One was too hot, one was too quiet, and the third was just right.
I left Medellin and flew to Bucaramanga on a small propeller flight a week and a half ago. Bucaramanga might have many charms, but it was every bit as hot and urban as Medellin, and I wanted some cool clean air, so I just passed through. I aimed for Barichara, which is a small town south of Bucaramanga and a little southeast of San Gil.
A taxi took me from the airport to the bus station, where I was assaulted by indifference and prevarications. There are direct buses from Bucaramanga to Barichara, but no one wanted to talk about it. Finally one bus company sold me a ticket to Barichara, for a decent price. I got to the “bus” and found it was an un-airconditioned van to San Gil, not Barichara. The ride wasn’t too bad, unless you are bothered by having the driver yakking on one of his two telephones while driving though narrow high mountain roads. I was in the front row with the driver, and the young women between the driver and me had two phones also, one plugged into the van’s power source and the other to her ear. She loudly talked the whole way, in a voice of an unfortunate pitch. I was rather unceremoniously dumped in San Gil, where a loquacious taxi driver took me on to Barichara while practicing his English and correcting my Spanish.
The driver took me right to my hostel door (Colore de Hormiga), which is on a small street right off the main village plaza. Claudia met me at the door, where she was chatting with a neighbor. She helped me with my bags to the small room off the courtyard where I’d spend three nights. They have cleverly hung old wooden chairs from the walls for end tables, and thia adds a sort of ghost like quality to the room. There is a wooden shutter between the courtyard and my bed, but Claudia assured me it would be quiet, and she was quite right. She also gave me a fan to use for the night, as it was really hot there.
The next morning I went up to the town plaza, had some coffee at the corner bakery, and strolled around the peaceful village, where each street corner looked like a picture postcard. After some roaming, I went back for a bit of a nap and was woken by a ranchero band. It was Saturday in Latin America. It was a wedding, of course. Claudia told me that people come from all over to get married at the church on the plaza. This party certainly looked urbane and cashed up. The village itself, on weekdays, shy of the weekenders from Bucaramanga and the surrounding Haciendas and fincas, belongs mostly to locals who look poor and working class, with the exception of retirees.
The town is picture postcard perfect, in a still life sort of way. Whereas Medellin was too much gritty realism, Barichara seems all calm magic. Some people spend the evenings walking the town square, or hanging on the corner drinking a beer, but it is stultifyingly quiet. It is a great place to unwind, to hang out and take pictures and write, I can see its attractiveness for weekend getaways. It might even be a good place for a couple to retire, as it is a few hours from the big city, and the airport in Bucaramanga. A small piece of land on the outskirts of town where you can have some horses and a garden is just what some people are looking for,and it would be easy to find a lot of worse places.
There is a town nestled among hills in central Colombia so perfect that even the air smells of lightly scented perfume. Flowers hanging off ylang-ylang trees infuse the air in the central park, one of the best places to sit and wait to see if time will inch by you in a town where it appears to have stopped.
Yes, well my time hasn’t stopped. I like my towns a bit more tumultuous. A little grit with the coffee, as it were. With that in mind, I headed for San Gil, which was just an overnight stop along the way to Villa de Leyva, but definitely worth an honorary mention.