and see a restaurant. Yay! It’s a different restaurant than the two in the immediate vicinity of our hotel, and we jump at the chance to eat there. While we’re waiting for our food, an older woman who we saw using the hotel pool yesterday walks in and starts chatting with us. It turns out that she’s visiting Colombia for two months, and is in Tierradentro because she’s waiting for a friend to come back from working in the oil fields so she can visit with him. She used to live in South America and has traveled everywhere down here.

She seems more interested in the sound of her own voice than having an actual conversation with us – she asks questions and when we start to answer, cuts us off with her own answers. We get a slightly weird vibe from her, and we’re dismayed when we pay and get up to leave, and she says she’ll walk down the hotel with us because she wants to use their pool again. (She’s staying in a cheaper hostel up the hill.) Neither of us wants the hotel administrators to think we’ve brought her in just to use the hotel pool, so we’re happy when we stop to take pictures of the most adorable teeny kitten and she continues walking on ahead.

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Eventually we make it down the hill and back to our hotel. It’s around 2:30-3:00PM, and we’re surprised to find that practically everyone in the town is hanging out in the hotel pool. Old, young – middle-aged couples, mothers with kids – everyone in town seems to have turned up to use the hotel pool. There are tons of wee motos parked all over, and it looks like everyone is having a good time. Neither of us minds the shrieking kids or the crowds of people who haven’t paid to use the pool – it feels like a good place and a happy community, and we like that.

We go back to our room and open the windows and door and just chill. We read and look at pictures, and I proclaim that even though we had lunch an hour ago, I’m hungry again. I used up a ton of energy hiking this morning, and lunch, while tasty, wasn’t enough calories to replenish it all. I’m looking forward to dinner. Eventually we decide we should shower, because we both got all sweaty hiking around this morning, but Kay doesn’t want to shower until he can get clean clothes to put on. He asks me to go check on the laundry this time, as he’s sick of it, and I evade the question because I don’t want to. Eventually he relents and goes to get the laundry, and returns with our clothes and our gear.

The gear is SO CLEAN! SO FRIGGIN CLEAN!!! How did they do that? I was just hoping they could de-stink my motorcycle gear – I wasn’t in a million years expecting it to be nearly as close to clean as they got it. And Kay’s BMW gear looked beautiful. The blue was almost as vibrant as the day he got it. And wonder of wonders – it didn’t stink! They’d somehow gotten rid of the smell! We gloried in our clean gear, and put the armor back in – and realized exactly how much better Kay’s BMW armor is than my Rev’It Sand armor. Makes me worry a bit about my knees.

Get cleaned up and I ask to go look for food, as it’s nearing 6PM by this point. The hotel pool has emptied out, and we head up to the restaurant and sit down because I remember their servings being large and I wanted a lot of food being so hungry from this morning’s hike. After sitting for 20 minutes, it looks like no-one’s going to come out. Kay goes looking for the hotel guy and can’t find him. Eventually I opt for real food instead of theoretical food, and we go to the other restaurant in town.

The woman comes out looking kinda confused to see us there, but Kay asks if they’re open and if we can get some food to eat in their dining room, and she says yes and starts giving us the list of available food. We end up with plates of spaghetti, carne, rice and salad. Small plates. I eat it all and wish for a second plate. Kay agrees that he’s not full but has no interest in a second plate from here because the food was so uninteresting. We pay and head off, and I ponder where I can get more food.

As we’re walking back toward the restaurant, we notice that the place in town advertising “Comidas Rapidas,” which hasn’t been open the entire time we’ve been there, is open. Kay suggests going to check it, but it’s dark and I don’t feel good about poking around in strange places in the town, so I want to head back to the hotel. I’m hoping someone else is eating dinner and I can get some kitchen service at our hotel’s restaurant. Sadly, when we get there, there’s no-one around and the kitchen doesn’t sound or smell open. So we head back to the rooms, where I promptly ask if there’s anything to eat.

Kay gets annoyed with me because I’m doing the “I’m hungry” thing but he says I won’t do anything about it, or let him do anything about it. I’m all crashy because I haven’t had enough food to offset the morning’s exercise, and I’m WAY in the negative on calorie count today, which tends to make my brain unable to process things or make decisions. When I haven’t had enough to eat, I literally get to a state where the need to make decisions overwhelms me, and I stand/sit around like a vegetable. It’s really annoying.

I try to go to sleep since I can’t find more food (and at this point, it’s before 7PM) and Kay stays up to work on the blog entries. I wake up a bit later when he makes a loud noise (I think he banged into something?) and am hungrier than ever. I start whining (literally) and being snippy and Kay starts yelling and it degenerates into a massive negative shitstorm.

Eventually I grab the two protein bars from my tank bag, and eat them. They were gross and I thought I might throw up if I forced one more bite into my mouth, but I ate them anyway, because I was *that* hungry and knew I needed food. But two protein bars is only about 400 calories – I estimated that I needed at least 1000 more to put my brain in the “functional” category. So I ask Kay if he has any protein bars. He says he has some in his tank bag, and I go looking and find only one. Which I attempt to eat, only to discover that I’ve run out of water, so I go to pump some.

Which hurts like a motha-effer, because I’ve gotten a massive sunburn whilst walking around today. I normally don’t wear sleeveless shirts out and about (fat chicks in sleeveless shirts are not flattering) but it was the only shirt I had while they did my laundry, so I wore it. And because I don’t wear sleeveless shirts out, I have a very distinctive “farmer’s tan.” So the skin that doesn’t normally see the sun was all pale, and I didn’t think to apply suntan lotion, so it burned. Badly. The worse sunburn I’ve ever had. Moving was agony – getting up and down from the bed was agony – rolling over was agony – anything that involved my shoulders or the extended neckline that got exposed and sunburned was killing me.

Hungry, in-pain Dachary? Is a very bad thing. I was practically impossible to deal with, and a part of me knows that, but I was really put out that Kay wasn’t doing anything to help me and was just yelling at me because he was frustrated. I ate his only remaining protein bar and figured I was still in the negative on calories, so I asked if we had any other food anywhere. Kay indicated that there was some beef jerky in the yellow dry-sack that was still on his bike, so I put on my headlamp and went out to get it.

Whilst I was futzing around with Kay’s bike, the Swedes noticed me there and came over to invite us to their fire. They’d mentioned yesterday that they’d already traveled around much of South America, and had some good info to share about places to see, etc. I thanked him for the invite, and told him I’d go let Kay know, and retreated back to the room. I was in no state at this point to make polite conversation with strangers – I was fuming at Kay and my mental capacity was still questionable because I still hadn’t really eaten enough.

When I got back to the room, I told Kay about the Swedes and said he should go chat with them. He did. I read for a while, and then dozed. It was after 11PM when Kay got back from chatting with the Swedes, and I still didn’t want to speak to him. Our relaxing retreat in Tierradentro didn’t end up quite as relaxing as planned.

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