San Gil (+Barichara & Guane), Colombia.

San Gil, Colombia.

San Gil is a few hours north of Villa de Leyva and best known as the adventure sports capital of Colombia. And so, we did no adventure sports whilst there…

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I’ve done rafting before (down the Zambezi in Zambia/Zimbabwe) and Ashleigh did it in Thailand, and we had just done caving a few days earlier, in Villa de Leyva. We thought we’d save paragliding for Rio!

Anyway, for the first two nights in San Gil (pronounced san hill) we stayed between the town centre and the village of Barichara, at a laid back campsite/hostel called La Pacha.

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Ran by Colombian Andrea and Englishman Justin, La Pacha is essentially a campsite amidst farms in the hills. It’s a fun place to stay: you can stay in a yurt with a proper bed, movies are available on an old local-bus-cum-TV-room, goats mooch about the grounds, pissing off Justin with their stubbornness, insects in the grass nip at your legs. Okay, so it’s in the countryside and isn’t somewhere for people who don’t like bugs or don’t like to be woken up by the scream of an unidentified animal, but it certainly has its charms.

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The main downside of being so isolated is having no shops around and as we didn’t bring food with us for dinner so we had to order with the La Pacha owners. The food was veggie only, which is fine, but unfortunately it took 2 hours for a vegetarian stir fry and we were bloody starving!

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Having arrived quite late, we hit the sack early to get up and head to Barichara, a beautiful little colonial village a bus ride away.

After walking around the village, we headed off down a mountainside on an 8km trek to nearby village Guane.

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The walk was great as a lot was downhill so it wasn’t too strenuous. The countryside was beautiful and we didn’t see another person during the 2.5hr hike, bar one farmer in his field. It was really hot and sunny so we were grateful when we came across a remote family home selling cold water (along with handicrafts), 30mins from Guane.

Guane was smaller and quainter than Barichara even, with a small leafy square surrounding by local shops, restaurants and a chapel. From there, we got a bus back to the hostel via Barichara for cash.

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Back at La Pacha, we watched Pleasantville on the bus/TV room and spoke with a Swedish couple who were off to an Ayahuasca ceremony. Ayahuasca is a traditional drink made of two plants from the Amazon, that indigenous tribes have used as part of ceremonies for thousands of years. You basically drink a disgusting drink and when you vomit, you go on a hallucinatory trip that is supposed to help cleanse the soul. It can last for hours (overnight usually) or days even and a lot of people fast for the days up to the ceremony – so no caffeine, alcohol or meat. We never saw the Swedes in the morning so no idea how it went!

After two nights at La Pacha, we headed to spend another two nights at Sam’s VIP Hostel in town. Sam’s is one of the best hostels we’ve stayed at thus far – really clean, proper rooms with thick walls and proper doors, comfy beds and en-suite bathrooms. Being able to take a shit in peace is always a bonus! They also have a swimming pool which we dived into whilst we waited to check-in.

Unfortunately, as we weren’t bothering to do any adventure sports, there wasn’t much going on in San Gil. We did, however, visit the Pozo Azul (blue water well according to Google translate) which had water, wasn’t a well, wasn’t blue.

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Later that day,  Ashleigh’s birthday, we watched England draw with Slovakia in the Euros. The TV went off as it started to rain, but we didn’t miss much. We also had really good meals: burgers and milkshakes at Gringo Mike’s and Mexican food at Tacos Federal.

I think that’s about it. Following San Gil, we jumped on a bus to Bucaramanga airport for a 40mins flight to Medellin, the old stomping ground of coke kingpin Pablo Escobar.

-Andy.

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