10th April to 12th April 2014
10.04.2014 - 12.04.2014
In the morning we caught an early taxi to the bus station in Bogotá to catch our bus to an old colonial town called San Gil 8 hours north of the capital. At the bus station there were loads of different companies vying for business, so we were able to get a bit of a discount on the bus even though the journey was still pretty much the same as UK prices. However, the bus was great with really comfy seats, loads of leg room and even free wifi – it beat the ones back at home. And the drivers were reasonably sane; at least when compared to the drivers in Southeast Asia! We arrived into San Gil at around 4pm after going through some stunning mountain scenery, some of which looked a bit like Dartmoor only with mountains and not hills! San Gil itself is known as the adventure capital of Colombia with loads of white water rafting (which we might do in Ecuador) and paragliding. However, we were there partly as a pit stop for our journey north but also to see the famous nearby colonial town of Barichara. Straight away from getting off the bus we could tell the temperature difference – it was a lot warmer here than in Bogotá, given that it’s 1000m lower so it was back into shorts and t-shirts. After settling into our pretty cheap but comfortable room, we headed off to find some dinner only to realise that all the places that do set menus were shut (they tend to open for lunch until around 4 or 5). All that was left was really expensive food in a couple of restaurants or gringo (tourist) food, so we opted for the latter and had a burger and quesadillas – it was nice though. Then like the locals do, we chilled out in the picturesque town square having a couple of beers and engaging in a little bit of people watching.
The next day we headed off early to get a local minibus service to the town of Barichara. The journey went through windy roads with lovely views of the surrounding mountains and passed typical Colombian houses surrounded by cacti and old men in cowboy hats! Eventually we reached the town of Barichara and we were stunned by it. Many Spanish-speaking movies and shows are filmed here because of the stunning colonial architecture. The entire town (which is pretty small) has preserved colonial buildings from the 1700s – there was not a single modern building in sight, it really was like stepping onto a film set. Apart from motor vehicles such as tuktuks and some of the shops, it felt like we were transported back in time – it was really quite special. We spent a while walking around the cobbled streets, parks, plazas and churches taking in the incredible atmosphere. After a while we chilled out at a little café that was perched on the edge of the cliff with incredible views over the valley. After a lovely lunch in one of the traditional restaurants set in lovely houses with open courtyards in the middle, we started a trek to the nearby village of Guane.
This village is named after the indigenous group that used to live in the area and who were mostly wiped out by the Spanish. The people of the area are proud that they still have indigenous blood in them and continue some of their traditional craft techniques. The walk was along an old cobbled path that headed through the valley and some very arid scenery full of cacti and leafless trees with load of beautiful birds. This meant that it was seething hot the entire time and we were a sweaty mess by the time we arrived in the village. Guane itself was a tiny village which was again made up entirely of old colonial houses and looked even more rustic than Barichara. We were met by some friendly old chap who tried to sell us his products. When we arrived in the village square there were loads of old boys sat around in cowboy hats staring at us – it was like in the movies! We waited for a while and then caught the bus back to Barichara and then back to San Gil where we chilled out in the evening and had another beer session in the square. The next morning, Matt headed off to the station to book our night bus for the evening to Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast. As we had a few hours to kill we headed off to the local park, which was beautiful and really relaxing. It was full of strange trees with a hanging moss-like plant on them that the locals call barba del viejo (old man’s beard) and lovely rivers throughout the place. There were also loads of beautiful birds flying around including some stunning hummingbirds which can only be found in the Americas. After the park we went on a sweaty walk up the main road to a local natural pool. It was a bit of a mission to get there, but well worth it once we had as it was really nice to refresh in the mini waterfall and the natural pool. Then we went back into town for some lunch before heading off to the station for our night bus to Santa Marta where we’ll laze on the beach for a couple of days before embarking on the legendary 5day trek through the jungle to the lost city – can’t wait!!!