Snaking over the top of ridges and down the side of tall mountains the road took us from Bacaramanga to Chicamocha Canyon then on to San Gil on our first day of travel. A 6.5km cable car crossed the canyon showing us the depth and beauty of what is claimed to be the second biggest canyon in the world.
Unlike the other tourists, we weren’t Colombian and we attracted more than our share of attention that almost become equal to celebrity status with requests for accompanying them in photos and welcomes to their country. Sandra, our new Colombian friend struck up a conversation in the line up for the cable car in a hope to practice her English and make new friends. She assured us that we would we welcome at her place if we were to return to Bacaramanga and gave us her email address in case we needed any help whilst travelling in her country. We were over whelmed by her thoughtful and generous offer.
Having survived the windy, pox ridden road thanks to the overtaking, (illegal), skills of the bus drivers, we arrived in San Gil, the extreme sport capital of Colombia that afternoon. Nestled in a valley and surrounded by colonial villages, San Gil offers extreme sports at extremely low prices. Dramatic mountains, caves and raging rivers provide unique mediums for the participants. The first person we meet in the hostel was an Irish girl covered in bruises and stitches on her face. When we inquired about which of the sports she had partaken in, planning on avoiding that one, she replied that she had fallen over on the street but had been well taken care of. Poor love.
As Thomas was sporting a bit of an upset belly, we opted to hike between two of the small colonial villages in the extreme heat rather than be caught out in a claustrophobic cave or raging rapids. A long the way a farmer advertised cold drinks so we wandered into the farmyard through make shift gates. We were greeted by a smiling elderly lady who was gesturing to us to sit down. An array of home crafts were neatly displayed on the
front porch and a shy toddler hid behind her skirts. She chatted away to us in Spanish and after refreshment showed us the way through her humble home to the backyard. After a short climb Thomas and I were treated to spectacular views of the valley and river below. On our return back to the house we were presented with a cup full of freshly picked fruit and shown how to open and then suck out the contents. We purchased some placemats and upon my refusal for the small amount of change, she quickly found a small purse to give me as a gift. She was super grateful for our visit and posed for photographs before reluctantly letting us return to our hike. It’s moments like these that make wonderful memories that make up an overall image of a country.
The colonial villages were beautiful in their simplicity and completeness. The second, Guana, was paved with cobble stones riddled with fossils from an age before time. Evidence of a once flourishing sea bed was abundant in these high mountains. The first village, Barichara, wore the title of the most beautiful and authentic colonial village in all of Colombia. Both villages had a feel of being forgotten in time.