Colombia - San Gil and Salento
Trip Start Jan 03, 2013
35Trip End Jul 21, 2013
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Where I stayed
We arrived in San Gil, the so-called adventure capital of Colombia and got a taxi to the hostel we had booked. It was nice to arrive and have some space to ourselves after 2 days on the road. We showered and relaxed for a bit before heading out into San Gil. We had to be back by 12 as much the Sean's delight the hotel has the England v Wales six nations match on the tv so he settled down to watch it. The result was not as Sean (and the rest of England) would have hoped so we walked into the main town again. We wandered around, and sat in the main plaza for an hour watching the world go by
After a successful few hours we headed out to dinner and found out that they only seem to like roast chicken or pizza here. We decided to go for a cheap roast chicken dinner complete with plastic gloves to stop your hands getting greasy - Sean thought this was a great idea! An early night was needed, in a proper bed after the past 2 nights on a bus!
After a much needed good sleep, we were picked up at 9am by our guide for the day, Jose. We had arranged with the hostel manager to do a multi-activity canyoning experience, which was focused along the local river. After a short drive out of San Gil, we arrived at a random house, and it appeared to be the start of the trail. We made friends with an old woman, who had lived at this house for 50 years. She offered is an traditional local drink served in half a coconut shell, which tasted foul but we had a couple of sips to keep her happy. God knows what is was!
Jose seemed preoccupied, and was on the phone, apparently dealing with some issue at home
The next day, we walked into the centre of San Gil to catch a bus to Barichara, a village in the hills nearby. The windy road took is up the dry hills behind San Gil and we arrived in the picturesque colonial village 45 mins later. The cobbled streets with white washed buildings with different coloured windows and doors, complete with terracotta tiled roofs were beautiful and we wandered around for a short while before heading up to the start of the Camino Real
We arrived in Guane and it was every more beautiful than Barichara. This tiny village was like going back in time and it's was so quiet, with hardly anyone about. We had nice lunch (although the meat and fish were rather overcooked!) at a restaurant off the main plaza. We just missed the bus back to San Gil so waited 2 hours for the next one, although the time went quickly with Alexa visiting the tiny local museum with impressive collection of fossils and local indigenous artefacts. Sean also made friends with 2 lads who were playing marbles in the plaza and joined in for a few games. They then spotted Alexa's iPhone and that was much more interesting to them and they played on that until the bus arrived.
We traveled back to San Gil and showered and changed at the hostel before heading out for dinner. We had a delicious dinner, was 3 courses for £4 each! We went back to the hostel and waited until 10pm when we caught a ride to the bus terminal ready to catch the night bus to Bogota. The night bus was uneventful and we managed to get a reasonable amount of sleep before we arrived in Bogota at 5:30am. Conveniently, we found our next bus to Armenia was leaving at 6 so we grabbed some food and went to the bus
We arrived and it seemed like our sort of place with old local men sitting in cowboy hats in the plaza. We had prebooked a hostel that was a little way out of the town and caught the local 4 wheel drive jeep taxi to La Serrana. It was set in stunning scenery with amazing views over the surrounding lush green hills.
We walked into the centre of Salento to grab a quick bite to eat as we hadn't eaten a proper meal all day and it was 4pm by this time. Empanadas did the trick and we wandered round a few of the artesan shops and grabbed some food provisions for the next few days.
Dinner at the hostel was served in a communal dining room and we enjoyed a Mexican dinner. Chatting to people, they recommended a coffee tour so we decided to do that the following day.
After a good and long sleep, we woke to a beautiful morning and enjoyed breakfast outside our room overlooking the stunning scenery
After an amazing vegetarian lunch made by Pedros wife with home grown products of course, Pedro continued the coffee tour and went through the production stage, so skinning the husk off the dry beans, and then finally roasting them
We set off back to the hostel late afternoon and made good time, arriving back before dark, tired from climbing the steep hill. We freshened up and cooked dinner in the hostel kitchen, chatting to a German guy who was 3 years into a trip that started in Alaska. He was cycling! It's amazing the people you meet travelling!
After listening to the rain and thunder all night, we woke up to a cold, cloudy day with rain hanging in the air. The low lying cloud made it impossible to see any of the surrounding hills. We had planned to do a days hiking in Cocora valley but it didn't seem the most appealing thing in the pouring rain
After talking to some people over breakfast, we decided to wait for a few hours to see if the weather cleared up so chilled and read our books until 11:30. The rain seemed to have weakened, although it was still drizzling but we decided to go for it anyway and it dressed up in our waterproof gear. We walked into Salento and found that we had missed the cheap lifts to Cocora so paid 3 times the price to get a private taxi. As we drove there, the rain started hammering down again. Typical! The walk started on a muddy and rocky trail down into the valley then up alongside a rushing river. We could barely see the surrounding hills, but it did give it a mystical quality. We got to the edge of the forest and after a quick lunch of leftover pasta, decided to plough straight in. It was a fun trail clambering over rocks and roots, scaling muddy slopes and crossing rickety bridges over the gushing river.
Having forgotten our map, we got to a junction at 2650m and made the decision to go up, instead of along into the jungle further. It was a tough climb up the steep middy trail especially in the rain and we could feel the effects of the altitude so stopped quite a few times to catch our breath. At the top, 2950m there was a farm and we walked down the track at the other side
We showered back at the hostel (thankfully it was hot!) and decided to go out into Salento town for dinner. We went to a recommended local place and for 6000COP (approx £2 each) enjoyed soup and a banana, chorizo sausage and lots of trimmings including rice, beans and crispy potato things and a drink. We went for a drink in a traditional pub filled with old local men wearing cowboy hats and ponchos (Alexa was the only girl!) and they were playing French billiards on pool-like tables but with no pockets. We watched for a while and enjoyed our beers before heading back to the hostel tired and looking forward to being warm again tucked up in bed. We were leaving the countryside the next morning and heading the 3 hours to the salsa city of Cali.