Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The towns that time forgot - Barichara & Guane, Colombia

Destination: Barichara & Guane, Colombia
Number of Days: 2 days
Times we took the: Boat/Ferry - 0; Bus/Minivan - 4; Train/Subway - 0 taxi/car - 0; Motorbike - 0
Where we stayed: Hotel Corata - expensive at 80,000 pesos ($35) but they're filming a movie or tv show (perhaps a latina novella) here and everything else was booked up! On the plus side it included a yummy breakfast, quaint rooms in an old colonial home, hot water (YAY!) and a beautiful view of the cathedral.
Favorite Restaurant: Plenilunio Cafe - five tables set in a hole in the wall served up a mean veggie burger and some sort of tortilla stuffed with cheese, tomato and pesto. Reasonably priced as well with no dish over 10K.
Best of: Spectacular views of the countryside along the trail from Barichara to Guane, Picture perfect cobble stone streets and whitewashed buildings, lazy atmosphere
Worst of: The desserts in the panaderia (bakery) are never as good as they look.
Most Memorable: Chatting it up with the goat lady of Guane while sampling her products including the Colombian version of eggnog with goat milk & whiskey!
After taking a night bus to Bucharamanga (60,000 pesos) we caught a van to San Gil (10,000 pesos) and then finally a minibus to Barichara (3,300 pesos). Sixteen hours after starting we arrived safely in Barichara, a beautiful, quiet colonial town nestled amongst gorgeous Colombian canyons. After resting for a bit we set off on a wander through Barichara's cobblestone streets looking in on its three churches, cemetery & main plaza. The town is compact and easy to navigate aside from the killer hills. The "sights" of the town can easily be done in a half day but the real beauty lies in the atmosphere. The main attraction here is the simplicity of life that continues here as it has seemingly forever. No rush hour, no horns honking and no hawkers disturbing you. About the only thing disturbing your peace are the church bells calling people to mass and serving as the town's clock. The main square is small and filled with trees and benches where the town comes to life.
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The following day we decided to take the hike out of town to Guane. It's 6km, or about two hours, mostly downhill from Barichara to Guane. Most of the path is guarded by beautiful stone walls serving as the foreground to a beautiful backdrop of the rolling mountains of Colombia. After arriving and checking out the main square for a moment, a small sign for goat cheese caught our eye. The sweet little old lady opened up her shop for us and began feeding us samples of all her tasty products. We sampled some caramel, yogurt and even eggnog (whiskey included!) all made with goat instead of cow's milk. As some of you know, goat cheese ranks high on our list of fav foods and we couldn't resist the opportunity. We had our cheese, but had to wait to get back to Barichara as Guane has no bakeries. We caught the afternoon bus back to Barichara, grabbed some bread and enjoyed a snack back at our hotel with a great view of the church. We spent the rest of the afternoon just exploring the town a bit, admiring how simple life is here. Lawnmowers are replaced with goats grazing in yards and there's not an ipod or iphone in sight. Time simply slows down here a notch or two and we enjoyed the "extra" time we were afforded.
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We had our last meal in Barichara at Plenilunio Cafe before packing up the next morning on our way to Villa de Leyva with our new found American friends Lisa, Robinn and Claude.

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