December 11, 2011
I got up and got my bicycle on the road by 7:30am, a bit later than I wanted but I had a total of about 2 hours sleep.
It was a tough grueling climb up from Timana to Pitalito, I was thankful for the short distance today. Along the way I found a 1,000 peso bill on the road. Two days ago while cycling into Timana I found a 200 peso coin on the road.
There was a lot of beautiful scenery with many shades of green but predominately it is usually a brilliant yellow green color.
Pitalito a big city filled with life.
While in Timana I looked on the internet for a hotel that has wifi service and found out there were two of them. I wrote down both hotels with addresses so I could find them easily. When I was cycling through the town I would stop and ask about the hotels and I figured whichever one I was sent to would be the one I was meant to be at. After stopping and asking several of the small vendors, I was led to the Hotel Ullumbe. It was still early in the day and my plan was to stay here instead of San Agustin because going to San Agustin meant going out of my way and back to Pitalito again. The woman inside who owns the hotel was very kind as I did my best Spanish phrases to get a room and a place for my bicycle. She had me bring my bicycle into their garage where it will be secure and led me to my room. A very large and beautiful hotel, the nicest one yet that I've stayed at in Colombia. Lots of beautiful paintings on the wall, beautiful plants and flowers in the very wide hallways, which all lead to a couple of open courtyard areas.
There is a website for Hotel Ullumbe
After getting my stuff in the room I went back to the front desk to inquire about getting to San Agustin today. When she realized I wanted to go to San Agustin she arranged everything for me and made sure I paid to appropriate amount for the taxi to the terminal so I was not overcharged. The problem was the other driver that drove me from the terminal ended up charging me double to get to San Agustin. I found out later it should have been 5000 pesos and he charged me 10,000 pesos.
Apparently not everyone is totally honest and will take advantage of a tourist who does not know the language or what is "normal".
I walked around the park and really was impressed by the large number of statues. There were all sizes from small ones just a couple feet high, to some that may have been as tall as 8 feet. I liked the way they were carved and some of the expressions. It seemed as though there was a statue that represented many aspects of human life. Most of them are available to walk up to and touch them. I put my little statue on several and got a photo of him with them. The style of my statue was very similar to the style of these statues. On one of the statues that most resembled the small one I have, I put him on it and placed a drop of the sacred water on the statue. I felt like this place had a very unique energy, some areas were in the forest while the very top of the mountain was a very large open space with a wind that blew across it. It felt as though the wind was blowing through me and cleansing me on the top of the mountain.
Today a sculpture had arrived back to the park that was stolen 23 years ago. It was recovered from an auction in Denmark and they were very excited today that it was back in its home.
As I was exiting the park a park official was trying to tell me to go see the presentation at the museum. I had already walked through the museum before I went into the park and I did not know any Spanish so anything they said would be lost on me. I told him I needed a taxi back to Pitalito. He understood what I needed but I could not understand what he was trying to say. It appeared what he was trying to tell me was that I needed to go into the town of San Agustin to find a taxi to Pitalito, the town is about 5 miles away. After a few minutes a man drove up on his motorcycle who the park official knew, the park official spoke to him and he said he could give me a ride. In this area of the park, right at the gate entrance to the main section, there are several people who speak decent English and are all self ascribed "guides". They do not work for the park and are independent. One of them started talking to me about places to visit in Mocoa and Pasto and gave me the name of an indigenous shaman to meet in Pasto. He also told me to try a drink made from an indigenous plant used in the shamanic rituals. The village is located between Mocoa and Pasto in the state of Putomayo and is called San Francisco, it appears that San Francisco is a popular name in South America, or at least Colombia. Anyway, I have the contact information for the shaman and the name of the plant is Yage. It is said that: "Those who ingest yage tea, prepared with secondary plants to enhance the effects, say they are transported through fields of light on epic journeys to grand cities past and future. Many under its influence feel they are witnessing the origins of humankind and compare the plant to an umbilical cord linking human beings to their primordial beginnings." I do not think I'm ready for that kind of "epic" journey just yet. I think it would be great to meet an indigenous shaman and have a conversation but I will not be drinking any of that tea.
After some time talking to the guides, I also decided to engage the police officers. I have heard many things about corruption in Colombian police and military before coming here that I avoided any contact. This time I decided to just say "what the hell" and talk to them and have them pose for a photo with me. One thing about Colombians, they all tend to really like getting photos taken. Next thing I knew I was riding along on the back of a motorcycle with Ernesto and Rico, a police officer, riding his motorcycle behind us to go have a drink. So here I am sitting on the back of a motorcycle having no idea what will happen or how the rest of the day will unfold, I am just going with it.
We sat in a small pub, Ernesto and I had a beer but Rico was on duty so he had a soda. We sat there for a couple of hours in conversation while listening to the Rolling Stones album "Forty Licks" being played. Soon Rico's sister and cousin stopped by and joined us for a short time. After the drinks were done it was time for music lessons, they wanted me to come along to hear some of the traditional music being played. I did not know what to expect but sounded like it was going to be fun. I love listening to music, I just can't play anything.
The instructor was very good and enthusiastic, he would hand out an instrument and tell the student how to play it and what the beat was for the music about to be played. Next thing I know I am being handed a clave to play. He showed me what beat to play and told me this is a very important instrument, it is in all Latin music. I have several videos of the music, someday I will get them uploaded.
It was a lot of fun, I even heard a song by Emmylou Harris! Well actually I'm sure Emmylou was covering this song, it is a tune I was familiar with from the album "Stumble Into Grace" called "Little Bird". After about 2 hours of mostly listening to the music it was getting late and I needed to get back. Ernesto took me to where a taxi was and I was on my way back to the hotel in Pitalito.
it was fun sitting in these lessons to learn how to play traditional songs. this is the first time for many here playing the songs this day. Everyone was given an instrument to play and shown briefly what to do and given a specific beat to play then the songs would start. This was something like the 3rd take for this song. As I sat there I could not help but recognize the sound from an Emmylou song "Little Bird", I do not know this song they were playing here but I believe all the music consisted of old folk/traditional songs from South America. I assume Emmylou got her sound for little bird from this song.
When I got back to the hotel, I asked about "eat", I was hungry all I had today was a peanut and chocolate bar for breakfast, and the coffee and cake for lunch. It was hopeless for the hotel owner to give me directions so she just asked what looked like her father to take me there. So I followed him 1block down and then 2 and a half blocks along another street. I kept looking behind me to see what the way will look like as I walked back alone. I learned this trick before I went hiking in the Denali wilderness. It is important to see the view from the other direction if you plan on coming back the same way. He was a very kind man and helped me get my food ordered and then went on his way back to the hotel.
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