September 30, 2016 § 5 Comments
After my Tatacoa Desert adventures, I jumped into several more colectivos (thing were starting to spice up now, with teenagers riding on top of the iron grids of trucks swerving around canyon edges) and made my way back to higher altitudes at Tierradentro. Nestled in the middle of the Caucan Mountains, this secluded archaeological site is apparently the largest in Colombia after San Agustín. However, the sleepy town, meager scattering of tiendas, indigenous influences, and friendly faces didn’t even hint at the slightest development of tourism (except for an impeccably-marked hike).
Wait a minute: one of my all-time favourite treks through incredible history, beautiful landscapes (we’re talking about coffee fields, banana trees, and all sorts of quirky vegetation), and underground tombs– without anyone to have to share it with? You heard that right: paradise.
The road connecting Neiva and Popayán is an absolute disaster, but it’s worth every rugged turn, muddy patch, and rocky rumble. There are vans that go to San Andrés, but the archaeological museum and hike starts in Tierradentro, a collection of houses about 2 km down the road. Every house functions as a hospedaje and makeshift store, but don’t expect extensive menus or elegant lodgings. Then again, private rooms that cost $4 and come with good company don’t exactly leave much room for criticism, huh? (I highly recommend staying with Favian, the midget. There’s coca leaves to drink, a huge garden, and no Families With Ten Kids to share the house with).
Across the street from the shack that sells freshly-made juices is the Tierradentro Museum entrance. For 10,000 COPs (5,000 COPs if you’re a student), you get a really cute passport that gives you access to the hiking path, dozens of underground tombs dating back to the 6th-century, and two surprisingly well-kept and informative museums.
The hiking trail is approximately 14km long, but keep in mind that it’s mostly mountains and there’s so many things to gawk at, it takes a whole day (good thing that the passport is valid for two). In the morning, start with Segovia, Duende, and El Tablón. Each archaeological site has guards to stamp your passport and open up the tombs (some of them are up to 7m deep and 12m wide, decorated with all sorts of funky designs).
Then, take a break while passing through San Andrés. Stock up on water and feast at La Portada, the only real restaurant in the area. In the afternoon, go check out the Alto de San Andrés and the Alto del Aguacate-the later of which is a 3-hour hike, roundtrip, but also offers some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.
Then, loop back down to Tierradentro. Treat yo’self to some cold Pokers and fall asleep to the sound of crickets chirping and hens squawking.
Needless to say, leaving was really difficult… and not just because the 6AM bus never showed up, two makeshift public transportation options were full with market day goods, and one of the bridges collapsed on the road😉