I got to know one of my roommates, Taren from California, and she suggested that I accompany her and a friend on an out of town venture. We met her friend, Magdallina from Poland living in London, and walked a few km to a pretty lake. While waiting for admittance (it was private) a Swiss young man, Thomas, joined us. After looking at the lake, we rejoined the main road and got a bus (and walked) to the Convento del Santo Ecce Homo. The walkways within the convent contained ammonites and fossils because this used to be an old lakebed, 150 million years ago. There were some interesting fossils within the courtyard of the convent, and one five-feet-high stone was especially intriguing—shades of ET! This convent is still active as we saw some monks in robes enter it as we were leaving.
We walked back to the road and flagged down a bus that dropped us at El Fossil, a place where, in 1977, they found a fossil called kronosauras, an old reptilian skeleton from 150 million years ago. It was about 22 feet long, but was missing its tail, which would have made it about 40 feet long. It was displayed right where they found it, having built a building around it. From there we were hoping to find a taxi to take us back to town, as the next bus wasn’t scheduled to come for a couple of hours. I approached a truck with two men, stopped at a corner of the highway and one of the men walked a few feet to a car, where he knew the owner. Yes, this man would take us into town, which he did.
I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the Estacion Astronomica Muisca, which was a ‘Stonehenge-like’ site from about 3-400 AD. The next morning I hired a taxi to take me there, and I was glad I went, as it was very interesting. Apparently it was built to identify the planting seasons. Next to this row of upright stones was a field of phallic stones around the area. There was also a tomb, but I couldn’t read the Spanish well enough to understand whose tomb it was.
The next day I walked all around Villaleyva, seeing the various 400-year-old colonial houses that were of significance. Some were museums, like the Casa del Premier Congress, which housed the room where the First Congress of New Granada met in 1812. Another was the home of a 20th Century artist, Luis Alberto Acuna, which exhibited his works. Of course I also looked in some churches—the church of San Augustin was no longer a working church but a gallery for present day artists. What a nice use for an unneeded church.
And the Casa Museo de Antonio Ricaurte was the home of a man who fought under Bolivar, when he was defending an armory against the Spaniards. He let them in, then blew up the armory, killing the Spanish army and himself, as well, which won the battle.
I found a really good place to eat breakfast nearby, with lovely croissants, along with eggs, nice fruit and good coffee. The croissants had a greenish tinge to them, apparently from the butter (there was lots, you could tell). I suppose it was something that the cows ate that gave this tinge. At another restaurant I also ran across my good old Chilean wine that I like so much, and had some of that with linner.
Moving on to San Gil (pronounced ‘heel’), I got a bus from Villaleyva for an hour’s ride to Chiquinquira, and then a five-hour ride to San Gil. We went down, down, the mountains, to where it was nicely warm. I wore long sleeves for the bus ride (I had actually been wearing them every day) and took a jacket, too. All that now has changed. The bus wasn’t air-conditioned, and I was way too warm.
I got settled in the Maconda hostel, which seems well run, unlike the one I had in Villaleyva. There were lots of interesting hostelers, including four hearing-impaired young people from Sweden and Finland, all beautiful and animated, who were signing to each other, and using a phone to write messages to us. Then I became acquainted with another American old geezer, Alden (related to John Alden!); he and I compared notes on the ‘young people.’
The town of San Gil seems much more ‘authentic’ than my last two. The Plaza is buzzing all day and evening. I visited the Cathedral and the Casa de Cultura, but the more interesting things were the activities in the Plaza and the market. I also visited the Parque Gallineral on the edge of town where I saw some white-water-rafters coming down the Fonce River. There was a black vulture waiting for them (?) sitting high in a tree. This is the place for outdoor activities, but mine consisted of walking around town—no easy task, as it was, again, steeply uphill and downhill.
The next day Alden and I took a bus to Barichara, an hour’s ride, to walk the Camino Real, a stone-paved ‘highway’ that was rebuilt many times over the centuries by the Guane people. It was a two-hour walk over the rough stones, at times steeply uphill and downhill, leading to the small town of Guane.
Guane was a sleepy, but pretty little town with an interesting old church on the Plaza. The walk had been a real challenge for me, but we got a bus back to Barichara, and I rewarded myself with cabrito (roast goat) for dinner. We also looked around the photogenic Barichara before taking a bus back to San Gil. It was a tiring, but rewarding day!
That evening, Alden and I walked down to the Plaza to see what the locals were doing. There was lots of activity, including an artist painting pictures with spray cans and stencils. We shared a big bottle of apple/orange soda to rehydrate ourselves after the hike earlier in the day.
I was planning to go from San Gil to Medellin by bus. I had discovered that I could buy my bus ticket through my hostal clerk, and that the bus company would deliver the tickets to the hostal. I would need to take a bus from San Gil to Bucaramanga, and then another bus to Medellin. The bus would leave at 7:00 PM on Sunday. Sunday noon the tickets arrived but I only received one ticket for the ride from Bucaramanga to Medellin. When I asked the clerk (in Spanish) when I would get the other ticket, he said that I didn’t need it and all was ‘tranquilo.’ This didn’t seem tranquil to me, and I pressed him again. This time he telephoned the company (?) and reported that there was no problem. I tried to ask him if I needed to speak to a special person at the bus terminal when I arrived, and he said no.
Feeling a little uneasy, I got to the terminal and thought I should discuss this with the ticket seller from that company. He immediately knew what I was talking about and pulled out the missing ticket. Ah, much better.
The bus left at 7:00 PM and I arrived Bucaramanga at 9:30. This station was really busy for this time of night. I think it is a central transportation hub in that part of Colombia. The buses were nice, with very reclining seats and supports for one’s legs, but I find I can sleep better sitting more upright as one does on an airplane—-more practice, I think.
I arrived Medellin at 7:30 AM, got a taxi to my hostal, the Palm Tree, and immediately got assigned to my bunk and went to sleep. I’m looking forward to seeing Medellin.