On the 18th of August I went to Barichara: a cute little town about 45 minutes away from San Gil. Made plans the day before to meet Casey and a girl from her hostel, Leslie, at the steps of the church at 7.30. At 7.20, knowing that it would take me about 10 mins to walk there, I decided to eat some fruit for breakfast – otherwise I’d be on time, aka Colombian ‘early’. And what do you know, we all got there at 7.40! Perfect timing! And once again, steps of the church is the fail-safe way to find someone.
Luckily Casey knew where to go to get the local buses; the entrance to the bus terminal was seriously just a small gap in a brick wall. I would not have even seen it had I not walked through it! No sign, nothing. Of course once you’re in there, there’s buses lined up one wall all with town names signed about where they parked.
The point of us going to Barichara is that there is this nice, and apparently mostly downhill, walk from that town to another town, Guane. The walk is called Camino Real and was made by a German guy. Why that’s important, I don’t know, that’s just what everyone keeps saying about it.
Before we headed off on the walk, Casey was determined to try the local delicacy: Fried big bum ants. I’m not the kind of person who’s adventurous with food so I politely declined a taste. Apparently they’re slightly salty and it’s the texture that gets you. Though I found out later that you’re meant to bite the bums off and eat that part only; Casey and Leslie ate the whole ant. I don’t think the feeling of having a bugs leg stuck in your teeth is all that appetising, but hey, that might just be me.
As you can imagine, if the walk is mostly downhill, then we must have started quite high up. Near the start of the path we came across a super beautiful lookout. The mountains in Colombia are just so amazing; they all look breathtaking. It was quite a warm day so I had opted to wear my new saltwater sandals for the first time. A 2 hour walk in the hot sun is probably not the best time to wear brand new shoes….but I survived with only one blister. Small wins.
There were signs and directions along the way but because they were old and super faded they were barely readable so we were never really sure if we were headed in the right direction. Just under 2 hours later we did make it to Guane. It’s a very small little town so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when we ran into the guys from yesterday’s paragliding group at the restaurant we stopped at for juice – the blueberry-type fruit juice I had was delicious. The town itself is small but nice. The cobblestone paths are more level; unlike Villa de Leyva where you could twist your ankle if you didn’t watch where you were walking.
Unusually, I had run out of water during our walk. Instead of buying a whole new bottle of water I decided to try buying the packets of water and use them to refill my bottle. I bought 2 packets of water from the store and found that, interestingly, they were different sized. Either i was getting an extra 15 ml or getting ripped off by that same amount. why would you just be consistent with what you sell??
On the way back we decided to stop off at Barichara again to take a better look around. I was told that it’s the most beautiful city in Colombia. I think it was meant to be a positive statement but all I could think of was that any place I went to from now on wouldn’t be as nice as this: it’d all be downhill from here. Apparently that’s too glass-half-empty thinking for some people.
Turns out today was a public holiday so not much was open for dinner when I was walking back to my hostel. The day I arrived in Colombia was also a holiday and I still hear people complain they don’t have enough days off!
That night I took a 12 hour bus ride to Santa Marta, on the Caribbean Coast. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected – actually had leg room! The seats reclined so far, you were basically lying on the person sitting behind you! I couldn’t bring myself to put my seat back that far but still managed to get a decent nights’ sleep. The person who had the pleasure of sitting beside me for those 12 hours was a Colombian guy from Santa Marta. When he first sat down I thought he was about 16, partly cos he had braces and was unnaturally smiley…he’s actually 22. People here, on average, look younger I think. That’s my opinion so far about the locals. And that everyone’s super friendly. We had a lovely conversation in broken Spanish/English until I got tired and ended it but putting an eye mask on.