Southern Colombia: Parque Arqueológico De San Agustin

Full disclosure: Mocoa isn’t really southern Colombia. If you have yourself a look at a map of the country, you’ll see that about half of Colombia, including the southeastern-most swath, is the vast roadless wilderness inhabited by the Amazon Jungle. My apologies, dear readers, I’m feeling a bit lazy this morning so the title will stay, despite perhaps not being entirely geographically accurate.  Regardless of its placement, Mocoa is down near the border with Ecuador in a remote part of the country that feels decidedly jungle-ish. 

 

The liquid calls of the oropendula echos through our campsite. We spend the morning sipping coffee and watching the birds fly into their hanging nests, admiring their feats of home engineering. The rivers are brown and full; it rains (a lot!) and the air feel thick. It is miles (and worlds) away from the sleek towers and cosmopolitan airs of Medellin and Cartagena. 

This particular campsite has a unique feature: a bathroom in the middle of duck pond! Frankly, the whole thing leaves the adults slightly perplexed and the kids thrilled with the novelty. I was relieved to see that there was wastewater plumbing in place; it didn’t drain directly into the pool below. The ducks seemed a bit blasé about the whole arrangement so I guess we can’t complain.

We suffered a tragedy when a water bottle tipped over and drenched Ben’s daily journal. He has worked so diligently on this masterpiece throughout the year as part of his homeschooling curriculum. I cried. And then we spent two days drying papers over the truck heater vents and now the whole thing has that slightly dreamy water color wash.

We laugh at this one: “Today I took surfing lessons with my dad (editor’s note: his first lesson ever). I am a real surfer dude”. 

We spent a few days visiting the town of St. Agustin, specifically the national park of the same name that encompasses one of Latin America’s largest collections of funerary statues. Most of the site, including other areas throughout the valley, remains unexcavated although many are believed to be burial mounds. Construction occurred over a thousand years ago and appears to have been abandoned by 1325 AD. Stories of farmers digging up statues while plowing their fields were not uncommon prior to park creation in the 1930s.

Not surprisingly, our children weren’t entirely captivated by the statues; they were, however, completely gaga over this squirming mass of caterpillars. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think the other sites within the valley might be a bit more captivating to travelers; the small bit we saw was interesting but not fascinating. We probably would have gotten much more had we hired an english-speaking guide but the kids were acting like lunatic bunnies on a sugar high so we opted for a quick walk around the park before bailing at lunch.  

 

This owl butterfly was blending in perfectly on the path, Ben’s sharp eye saved it from being crushed by an ambling Chris. 

 

The reason for the sugar high, of course, was that we celebrated Halloween during our time in St. Agustin.

May I present: The world’s fiercest ninja, complete with battle ax. Personally, I’d just like to say that long underwear and yoga pants have never made a more fantastic ninja.

 

And our little princess Emma. 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortunately our hotel came with a front door that faced a large yard. Chris opened the door to our little trick or treaters, gave them a piece of candy, and then had them do a lap around the yard before coming back to knock again. Worked like a charm. 

And that, friends, was the end of our Colombian adventures. From there it was on to Mocoa for a night before crossing the border into Ecuador.

Many people elect to drive to Pasto (west) from Mocoa along a road affectionately known as the Trampoline of Death. Despite this very friendly-sounding moniker we elected to head south – we had a date with the Amazon Jungle!

 

 


Recommendations 

Campsites

Campground Vaguara, just outside of Mocoa, was home of the aforementioned duck pond potty, a nice field with oropendula-filled trees, and a sweet little puppy. We didn’t get a chance to try their famous pizza or the outdoor pool – next time.

Activities

This is a luke-warm endorsement of Parque Nacional St. Agustin. This is one of those places where we didn’t have a fabulous time, but mostly because we missed a lot and because of our nano-second-attention-span offspring.

 

 

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