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Published: January 26th 2020
Lorena’s house we stayed in is on the left
The house we stayed on the left, the canyon view and the horses on the other side of the road.
If you Google ‘Barichara’ you will come across the words “prettiest town in Colombia”...so how could we not go? Plus, Nina from Gitana del Mar had highly recommended it and had put us in touch with some of her friends there. Prior to speaking to Nina we’d never heard of Barichara and so decided to take a leap of trust and just GO! After nearly two weeks with creepy crawlies in the jungle and the humidity of the sea breeze, we welcomed the super dry, desert like climate that Barichara was promising us.
Several buses later we arrived in this gorgeous little quaint colonial town with white washed walls and cobbled streets. I don’t know if it’s truly the prettiest town in Colombia, but we were quite enamoured with it and the small canyon surrounding it. Marco had found a super cute Airbnb that was on the edge of the canyon so we had spectacular views each morning of the roaming horses and rolling hills. And the weather was equally spectacular. Super hot, dry sunshine peaking at 30 degrees from around 8am to 6pm when the evening breeze would start and suddenly the temperature would drop
to a very comfortable 18 degrees. It was fresh and probably the first time since our trip that you could say that sleeping conditions were “just right” (i.e no mosquitoes or unwelcome bugs in your bed, no humid sheets or dampness). We have been told that Barichara has a medium air humidity around 60% that makes it a perfect human living conditions.
We arrived at the house right before our host Lorena who pulled up on a motorbike with her Spanish boyfriend Oriol. A very cool and fun couple, we immediately hit it off and they told us about the party taking place that night in the main square that was not to be missed.
And unforgettable it certainly was. We headed into the main square around 9pm to find a vibrant community of people all dancing to the live salsa band on stage. The atmosphere was electric and eclectic. I had arranged to meet Carolina - Nina’s friend - by the main stage. We grabbed a drink and were chatting when Lorena and Oriol came over dancing towards us and Carolina with a bottle of rum. It turned out they were close friends
Modelling for Stamps
This is Marco’s creation, the Marco’s style Barichara T-shirt. He added some stamps on the side too and played a bit to make it look unique, as he likes his things to be ;)
and lived around the corner from each other. We quickly felt a part of their group as they introduced us to the other members of the gang and made us feel welcome. In between dancing, chatting and having a few drinks we learned that the Barichara community was mainly made up of young professionals in their thirties and forties who had decided to leave the big cities of Bogota, Medellin, Cali or Bucaramanga in search of a quieter and more enriching life in the pueblo. How did they make a living? Through Airbnb rental of their properties and running small independent businesses aimed at visiting tourists.
For example, Carolina had a small shop that sold local arts and crafts as well as some pieces of clothing, while across the road her ex-partner Oroarbol had opened a poké eatery serving fresh local trout to the area with an Asian twist. Lorena and Oriol had just opened a bespoke t-shirt stamping shop called Barichara Stamps where Marco chose his t-shirt, a fish stamp and turquoise colours and made his own design with fish stamped on top of fish. It was really cool and Lorena said they would replicate the design and
Not an original name but Ugo is the Original Man with many stories, he should be on the radio.
call it Marco’s t-shirt!
While Barichara itself is tiny, the surrounding countryside and trails are numerous and sprawling. On one of the days we walked down into the Canyon following the Camino Real to a tiny little town called Guane that had the tiniest museum full of fossils including whole crustaceans, fish and ammonites. There was also a mummified 16-year girl from pre-Spanish inquisition times and a lot of other things, practically they store there every old bits they found around, like coins from other countries (they have some liras and some sterlings too)like a broken Olivetti type machine or a broken photo camera. That day we walked around 15km which was quite manageable. The next day - Christmas Eve - feeling enthused with these gorgeous trails and the weather that was just perfect, we decided to head further towards another town down in the canyon called Cabrera. This trail wasn’t as easily marked so we were grateful to Marco’s maps.me app that works with GPS. We walked and walked...and walked and walked. I think it’s one of my favourite memories so far as we were practically on our own for the whole trek. We both reflected
All the roads of the town are cobbled streets, not easy if you want to cycle there but very useful to avoid cars going fast. Perfect for walking, not with heels though.
later that it was one of our favourite ways to spend the time, just walking, watching, absorbing and having our chats from the serious to the silly and everything in between. I keep mentioning the weather but it really does make a massive difference to be able to walk with just a tiny rucksack with water and snacks and that’s it. No need for layers in case the weather changes, and we didn’t even wear sun cream that day even though it was 30 degrees all day. Barichara is in this perfect bubble of the ozone layer where the sun is friendly and it feels good to you - filling you with vitamin D and happiness. On his maps.me app, Marco located a waterfall a few kilometres ahead so we decided to go towards it. An hour and a half later we arrived at the spot but there was nothing to see. We looked around and realised that since this was the dry season it had probably dried out. This was also when my energy had started to dry out and the thought of walking all the way back (and now mostly uphill). We took a short break and started
Lorena y Oriol are the guys that hosted us, they are our type of friends, many interests in common, life views and many experiences to share over a glass of wine. We’ll definitely meet them again.
making our way back. Three bottles of sparkling water later (to replace all our salts) we started taking more frequent breaks as the steep incline to leave the canyon was quite full on. In the end we reached Barichara at 7pm in total darkness having left the house that morning at 10am. We figured we had walked around 22km that day and probably for 7 hours straight with a total of a 1 hour break. By the time we reached the main square I was walking like John Wayne and Marco literally had to pull my hand as I was dragging behind. Suffice to say that we slept like babies and were ready for to eat like pigs for Christmas Day.
And where better to spend Christmas than at an Italian trattoria?! The back story goes that when we were at Gitana del Mar we met Clementina who worked there and who was also one of my students on the course. She is half Colombian and half Italian. Her father who is originally from Italy, has been living in Colombia for 37 years working with marble and then cement. In his seventies now, he left the altitude
of Bogota for the kinder, drier climate of San Gil which is a town just outside of Barichara, where he opened Bella Italia - a small restaurant serving homemade focaccia and his friend’s local cow cheese for starter, a pasta main, again with his friend’s cheese for Parmesan, and a delicious chocolate ricotta type cake for pudding named La Torta de Clementina after his daughter. Clementina had talked a lot about her dad while we were in the jungle and so we decided that we would go and pay him a visit for Christmas seeing as we were on our own as well. Ugo, as he is called, was another absolute character that you couldn’t make him up. He had even more stories to tell than Eliacer in Minca and they both had a love of focaccia in common. We ate well, drank well and chatted a lot (or rather, Ugo spoke A LOT). He gave us lots of insights into Colombian culture, politics, corruption and history. But not only Colombia, he lectured us on how air conditioning was a thing of the past and that he was part of a project developing a new type of units that didn’t
Because sometimes is the time for a selfie, if not, there would be no picture of us two together, and this won’t be right.
harm the environment nor the end-user...I would love to see this happen as someone who really hates aircon! One of the other things that stuck with me was his description of the social strata in Colombia stating: “the poor Colombian wants to be Mexican and so listens to Mexican music and tries to be a gangster; the middle-class Colombian wishes he was a Gringo from Miami; and the rich Colombiano wants to en European and does everything to appear so”. While simplistic, it felt quite on point. Ugo was a real sweetie and we went back to see him on our way out of Barichara for some more of his bread and chats 😊
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