San Gil


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South America » Colombia » San Gil
September 27th 2014
Published: October 15th 2014
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We have now decided to avoid night buses where we can as the roads are really windy and the seat space really cramped, so we took the day bus from Bogotá to San Gil. This also gave me the opportunity to enjoy the views along the way.

San Gil is the adventure capital of Colombia with a population of about 50,000. The city itself is not particularly pretty and doesn't have many sites of interest outside their amazing adventure sports. When we arrived at the hostel we were given a booklet outlining all the different activities on offer.

We signed up for the combination caving and rappelling with our guide Diego who pretty much only spoke Spanish. We began with caving and visited La Cueva Antigua (the old cave), it has many rock formations as well as different rooms such as the bats room, mud room, rain room and relaxation room. To move between the different rooms we had to walk through water, slide through small gaps on our bellies and stumble in the pitch black with only the walls to guide us. In the bats rooms we sat quietly in the dark and listened to the bats fly around, I did very well keeping quiet until one of the bats touched me and I jumped and screamed like a girl.

Back outside into the light we jumped off a rock about 3 metres into a pool of water before the rappelling. I'm losing my nerve in my old age as it took me a while to make the small jump, while Gary kept running around to jump again, some people never grow up! I found the rappelling much easier as we began with a warm up 10m cliff face before moving onto the 40m cliff with a large overhang. It was great as it was only us and the guide and we were able to rappel down as many times as we wanted. The only problem was the climb back to the top which I found pretty exhausting.

We decided to have a break from the adventure activities and took the local bus to Barichara, a small town about 20km from San Gil. Barichara is a cute town that felt like it was out of an old Spanish Colonial movie. On the main square is the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Lorenzo the Martyr, built entirely of stone from nearby quarries. We visited the viewpoint overlooking the Suárez Canyon before we walked to Guane under ancient trees and along a stone Royal Road. The Royal Road was rebuilt in the 19th century and declared a National monument in 1977. Guane was extremely quiet with very few people around, we sat in the charming and well-preserved colonial center while we waited for the bus back to San Gil.

Our host at the hostel talked us into taking the night bus to Medellin rather than going during the day so we had time to fit in one more adventure activity. We decided try out paragliding near a place called Curiti. This is the perfect place to take flight as frontal winds crash against the side of a mountain to create thermals that take you higher and higher over the tobacco fields, with distant views of the mountains and Chicamocha Canyon.

My takeoff happened very quickly, I was introduced to my pilot strapped in and then the wind filled the parachute and off we went. I didn't have a chance to feel scared or to think those "what if" thoughts until I was sitting, floating high above everything.

It was such an amazing feeling flying high above everything, I've always thought it would be cool to fly like a bird and this gave me a little taster of what they experience everyday.

Gary took off shortly after me but his takeoff wasn't quite as smooth. A large gust of wind caught his pilot unawares and they were dragged 40m along the ground. Eventually he got up as well and we both soared through the air, completing some manoeuvres like diving down before swinging up again. The views were amazing, the photos not really doing justice to all we could see.

After paragliding we had a couple of hours before we headed to the bus station for our night bus to Medellin, so much for avoiding night buses.


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16th October 2014
Paragliding

Flying high
Awesome adventures--the paragliding view is excellent! How great that you got to do some wild flying, rappelling and caving as well as visiting a cultural break to a couple of cute, colonial towns. I wonder if that Camino Real was from the Incas since they were in Colombia or if it was from the Spanish.

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