Colombia: San Gil and Barichara
San Gil is a nice town of fifty thousand. It is a great place to make a trip. Tourists like to visit the town but the town doesn't have large number of souvenir shops, nor there are large tourist crowds. It is all nice and quiet here. Only local stores and dwellers make this place busy. Simply put - nothing here feels artificial. Quite contrary, the town is quite authentic.
On our way to the town center we pass several stores selling hormigas culonas, a local delicacy which means "ants with large ass." There are large, dark brown ants which are fried or baked. Then they are ready for consumation. Only large and fat queens are prepared. The workers are too thin. They get out of the earth usually in the end of April. Then they are caught and fried. We didn't see them alive unfortunately. But the stores sell them in large quantities which results in strange smell of the ants around here.
Parque Principal it the main square lined with white buildings and Catedral de la Santa Cruz. This is it for the historical sights. We try to avoid the hustle of the city and go to the local park Gallineral Natural Park. It is more of an island surrounded by two branches of the River Curití which then streams to the River Fonce. In the park, you can see parrots, squirrels, or the plant tilandsie which grows on trees and creates silver-colored lines which are up to 30 meters long. They are tuft like and are called „barbas de viejo“ -" old man's beard".
On the next day, we make a trip to Barichara town. It is simple to get beautiful pictures there. Streets paved with stones of clay color. Carefuly renovated historical buildings are 300 hundred years old with roof tiles. Inmaculada Concepción de Barichara is situated on the main square. It was constructed in the 18th century and sandstone was used as its construction material. Santa Barbara chapel is mere four blocs from the main square. It is on higher altitude. So you get a view over rooftops over the mountains. San Antonio is another beautiful chapel. It was built in 1823. There are sandstone tombstoens at local cemetery. Stone tombs have iron crosses. There lie dozens of "patiamarillos" - yellow feet, a nick name for the local inhabitants because of the yellow color of paved streets.
Barichara is not just a small historical town. It is a great place to get a view of the Andes. It is sitauted 10 kilometers to teh northwest. You don't need to travel there by bus for there goes the nice trail Camino Real. You basically go much of the trail downhill. This makes it not particularly strenous walk. Howver, it is layed with stones in some sections which is not very pleasant for your feet. However, the vistas along the trail are beautiful even though the weather was not particularly good when we walked it.
It seems as if time stopped in Guane village. There is a nice village-style church on the square, some souvenir shops in the side streets but otherwise there is nobody in the streets. However, it is likely that weekends are busier here. So now we just wait for a bus to take us back to San Gil. Before travelling to San Gil, find out from where exactly buses depart. So you won't get stuck at some place.
We enjoyed San Gil, its architecture and vista over the Andes.
Text and photos: Tomáš Novák
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