Although Colombia declared a separation between church and state in 1991 we still have national holidays for important Catholic events such as Ascension Day which took place last Monday. The three-day weekend was spent in San Gil – a small town about 2 hours from Bucaramanga. Our bus took a winding road through mountains and canyons that reminded me a lot of the landscape in Colorado. Much to the dismay of our fellow passengers we made the bus driver stop for a second to take a group photo in front of the Chicamocha Canyon.
As soon as we got off the bus we were treated to some traditional Vallenato music in the streets. We stayed in a beautiful old house in San Gil that Marlon’s aunt takes care of. It was more than 100 years old and full of chandeliers, four-poster beds and beautiful paintings. Like a traditional house it had a large courtyard surrounded by many, many bedrooms. I was perhaps a little overzealous in taking pictures of our fancy accomodations.
On Sunday we took the bus to a nearby colonial town named Barichara.
From Barichara we walked along El Camino Real, a 180-year old path that leads to Guane, another colonial town.
After 2 hours we arrived in Guane.
Our first stop in Guane was the museum. The first room in the museum featured a collection of special rocks found in Guane that look like turtles. There were also many fossils from the days when Guane was under the sea. In the second room of the museum were artifacts from the Guanes – an indigenous people that used to live in the area. The most incredible artifact was a mummy of a woman who was a Guanian princess. There were once 100,000 Guanes but only 13,000 were left after the Spanish invaded. It’s not known when the Guanes died out since they started to mix with the Spaniards. After the museum we ate lunch and I got to try lots of traditional Colombian foods for the first time: mute soup, yuca, and chicha – a delicious fermented drink made with corn.
I was also happy to discover a cemetery in Guane with an amazing view.
Not wanting to walk uphil for 2 hours back to Barichara, we decided to take a bus back and had some time to walk around and explore the city.
During our last day in San Gil we took a dip in Pozo Azul. Unfortunately the extreme heat we experienced the two days before had been replaced by clouds and a light rain. In this beautiful setting, however, it was hard to be upset by a little rain.