For me, I was satisfied with a few days of Barichara. It was time to move on, and I decided to spend at least a night in San Gil. I had passed through San Gil on my way to Barichara, tired and sweaty, and it felt hot, urban and sort of ragged around the edges. This time I got off the bus and dragged my bags three blocks to the hostel (Sam’s VIP). There I found about 5 flights of stairs to haul everything up just to get to reception. The young woman at the desk seemed to take pity on my sorry sweaty self. She arranged for me to have a room in their other building at the other end of the town square, and she had someone carry my bags. The new room felt like it was right out of a colonial novel, one of which I was reading at the time (Isabel Allende’s Island beneath the Sea). There were actually two rooms, an anteroom with a large french window, a table and chairs, a couch and a couple of small beds. The main room had an equally large French window, about 2 meters high, with wooden shutters, and a large bed. It also had an ensuite bathroom. The room, the heat and my dreams merged that night. The room was impressive.
In the evening I went out for some dinner and a stroll. By this point, I was becoming enchanted with San Gil. The town square, on this week-night, bustled with life. People hung out at the corners and sat on the benches, or strolled on their evening walks with families and friends. The friendly and intimate feel of a Latin American town square on any evening came together in San Gil. I really liked San Gil. By the way, it is a backpackers and adventure travelers’ destination, but it in no way feels like a party town. A sort of balance exists.
But it was 1oo degrees and not a breath of air stirred. Can I imagine retiring in San Gil? It is all steep hills and cobblestone streets, and hot. No, it wouldn’t do, and I don’t think, unlike Barichara, it is considered by many to be a retirement destination. So, onwards down the road, on another van through more mountains. A young girl traveling alone beside me chatted with me and with admirable patience tolerated my terrible Spanish. In return I let her use my phone to call her mother, and for her mother to call her, many times. We arrived after a few hours in Tunja, an industrial town a couple of hours north of Bogota, where I changed to another 40 minute winding van ride up to Villa de Leyvas.