Girón, San Gil and Barichara.

Trip Start Sep 30, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Sam´s VIP Hostel

Flag of Colombia  , Santander,
Friday, October 14, 2011

So Tuesday we left Medellin for Bucaramanga, when we checked out of the hostel in Medellin and got the taxi we still hadn't decided if we were to go to Bucaramanga or Bogota. In the end we decided to head to Bucaramanga since we had already been to Bogota. The bus took around 8-9 hours and we had already read about a little town just 9 kms from Bucaramanga called Girón, which was supposed to be nicer to stay in. So we got a taxi to Girón from Bucaramanga and got dropped in the main square since we didn’t have a room booked. We checked out the only hotel recommended in the Lonely Planet guide, however it was a bit over our budget. We tried another two hotels and settled for the last one. Very simple but with private bathroom. We laid down to read for a bit and the itching started, don’t know if there was bedbugs or something but at least we didn’t have bites on our bodies the next day. The little town was really cute however everything closed really early so there wasn’t much else to do but have a quick dinner and chill out. It started pouring down anyway so there was no point going out. The rain lasted all night long.

The next day we were heading to San Gil, Colombia’s capital of adventure sports and also a good base for exploring a beautiful little colonial town called Barichara. We could either go back to Bucaramanga or get a bus somewhere close to Barichara that was stopping en route to San Gil. We first thought we would be able to walk to this bus terminal so we set off. Only to discover that it wasn’t so. So we jumped into a taxi after a lot of asking and went to the bus stop "Papa quiero piña"! Literally “daddy I want pineapple”. Turned out “Papa quiero piña” was the little shop/bar on the street corner where the buses were stopping. We got on a buseta (like a minibus) and took off for San Gil.

We arrived in San Gil early, around 11.00 and had seen two possible hostels. It was really hot and the sun was shining, one hostel had a pool so that was our first stop. In the end we didn’t even check the other hostel. We checked in and got a double with shared bathroom however we did have a small bathroom but without shower. So we just need to use the shower in the corridor. Dropped our things and sorted out the laundry bag to get the laundry done since we decided to stay 3 nights here. Then off to the pool. Being close to the equator and at midday, I later took off my bikini and it looked like I still had a white bikini on and my body colour was red!! Ooooppps…. Preparing for the coast!! We were hungry so we went to a recommended place called El Maná for lunch, it was great! First a soup and some bread with a spicy salsa, then a little fruit platter to change the flavour for your main course. The main course is whatever they have available for the day, usually different kinds of meat (chicken, fish, pork, beef) with rice, some fried banana and a side salad. With that you get as much water and lemonade as you what and a tiny piece of cake for dessert. Talk about a good lunch menu. All for only 9500pesos (less than 4eur). On the way to get lunch I saw a beauty salon on the way so when we had eaten I popped in to ask how much a pedicure would cost. Turns out a manicure and pedicure was 6eur in total. So Ramón went back to the hostel to chill out and I enjoyed a bit of pampering.

The next morning we thought we should try some of the famous adventure sports, we decided to try the easy level white water rafting. Unfortunately it had been raining all night so the river was really high and they were not sure if we would be able to go, they told us to come back at 13.00 to check. We took a walk around San Gil and went to check out the local food market. It was of course as colourful and busy as most markets. There were plenty of fruit and juice stands so we had a fresh fruit juice. Yummy and very cheap, less than a euro each for a big glass. Then we headed back to the office for the rafting. Unfortunately the river was still too high so we would not be able to go. So quick change of plans and we jumped on the next bus to explore Barichara and have lunch there. The bus leaves every 30 mins and take 45mins so by the time we got there we were very hungry. We didn’t fancy trying the local speciality of “hormiga culona” (literally fat assed ant). So we went looking for alternatives. We found a really nice little restaurant called “El Tigre” serving pita and pizzas, we each had a pita with hummus, aubergines, sun dried tomatoes, olives and each our choice of meat, Ramón beef and me chicken. They had there own little “tigre”, a really cute little kitten called Mole. He entertained us while waiting for the food. Well fed we set out to explore Barichara, a lovely little colonial town which is very popular with artists. We even found a project sponsored by Comunidad de Madrid which was really interesting. We saw some really pretty things, one pity about travelling like this is that you cannot really by anything since the backpacks are already pretty much full. We got the 17.30 bus back to San Gil only to discover that the preparations for this weekends festival was on their way. They were setting up a stage in the main square, we have perfect views from the hotel balcony over the square so we sat down to enjoy the live music and had some beers. I was a bit worried about the loud music, our room is also facing the square and the balcony door is not very soundproof. No need to worry though, but 23.30 it was all finished.

This morning we managed to sleep until 8.00, nearly unbelievable here. Ramón went to the reception to see how things were looking for the rafting, it hadn’t rained anymore that night so we were lucky. We could leave with a group at 10.00. So we got ready and had a bowl of cereals in the hotel. I have to admit that I was really nervous, I really did not like the idea of falling over the edge of the raft and into the water. As many of you know I am afraid to get my head under the water. And of course, of the 6 people I was the one that fell out after a big wave!! It was a great experience though and I am pleased I did it, don’t think I would go for a higher level rafting though. I have to say that the organisers were really professional and spoke both English and Spanish to that everyone was following what was going on. It was all arranged by our lovely receptionist Joanna at Sam´s VIP hostel. Now I need to start preparing myself mentally for the scuba diving in Santa Marta.

We got back to the hostel and since we were soaked we went straight to the pool to wash off in the shower and then chill for a bit. We were really hungry so we headed to El Maná again for a filling and healthy lunch menu. We are now on the hotel balcony waiting for the festival parade, it was supposed to start a 13.00 (Colombian time as our rafting guide said), Joanna said the parade would pass the main square at 16.00, it is now 16.05 and no sign of the parade. I guess it is 16.00 Colombian time too.
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