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Published: November 12th 2012
Local school girlWalking through the little pueblo of Barichara, nested in the Santander area, I had to redefine my conception of tranquility. Until now, I would find peace & quiet in remote natural areas or exploring the underwater world, but Barichara had this very same effect on me.
With little more than 4000 inhabitants, Barichara remains a tiny town but one that has understood that protecting its architectural & cultural heritage was the way forward when it comes to attract tourists.
So here I was, rooming Barichara cobbled stones alleys, amazed at every corner by the combination of white washed facades with linear dash of colors at the base, stone works and just as colorful wooden doors & windows frame. The town is quite hilly which add an extra once of charm to it.
Mid day and after a snack in one of the panaderia, I decided to head to the highest part of the town, where a beautiful yet simple church stands, somehow keeping a protective eye over the town. It seems that this was precisely the moment where the school day was over, and the streets quickly filled with local kids wearing school uniforms
and not missing an occasion to smile and exchange a few laughs.
People in Barichara are definitely not shy, on the contrary, every single person I met while walking around greeted me in Spanish or by a nod of the head and a smile. I might have been a stranger but definitely felt welcome & charmed by this countryside town.
Trekking through Barichara countryside on the Camino Real
Going further back into the past, I left for Barichara on foot through the Camino Real, originally built by the Guane indigenous people & then restored in 1864 by the German George von Lenguerke. This 9km stone pathway just like the town of Barichara has something special, it is an invitation to clear your mind through peace, tranquility and stunning views of the surrounding country side.
The ancient path starts with a quite steep descent into the canyon, the only sound you can hear being the one of the numerous birds & running away colorful lizards.
Upon reaching the valley, the earth takes a more reddish color, which contrasts intensely with the bright blue sky and surrounding trees and cactus. Goats and cows are
roaming around and after more than an hour on the Camino Real I still haven’t encountered any living soul.
Just before ascending yet once more, I came across what locals call « barba de viejo » (old man’s beard), a gigantic tree from which grayish filaments of moss are hanging, giving it a ghostly & intriguing look. The slight breeze that was coming in would make the moss slowly move, taking on different shades as the sun was filtering through it, a photographer dream!
Another hour and half, going up and down and precisely when I was wondering whether I was still far away from Guane, the tiny village I was heading to, I caught the sight of the first houses.
Guane, a tiny village frozen in the past
Shortly after that I finally entered Guane which reminded me of some of the remote & unfortunately dying village one can find in the French countryside. Life seems to have stop there, mostly elderly people & kids, a few cobbled stones streets, the same white washed façade but less elaborated than in Barichara, a group of woman chatting by the tiny church & a taxi
that look like it is coming out straight from a black and white movie.
The contrast with the vibe of Barichara was quite impressive and guess outside of the few tourists who will arrive through the Camino Real, not much outsiders are seen there.
Still a few hours to go before the last bus of the day takes off to go back to Barichara and then San Gil, so I opted for a cup of coffee seated by the park. Not that there was a terrace or anything like that but I found a café under renovation whose owner accepted to prepare some coffee and allowed me to take my cup with me to the square.
Few kids were playing football & then I recognized the foreigner they were playing with, guess I won’t be waiting on my own! The rest of the day was just as relaxed, Guane end of day life slowly unfolding in front of our eyes, dogs rooming around, a few passerby, an old man with a traditional hat falling asleep a few meters from us & that was pretty much it, no music or feel that the town will wake
up anytime soon. This really got me wonder how the kids growing in such a place see the outside world, everything feels so disconnected even from small town such as San Gil which is only 45mn away… Next
: heading to Cucuta at the Venezuelan border, in bus (for a change), not that there is much to see there nor was I planning on crossing the border but simply catching up with a very good friend of mine who lives there; no blogging about this last leg of the trip but the holiday wasn’t over yet; next blog from the Caribbean area, diving time!
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