I’ve been itching to explore all the hills around Bucaramanga, so this Sunday I joined a trip organized by a local group of hikers (in Spanish: senderistas). Despite a late ending to salsa dancing the night before, I sprang out of bed at 6:15 and made my way to Parque La Flora to meet the hiking group. As I was expecting, I was the youngest one in the bunch of hikers. After spending the past few years hanging out in bingo parlors, volunteering at museums and doing tai-chi in the park I’ve embraced the fact that my interests seem to most closely align with those of the 55 and over population. I was warmly welcomed by the whole hiking group in their adorable, matching hiking club t-shirts. We began with a little stretching and then a mandatory exchange of hugs/well-wishes with all the group members. From there we started climbing and climbing up hills and soon had beautiful views of Bucaramanga from above. One thing I appreciate about the landscape of Bucaramanga is that a mere twenty minutes of walking from my neighborhood results in a total change of scenery with a thick, jungle-like forest obscuring any signs of the nearby city. Our first stop on the hike was a tranquil lagoon which seemed to be something of a secret since many people on the hike had never been before.
In addition to being a beautiful place to relax, our leader told us that the location of lagoon also makes it a great place to feel earthquakes. The Santander department is one of the most seismically active locations in the world. Mesa de Los Santos, a town an hour from Bucaramanga, experiences 40 earthquakes a day! On more than one occasion I’ve been asked if I felt that tremor this morning or last night, but they’re always so small that I have yet to experience one for myself.
Our walk followed a mostly forested path that occasionally ran through small neighborhoods. We made a few stops to both admire the myriad of butterflies around us and to ask ourselves if we would ever make it to the top of the mountain; this hike was turning out to be a bit beefier than what we had expected. However, the greatest part of hiking in Santander is that just when you’re in dire need of refreshment you happen to come across a local vendor of sweet treats. When I hiked to the Montefiore waterfall last weekend we were re-energized after 2.5 hours of climbing steep trails by a farmer selling cuajada (fresh cheese) and bocadillo (guava fruit candy) on the side of the road. On this hike we came across a woman selling fresh peach juice, arepas and a dessert that was something like peach flan. It wasn’t soon after this snack break that we arrived at the final destination – a restaurant on the top of mountain. We devoured some arepas de choclo and hot chocolate while gazing out over palm trees and grassy hills.