Rain, rain go away!!

Trip Start Sep 22, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Macondo Hostel

Flag of Colombia  , Santander,
Monday, September 27, 2010

Monday 27th of September: Today I check out of the hostel in Bogota, I've enjoyed the city but its time to head North East to San Gil. This is a small town with a growing reputation for extreme sports, conveniently located on the road between Bogota and the Caribbean coast, it is an ideal stop off to break up a long journey. This will be my first long distance bus journey in Colombia and South America for that matter and I can't say I was full of excitement as I headed via taxi to the Portal del Norte! Once there I agreed the 35000 pesos (£12) fee and boarded the Copetran bus for the 7 hour journey. Luckily the bus was only around a quarter full and I actually quite enjoyed the picturesque views of the green hills of the Andes as the bus wove through them. What I didn't enjoy was looking out of the front window to see the driver overtaking on blind bends but hey I'm sure he's done it a 1000 times before! Arriving just outside San Gil I had to depart from the bus and get a taxi to take me into the town itself for around 3000 pesos

One of the main things I wanted to try whilst I was in San Gil was the rafting which ranged from class 3 - 5. As soon as I had put my bags in my room I was keen to ask about the possibility of going the next day, unfortunately I found that there had been heavy rain in the last few days and the rafting had been suspended as a result. I decided with this in mind that the next day I would look around the colonial town of Barichara which was founded in the 18th century.
Up nice and early on Tuesday morning I walked to the local bus terminal and caught the local minibus to Barichara for the grand sum of 3500 pesos, the bus winds up through the hills giving you an aerial view of San Gil below. Pulling into the plaza of Barichara 45 minutes later, I begin to realise that most of the towns are centered around a plaza complete with a church, a sign of the occupation from Catholic Spain. I descend the steps of the bus and head across the plaza and past the chuch up the hill leading to a smaller church at the top of the hill. To the left of this church is situated a pretty garden which overlooks the breathtaking Suarez Canyon. If you follow the path through the garden it leads you to the old road to a smaller colonial town called Guane. I walked the path which is cut into the canyon wall for 1 1/2 hours before reaching Guane. There really isn't much to do in either of these towns but it is nice for relaxing and taking in the views (Although I hadn't charged my camera so didn't manage to get any photos). That night I met a nice group of Irish travellers and with the water levels still high we decided we'd all go to the Juan Curi waterfalls the next day.

The next morning the group of us set off on the local bus to CharalŠ, informing the driver we wanted to go to la cascadas (the waterfalls). Once again we paid 3500 pesos, guess thats a standard price around here. Departing the bus we could see the falls from the main road and headed through a gated field each paying a 5000 peso entrance which bought us the services of a young tour guide( I think the land to get to the falls is privately owned with a small holding on the land, this is where you pay your money). We worked our way through the jungle trails and across pools of water formed from the falls. Finally we climed up the side of several smaller falls until we reached the pool at the base of the main fall which was arond 60 metres, this is the place where you can also abseil and rappel, I was quite happy soaking in the near ice cold water! Once we had relaxed and swam a little we headed back through the jungle, just as we came through into the open the heavens opened up and we made across the field to the small holding. The owner of the building, a woman probably in her 50's showed the hospitable side of the Colombian people that you rarely hear about by making us all coffee and offering around a sweet local delicacy. As the rain subsided we said goodbye to our host and her family and made our way to the roadside to wait for the bus back. As we were waiting a group of 3 travellers who had cycled to the falls decided they would rather catch the bus back to San Gil, and as the bus arrived, the driver with one hand bandaged jumped up on the roof and strapped the bikes up, this he did quite gladly, another selfless act that shows Colombia's tarnished reputation is not deserved. 
We all decided we'd take the night bus to Santa Marta the next night so we thought that we would have a good knees up, 8 litre bottles of rum later we were stood on the street drinking rum with locals who were all driving, deciding we'd call it a night and thinking better of accepting a lift from the locals we took taxis back to the hostel. Jesus I think I may have found a match for my drinking!
Thursday was spent anticipating the 14 hour bus journey and trying to recover from the hangover. We all boarded the bus at 7, it was to be my first night bus and one that I wouldn't relish repeating!
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