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Cloud forest and lost civilizations
Written by sophie et jeremy   
Friday, 15 March 2019

Once the border between Ecuador and Colombia crossed (after some time due to the flow of migrants from Venezuela), we continue our way on the Panamerica road towards the North.

san agustin 2 san agustin 2

We are still at a rather high altitude but the weather is nicer and we can admire beautiful landscapes. At the bottom of a spectacular canyon lies the surprising sanctuary Virgen de las Lajas built like a bridge over the Rio Gaitara. There are a lot of people visiting or selling cheap souvenirs and the gothic style is a bit heavy looking but the place is impressive.

lajas lajas

A quick stop in hot thermal pools, so smelly that we doubt we leave them cleaner than we were before, and we continue eastwards. After the steppes of the paramo, a bit different of the Ecuadorian one, we go across a cloud forest: tall trees covered with moss and ferns, shrouded in fog, and at the background some snowcapped mountains.

paramo paramo valle de san francisco 1 valle de san francisco 1

Then we go down on the trempolin de la muerte, the colombian equivalent of the bolivian death road. We finally arrive in the Cauca valley, at about 2000 meters high. There we can see tropical plants and some kind of jungle at such an high altitude!

valle de san francisco 2 valle de san francisco 2 valle de san francisco 3 valle de san francisco 3

trempolin 1 trempolin 1 trempolin 2 trempolin 2

trempolin 3 trempolin 3

Here, in San Agustin, is the biggest archaeological site of the country. Some 4000 to 1000 years ago, one or several civilizations had sculpted hundreds of statues, found buried inside tombs. We spend 3 days there, walking the numerous sites, enjoying a cozy hostel and nearby hot springs.

san agustin 1 san agustin 1 san agustin 3 san agustin 3

salinas 1 salinas 1 salinas 2 salinas 2

Not so far (on a straight line,but it took us 2 driving days...) we discover the second archaeological site of Colombia : Tierradentro. Here, another pre-Incan civilization carved hundreds of mortuary chambers into the mountains, some of them sculpted and painted. The landscape is gorgeous and the place not easily accessible as most of the sites are reached only by foot, so we walked 14 kilometers in the day and climbed 1000 meters.

Tierradentro 1 Tierradentro 1 Tierradentro 2 Tierradentro 2

Tierradentro 3 Tierradentro 3 Tierradentro 4 Tierradentro 4

Tierradentro 5 Tierradentro 5 Tierradentro 6 Tierradentro 6

 

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