2012 and Beyond ...

Continuation of a journey


Sample imageAugust 16, 2012 - On the way to El Cocuy, we made a few stops. The first one was in Curumani, a wide spot on the road infested with small hotels and even more places to eat. It was a truck stop town with some charm.





The next day we did minor motorcycle maintenance in Curumani as the trip odometer crept towards the 20,000 km mark. In the afternoon, we rode to Bucaramanga. Finally we gained some altitude and the temperature dropped. There were few things of note on the ride, maybe the fact I raced with a police motorcycle around trucks, double yellow lines be damned. They were riding two up and the pillion passenger grinned and gave me a thumbs up as he clutched his AR15 assault rifle and held on for dear life.

When we arrived in Bucaramanga, we casually informed at the police station as to hotels in the area. This resulted in a call to the tourist police and a two-up motorcycle escort to suitable accommodation, with the cops getting us a better than posted rate. Initially the hotel staff were a little shaken by the whole affair but warmed up to us when it became apparent we were mere tourists and not corrupt officials who needed a place to stay.

The next day we arrived, after some of the best riding since Chiapas in Mexico and Guatemala, in a small place called Barichara. It turns out that Barichara is probably one of those towns you will never forget. We felt we'd walked into a fairytale.

The town looks like it is nearly totally restored in picture-postcard fashion. We couldn't figure out why the place wasn't overrun with tourists like Antigua is in Guatemala. I guess we have to thank the FARC in part. The outside world also still views Colombia in terms of cocaine and Pablo Escobar. Reality is quite different and Medellin is now a must-see place on the Colombian travel calendar.

It turns out that Barichara is mainly a weekend getaway for people from Bogota and Bucaramanga.

At some point in our walk around town, Baroque music wafted through the streets and we stumbled upon a practicing  American/Colombian ensemble. A few concerts were planned, one of which we are attending. The church's acoustics were amazing. Unlike my last attendance at the Vancouver symphony where someone clad in a noisy North Face jacket managed to ruin all the quiet passages of a performance by St. Martin-in-the-fields a few years ago, people here seem to be more attentive and appreciative. The performers are Ensemble La Rocinante and Coral Lux Aeterna. 

Numerous streets in town are broken up to replace the sewer system. Stone masons are everywhere and debating the correct location of new stone slabs. It's a carefully orchestrated process and nothing is left to chance. The whole town has a museum-like quality and consistency of appearance that is simply amazing. A neon sign here surely attracts a death sentence.

A little further away from the town centre, the housing style is clearly a little different, but very much along the same lines.

On one of the afternoons when we were out for a stroll, we ran into Gringo Mike, an American who runs a restaurant/hotel in San Gil, a small town near here. He told us this hamlet was one of the most amazing places in Colombia. We can believe it.

There are a lot more pictures in the slideshow for Barichara.