Cartagena to San Gil, Colombia
Apr 30, 2014
|Monday 28th April 2014
Cartagena to Agua Chica, Colombia
Packed up from Cartagena this morning and left after breakfast at around 7:30am, heading south. Once we were out of the city, there was lots of delays due to roadworks. We travelled through the countryside, mainly across one of the major river valleys in Colombia where people had farmed for many thousands of years. The ancients had worked out how to “tame” the rivers when the floods came each year by digging side channels in a featherlike pattern, for the water to run off into and subsequently water the crops. When the floods went down, the remaining silt was removed to higher land and used as fertiliser. Modern people have not done this and consequently lose a lot to flooding each year. We finally reached Agua Chica where we were to bush camp, but we actually stayed in the (concrete) grounds of a hotel and put our tent up in the car park. As we entered the town there was a big military presence including riot police complete with shields. We never actually found out what the issue was but obviously some civil unrest was occurring. It was hot all day and when we finally went to bed around 11:00pm it was still 32°C and very sticky. Quite a few of our group had upgraded to rooms in the hotel (for US$65), but we camped.
Tuesday 29th April 2014
Agua Chica to San Gil, Colombia
We left around 8:30am today and travelled through greener countryside than yesterday and started to climb into the mountains. It was very hot, probably around 36°C and the road was very windy as it climbed. We stopped for 20 minutes in a small town for a drink and toilet break. There was a small shop immediately near where we stopped and so Lynn walked over to enquire where the public toilets were, and was immediately ushered behind the counter to use their own toilet -so kind. We bought a drink from them and ‘chatted’ to them until it was time to go. It is always amazing how much information can be exchanged despite language problems. After lunch, in the afternoon we travelled through Chicamocha Canyon, an amazing landscape with a large river at the bottom and steep sides with the road perched directly above sheer drops of over 1,000 metres. It was very spectacular scenery and different to the flat lands we had seen previously in Colombia. We reached San Gil and our hotel at around 5:00pm. San Gil is set on both sides of a very wild river and is steep and hilly. After we had a couple of drinks, we went out to dinner at a steak restaurant. While we were there, it rained heavily and was still raining as we walked back to the hotel and we had to paddle across the roads – luckily all in our ‘going out’ shoes, aka thongs.
Wednesday 30th April 2014
San Gil and Barichara, Colombia
Today we woke up very early (around 6:00am) due to busy traffic on the street going past our window. Had breakfast around 8:00am when the breakfast terrace opened and most of the group decided that they were going to visit Barichara, a historic well preserved Spanish colonial town about 45 minutes by bus from San Gil. The weather was fine and mild today. We went and bought our tickets for the bus at the bus station just one block from our hostel and travelled out to this beautiful town, founded by the Spanish in 1705. When we got off the bus, it was very quiet as there was very little traffic. We walked around the square which had a leafy garden in the middle and lots of benches on which to rest a while. The cathedral was in one of the corners so we visited that first. It had stone arches and a very high roof and wasn’t especially ornate, especially compared to most cathedrals and churches. We then walked up the road next to the cathedral towards a lookout high above the town. The streets were narrow and cobbled, the houses all very Spanish in appearance with whitewashed walls, tiled roofs, and courtyards in the centres. When we came to the top of the hill we met a group of about 30 high school children from Bucaramanga on an outing. They were interested in saying hello to us and we managed to tell them in our pitiful Spanish that we were from Australia which amazed them so much that they screamed excitedly. We don’t believe we have ever had such a response before! We spent a couple of hours wandering around this beautiful little town which has been declared a National Monument. We enjoyed a very ‘healthy’ lunch which comprised a chicken empanada, a cake, a wonderful cappuccino (first for months) and finally an ice cream. Delicious… We caught the bus back to San Gil and spent some time resting in the hotel.