It was a peaceful two nights in Barichara. For $20 including breakfast, I stayed at the Mansion de Virginia, a charming colonial house turned hotel filled with period furniture and beautiful flowers in the central courtyard. I started each day with a hearty breakfast of what I now realize is the Colombian standard: bread, butter, block of cheese, eggs, hot chocolate, black coffee (known as tinto
), and juice
. I had one full day in Barichara, which I spent exploring town and hiking the ancient El Camino Real (it's like I never left California!) to the even smaller hamlet of Guane (pop. 1500) ten kilometers away. The walk took me past the stunning Chicamocha Canyon, which Oscar had declared the "2nd-most beautiful canyon in the world." For a country also purported to be the 2nd-most happy, Colombia seems quite content holding several runner-up titles. After roasting in the midday sun during the two-hour walk to Guane, I took a brief respite in the shade before hopping the minibus back to Barichara.You Make The Rockin' World Go 'Round
If you closed your eyes and took a bite of Santander's delicacy, you might think you were in China. The regional tradition of serving up fried ants dates back over 500 years to when the indigenous Guane people cultivated ants for their supposed aphrodisiac and healing qualities. Literally "fat-bottomed ants," hormigas culonas
are in season in the spring (which happens to be now) and famous in Barichara (which happens to be where I am.) I guess that means I have to try them.
Showering after my long haul to Guane, I psyched myself up to feast on Barichara's big bootied bugs
. I set my sights on the restaurant Casa de Hormiga (Ant House), which many locals had suggested I try and which also had received mad props from the Lonely Planet guide. I would choose the filet mignon in ant sauce covered with fried ants; if I were going to do this thing, I would do it right. I dressed for dinner and made my way up the block to the restaurant, only to find that it was closed for remodeling! Once again my plan was foiled! However, it was with a sigh of minor relief that I did an about-face in search of a less arthropodic meal. I chose La Nube Posada, which--despite being hailed one of the best restaurants in town by the LP--was mediocre after five days in the culinary capital of Bogota. Nevertheless, it was a fine ending to a lovely day, and I went to bed happy.
After a 7-hour bus ride from Bogota, I arrived in San Gil and caught a taxi driven by ueber-friendly Oscar to the colonial town of Barichara in the department (state) of Santander. This sleepy little town of 10,000 people was declared a national monument in 1978 thanks to its beautifully preserved architecture and cobblestone streets. Barichara was quiet by the time I arrived around 9 PM and all the restaurants were closed--I ended up dining on food I had snaked from the Embassy Suites that morning. Nothing like bacon for dinner. (Mmm..... bacon.....)