Saturday, February 16, 2013

Barichara with a View!

We survived our overnight bus ride down from the Caribbean coast and into Colombia's hilly state of Santander. According to J, who didn't sleep most of the trip, our bus hit two things in the dark of the night. One sounded like a bicycle and the other remains a mystery. We didn't stop either time. We caught another bus headed a few more hours south to Colombia's 'adventure' capital- 'San Gil' and then yet another minibus 45 min up into the hills to our final destination- the charmingly little colonial village of Barichara.

Barichara is like a movie set. And apparently, because it is so gorgeous, lots of Spanish language films are shot here. Not only is the old colonial architecture stunning, but the town's location amongst rolling hills that rise around the town on three side and a canyon and even more dramatic mountains on the forth side add to it's allure. Since the village was declared a national monument in 1978 the town has made significant efforts to reconstruct and preserve it's wide cobblestone streets, red roofs, white washed facades and colourful wooden windows. In fact, right now probably half of the cobblestone streets are torn up and in various stages of repair. Most of the townsmen appear to be working on this project- and it is a lot of physical work. A backhoe is used to rip up the existing stones. They do whatever it is they are doing to the base layer and then a dump truck delivers a new batch of stones that tumble onto the street breaking into shapes. Stones are huge. Sandstone coloured they range from 2-4 feet long and 2-3 feet wide. They are probably half a foot thick. The stones are moved by dolly and hand placed- with considerable effort onto the street, piecing together the shapes like a puzzle. Like tiling, the seams are filled with gravel and then concrete. You can walk right through the construction sight and on the stones, regardless of what stage the road is in. It's the thing to do. Just keep your eye peeled for back hoe's arm- if you get smoked -its your own fault.

The most popular adventure in Barichara is walking 'El Camino Real' to the tiny hamlet of Guane. The 'El Camino Real' is an ancient stone studded road "built by the indigenous Guane people and rebuilt continuously over the centuries. It was declared a national monument in 1988," our LP tells
Street in Barichara
us. Its a two hour hike over the rim of the canyon at the town's edge and down through the valley on a tree lined path. Along the way are cacti, goats, cows and the cowboy-esque owners of said goats and cows and sweeping views of the canyon and surrounding hills.  It's a really beautiful hike that is, at times, slightly reminiscent of hiking through the olive groves in Italy or Greece. Guane is tiny and

cute and has much of the same colonial look as Barichara. It's known for it's goatcheese and every shop is that of an 'artesean.' We decide on an icecream instead and catch the noon bus that winds its way back up the canyon to Barichara.

Barichara's best known food specialty is a little more adventurous than Guane's goat cheese- Barichara is famous for 'homigas culonas' -aka- fat bottom ants. The town loves ants. One house has and entire wrought iron door twisted into the image of multiple ants. Huge ant shaped metal decorations hang on white-washed walls. Again, according to our guide book, 'The tradition dates back more than 500 years when indigenous Guane people cultivated and devoured ants for their supposed aphrodisiac and healing properties. The giant dark brown coloured ants are fried or roasted and eaten whole, or ground into a powder.' Unfortunately- they aren't in season until Spring. Darn.

It's hot here and so we've taken like the locals and started practicing the fine art of the siesta! We get up and out early for hiking or sightseeing, eat lunch at one of the many places offering the affordable set lunch deals and then are back on our shaded balcony by 2pm, taking a respite from the day's most intense heat. Somehow it makes the days fly by even faster, having this bit of planned bit of relaxation.

Our favourite time in town is late afternoon. Every day at 4pm a few clouds mercifully climb over the surrounding hills, just high enough to cover the sun. The temperature drops to a more comfortable one, the breeze picks up and we head out for a stroll through the atmospheric streets. Just before the
Ol' Jon's Beard Tree

sun drops behind the hills, it fights its way through the clouds, and in a monumental last effort- throws it's last little bit of light out onto the town. In the day's fading sun rays, the massive sandstone cathedral in square get the spotlight, glowing a spectacular burnt orange like its on fire and the golden light illuminates the colourful wooden windows against the stark white of the building's outside walls. The effect doesn't last long- but for the moment it does- it's pure magic.

Where we stayed in Barichara: Tinto Hostel- 50,000 COP for a private room, private bathroom (but not ensuite) and balcony. Owner Javier was super friendly and helpful!

ps. Happy Birthday Tams!

1 comment:

Nelson Mcglaughlin @ Royal Roofing and Siding said...

The houses in Barichara need some touch of restoration indeed. The house structures look old, especially with the roofing system. It will be great to see them back in their glory days. Though if ever they decide to make some repairs, I hope that they will still use the same kind of materials. I mean for culture’s sake. Barichara won't be the same again without those red roofs, I'm telling you. ;)