San Gil is a 300 year old town with a nice central square that has huge old ceiba trees and an 18th century cathedral
. There is a certain charm to this town and we immediately set out to explore the area. There are loads of adventure activities to do here like rafting the river that runs alongside the town and other things like caving, paragliding and abseiling. I would have to sit this one out hough as i am still in recovery mode. I am using the wheels trolley for my backpack and although a pain in the arse, it does help with carrying the weight of our gear. We wandered down to the river to look at some public art and at the Gallineral Park where the trees are covered in barbas de viejo,
the long silvery fronds of grandfathers beard that form spectacular curtains of foliage. We have seen these plants all over Colombia hanging from trees on the roadsides. There was quite alot of rain so we didnīt see the Botanical gardens in itīs full glory. We did see a truck marketing milk that was shaped as a cow.
We boarded a local bus that had a cool steering wheel and Cheech and Chong themed decorations of blue and white pom pom type fringing on the windows and around the gear stick. The bus had two gear shifting sticks and seemed fairly tanky and box-y. This bus was to take us to the charming little town of Barichara which was founded in 1705 on Guane Indian territory. Barichara proved itīs title to us, itīs named as the most beautiful small colonial town in Colombia. On the way to the town we came across a total roadblock in the niddle of nowhere
. The driver went to inspect and it turns out there had been a seriuos motorbike accident. Police and people were all over the road and the whole passage was strung up with police tape. We had no idea how long before we were on the move again so I took this opportunity to jump in the drivers seat and have a go at driving the bus.
Most of the streets in Barichara are paved with massive stone slabs and lined with fine whitewashed, single-story houses, some of which have fences where colourful orange or hot pink bouganvillea climbers grow. We wandered around soaking up the sleepy old- world atmosphere. We climbed to the top of the hill where the town ends and the green mountains begin and were rewarded with spectacular views and nice photos in all directions as the sun set. The town is very photogenic and we regretted not staying the night here to see the sun light up the white houses. The houses were interesting because they have a facade which was usually a mysterious or creatively made gate or doors that lead on into the rest of the house. The houses seemed enchanting and secretive calling you to peep inside their windows. Some of the doors were those ones that are huge as though they were designed for giants who live in the dwelling behind them but they have the human sized door cut out of the whole structure. How can we ship a set home i wonder? This was a special space on the Earth and we were glad to have stopped here
. There is a massive sandstone cathedral on the main plaza. This plaza which has some well made sandstone sculptures dotted around was filled with schoolchildren when we visited. Gangs of dogs seem to be happy here as do artists and children. A happy, storybook place to live.When we visited the little bakery on the corner, a sweet looking dog sat inside and watched us eat a milhoja which was a dulce-de-leche topped vanilla slice and a merengue with a cup of coffee then we had a tasty home-made maracuja (passionfruit) ice block on a retro stick.
This is a place where children smile and at sundown, women carry around pots of food to deliver to their neighbours.
We have stocked up on healthy snacks for the bus trips.
We did the early bus mission from Bogota to San Gil six hours away where we checked into Macondo Guesthouse owned by the very friendly Australian Shaun. We took some time to negotiate a fare for the journey and ended up on a mini van collectivo leaving straight away. These guys floored it the whole way dodging motorbikes and negotiating turns at full speed ahead whilst passengers jumped on and off. The temperature warmed up quickly as we returned to sea level. Our driver was actually very good..... for a maniac and i love the combination of good and maniac in a person. We arrived in one piece although this one goes down as competition for the Guatemala chicken bus express speedway trips in buses. On this journey, the military stopped us again for a search and Nadine being confused for a senor, got frisked with her arms outstretched onto the side of the bus. The military seems to patrol the whole road system which all seems to be tolled.