Columbia, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands 2019 travel blog

The start of the Camino Real from Barichara to Guane

The indiginous Camino

The Guane church

Inside the church

Tobacco seedlings

Sr. Nelson and tobacco plants

Stringing the plants to hang.


Today was a busy day! And lots of fun, too. We met Muriel at 8.30a. Gord and she left to walk up through town to Barichara's Camino Real (to Guane). Rodrigo picked me up 25 min. later and took me to El Paraiso where I joined Gord & Muriel to walk the last 2/3 of the route up, down, up and down along the old indiginous path to arrive at Guane 3 hours later. The path has been paved with 'carved' blocks of rock that are hard to walk on as the surface is uneven. It is bordered by a rock wall that is being continually repaired. This path was used by the Guane to travel between villages to trade their finely woven cotton for things they needed. Trees and small farms line the path. We saw several small rustic papaya farms, acacia trees including the Flamboyant tree, dragonfruit cacti wound through trees and others. A large mud wasps' nest clung to a Bones tree. Cicadas seranaded us as we walked. It was overcast and a cool breeze blew. Markers along the route let us know how far we had to go.

Once there we went to the central square for peanuts and water. The store comprised a small section of groceries mainly water, pops, toilet paper, snacks and a public banio.

Next the museum called to us. It was started in the '70's by a vicar who is commemorated by a statue in the square. Inside there aremany fossils such as ammonites, seahorses, several plessiasaurus and other sea creatures. This area was under a sea 120 million years ago.

The next area houses artifacts from what is known of the Guane peoples. Within 50 years of the Spanish's arrival, they were extinct....mainly massacred like the Mosca.

The third room houses religious articles.

From here we went to see the church. It is large for 900 people.

As we were expected at Sr. Nelson's tobacco farm we met Rodrigo and headed back through town toward St Gil. We stopped to take a pic of the giant ant at the entrance to Barichara. As we entered St. Gil we turned off to drive past an almost dry duggout, several houses, tobacco drying sheds and finally Nelson's Tobacco Farm...Mirabell. first we had lunch and talked about tobacco. Mr. Nelson sells to Phillip Morris....right at the farm. He also grows coffee in an acacia shaded area of his 36 hectares. He rotates crops...red beans, maize and tobacco. Each grows for 3 months so all works out well. He has currently 3 employees.

After lunch we walked down to the working part of the farm. First we looked at a dry stalk with a dried flower head. We learned that the stalk is divided in 3 with the largest leaves at the bottom and the smallest at the top. The top has the largest concentration of nicotine. The flower is usually discarded but this one was kept for seed. The seeds were were very small and black. There are 3 kinds of tobacco...nigre or black, Virginian or blond and bronder?...a reddish brown color that deepens with age.

3 young people were busy transplanting seedlings as they needed thinning after 20 days. They are then left under cover for another 20 days. Leaves are trimmed so the stem will thicken and they stay in the sun for another 20 days as they await transplanting in the soil. Compost mixed with microbes is then added. When they are about 3 to 4 ft. high flowers and the large bottom leaves are removed. Then as the upper leaves mature they are removed. Bundles of 7 leaves are strung on sisel with a huge metal needle....the same one his Granddaddy used. They are dried in a well-aerated shed...a roof and no sides. At 5am when the dew has fallen to soften the dried leaves they are taken to a shed to be sorted, preserved and pressed into 48 kg bundles ready for shipping. The shed or depot was the original farmhouse. It is small.

This farm is self sufficient. Compost is saved from the house, and added to cow, goat and chicken manure. Microbes are harvested under the coffee trees and elsewhere on the farm. Sr. Nelson knows where they come from and where they have been. He is an agronomist engineer.

He has goats, chickens and Brahman cattle. It is hot and dry here with a short rainy season due to start in a month.

Now it was time to return to Barichara. We dropped Muriel off at the bottom of her hill and Rodrigo took us to Casa Canelo. Gord went for a swim while I journalized. We caught a tuk tuk up the mountain and across the city to 7 Tigers for Lomo Seville...steak with roasted red pepper covered eggplant...diced and a small salad. Muy gusto. We walked back home.



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