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.
First things first: fix up yesterday’s lack of food issue. Found the fresh produce market and went about buying a bunch of fruit, pastries and empanadas. I’m really loving the meat empanadas, chicken pastries and white dragon fruit! Also found something that looks like a custard apple, but isn’t. About a day later, while trying to buy ice cream, I found out that the fruit that looks like custard apple is actually Guanabana (the smoothie I had back in Bogota). And to say it properly, think of it in the banana boat sunscreen song. So from now on, if a freak storm hits and I can’t get anywhere, I will no longer be sad and food-less, I will be able to pig out while the storm passes.
Actually that wasn’t first: before heading out I asked the reception if I could go white water rafting today. I knew that the guys from yesterday were doing a tour at 10.30 so I was hoping to go on their tour. But in typical Colombian style, I was told she couldn’t confirm until later, maybe in 30 mins. That was at 9.30. So fine, I did a quick trip to the market.
Ok, I know it’s been a while since I posted anything but I think how much I do each day is inversely related to how much time/effort I put into blogging. San Gil is known as an adventure sports town and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing 🙂
This morning (August 16th) I only had my own company to keep, as Giulia isn’t staying here long. So didn’t do much in the morning, just bummed around the city centre and got myself orientated. The street my hostel is on is literally on a 45 degree angle up. Every time I walk back it’s a workout! And they have a system that you have to buzz to enter and the owners always answer. Each time they open the door they are greeted by me: huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf wanting to get let in!
Learnings & Observations:
– Regardless of what anyone says, consult a map before boarding a bus
– Don’t believe what anyone at the bus terminal tells you
– Buses will stop for no apparent reason and no one will tell you why or for how long
This time I though I was more prepared to move between cities: I had booked my accommodation for San Gill the night before leaving so surely nothing could go wrong!
The guys at the bus terminal said to get from Villa de Leyva to San Gill we had to change buses. We could do that at one of 2 towns, which going by his hand gestures, were both on the way to where we wanted to go. Originally I had thought we needed to back track slightly to get back on the main road but this wasn’t one of the options they presented us. So we went via Chiquinquira. Supposedly we would only have to wait there for 20 mins until the next bus; we waited over an hour (partly due to a delay).
In the hour, we finally had the sense to consult the map in the lonely planet. Hahaha, turns out we had just travelled sideways an hour and now the next leg of the bus ride would take even longer than it would have had we just gone back to the major town we were planning to. Oops.
Since we were paying more for the bus it was obviously a nicer bus – for the first time I could actually fit my legs in properly! Little wins. The only confusing thing was when the bus stopped for about 40 mins for no apparent reason and with no warning. I think it may have been a lunch stop for the driver, or an insanely long bathroom break.
All in all, a trip that was meant to take 3-4hrs, took us 7 hours and cost twice as much as the previous 3-4hr trip we had taken. Well, there goes my Friday.
When the sign behind the reception desk says breakfast is from 7am until 11am, you would think that at 7.20 I would be able to get something to eat. No. The problem is hostels where the occupants generally are not people that get up early is that the breakfast time seems to move back to suit them. At least I managed to find a banana.
I had agreed to meet Guilia at the fountain in the centre of the town’s main square at 10. Unfortunately, when I got there I found that the council had already started blocking off access to the square for the kite festival that starts tomorrow. So where’s the next most logically place to meet someone where they will be able to find you without getting to communicate the change with them? The steps of the church.
This morning (Wed 13th) I woke up and decided I’d had enough of Bogota. There’s just so many people around all the time and the pollution is terrible. I think that if I died and my lungs were cut open, the surgeons would think I was a pack a day smoker.
I had been planning on going to Suesca but on reading my Lonely Planet again I realised its not a touristy place; more of a day trip for locals to go rock climbing on weekends. There weren’t even any hostels there to book. New plan: follow Guilia to Villa De Leyva.
Over breakfast I had a look for a place to stay. Being my luck, everywhere on hostel world was full. Everywhere. Then started Googling the town to find accommodation. Turns out, the name of the town is sometimes spelt with an ‘I’ instead of a ‘Y’. Why does it have to be so confusing?? Since I wasn’t 100% certain and didn’t want to accidentally book a place that might be in Argentina, it took a bit of extra time to look at maps for each place. Finally I found something on hotelbookers.com. I don’t know why it wasn’t on hostelworld but after all that researching I had to hurry up and pack. One day I’ll get this ‘planning ahead’ thing right.
Wow, it’s so easy to fall behind on this blogging thing.
Ok, so on this day, Tuesday 12th August, my main activity for the day was to visit a few of the museums in the old town. Again, it was going to be a day alone since no one at my hostel wanted to join me L
The first interesting thing to happen was that on my way to the TransMilenio (TM) station I was stopped by a guy rambling on in Spanish. Even after he switched to English I wasn’t sure what he was going on about so I walked off. Of course a few seconds later it clicked; he was walking around with a TV crew trying to get people off the street to say a few words about the upcoming music festival this week end. OMG I could have been on Colombian TV! Chance wasted.
Today is Monday. Many museums are not open on Monday so I decided to go to a nearby town to visit their famous Salt Cathedral. Unfortunately, since moving hostels, I wasn’t able to find any new friends to join me on my adventure. Was a little nervous at first given that it’d be my first day alone and it’d mean that I’d be forced to speak Spanish to get around, but since I’m now writing about it, safe to say I survived 🙂 One of the things about being alone is that you can appreciate what you see more, but at the same time, I had no one to share my thoughts with so now I get to pour them out into my blog:
I feel like Jordin Sparks’ song ‘No Air’ song was written with bike riding in Colombia in mind…or at least that one line of the chorus was. “Tell me how I’m supposed to breathe with no air… no air, air”
This morning I woke up and realized I needed accommodation for tonight because I hadn’t planned far enough in advance to know if I’d still be in the same place by now. Unfortunately, the hostel is full tonight so I’ve had to pack up all my stuff (amazingly I got it all to fit back in the backpack and yes, it now feels heavier for no apparent reason since I’ve managed to hold off on shopping so far) and had to hike a few streets away to the closest hostel that had a bed. Its not as nice here – I hate when you can’t even sit up in the lower bunk because the upper bunk is too low.
Yesterday, for the first time since arriving, I felt the effects of altitude sickness. It’s not fun.
Since learning that Bogota doesn’t have seasons because the weather is always the same, I expected that all days would have reasonable weather. But yesterday, I looked at the weather forecast and found that the next 7 days expected rain. Not ideal weather for climbing the local mountain, but I decided to go anyways – weekends are the safest as there are more people and less chance of being robbed.