The Land of the Ants - Colombia
With its sunny and pleasant climate, well-preserved history and interesting archeology, unusual things on the menu like ants, the reputation of having the strongest women in Colombia, colonial villages, the second largest canyon in the world ... and its super friendly Santandereanos the department of Santander certainly is a
must visit on your trip to Colombia!
About a year ago I had been in Barichara and
this time I was even more surprised because my "Colombia Fácil" engraving was still on the carved wall at the end of the village. Here I had a fantastic view over the Rio Fonce river that later merges with the Chicamocha river. That fact that the locals are nicknamed "yellow feet" is due to the abundant yellow sand to be found all over the village. Barichara is a very charming little place, not far from San Gil, where you can begin a beautiful walk along the "Camino Real" (1u45) to the next typical village called Guane. I visited the "Parque de las Artes" and numerous churches and then went to take a look at the "Parque Natural Chorrero". Here you can enjoy a refreshing swim (3.000 cop / pp) in a natural pool. It is only 10 minutes on foot from the center of Barichara in the direction of San Gil. You will come to it after the bend in the road to the right where there is a sign indicating the "La Piedra Barichara" restaurant. With its special character and unique architecture Barichara radiated a restful atmosphere which I really loved.
The next day I went to Socorro to the "Casa de la Cultura", a three hundred year old house, where I was immersed in the “espíritu de la epoca” that existed before the arrival of the Spaniards back in the period of the sixteen hundreds. I learned about the customs and traditions of the Guane Indians. I was given a tour of this historic house and went through a metamorphosis as I ´travelled´ through an amazing ´time tunnel´ of exhibits which allowed me to really empathize with the past. It was well illustrated by interesting stories, legends but also with letters, documents, photographs, furniture, tools, ... all in original condition. I became a big fan of Ms. Manuela Beltrán because she was the one who had stood up for the people and their rights. She was the rebel who had refused to pay the additional tax and who had torn the decree demanding taxes in half. In Santander she is greatly admired and therefore it is said that the women of Santander are strong women. The entrance cost was 5.000 cop/pp, including guide. The tour lasts 40 minutes, unfortunately it is conducted only in Spanish.
I also visited the Natural Park "Gallineral" at the Rio Fonce in San Gil where I could chill under the "Ceiba Bonga" giant trees or sunbathe on the small beach at "Playa del Rio Fonce". I ate a delicious Robalo for lunch in the park. The entrance to the park is 6.000 cop/pp; opening hours: Open every day from Mon-Fri 9am-6pm, Fri - Sun + public holidays 9am - 7pm.
Later in the day I went to the Chicamocha National Park (also known as Panachi) that opened its doors to the public back in 2007. It was not really what I imagined of a national park. I immediately felt that there was a lot money involved because of the striking advertising. Kitschy decorations also made it all very commercial, artificial and unattractive. The view, however, of the Chicamocha Canyon made it worth my visit. The canyon is at an altitude of 1,450 meters above sea level, it is 227 kilometer long and with a depth of 2000 meters and according to my brochure the second largest canyon in the world ! With the teleferico (cable car) I enjoyed for 25 minutes spectacular views over the canyon and the Chicamocha river which joins the Fonce and Suárez Rivers further on. In 2009 it was nominated for the "7 natural wonders contest". You can do buggie riding, trampoline jumping and numerous outdoor sports like rafting, mountain biking and kayaking. For something a little gentler you can visit an ostrich and a goat park and there are also many squares in which to simply sit in the shade and watch people.
The Santander Monument that you will find on top of the hill, was conceived by Guillermo Vallejo, there you will see a huge tobacco leaf which is surrounded by Manuela Beltrán and 34 other figures, all symbolic of the civilian uprising that became known as the ´Commoners Revolution´. - To be continued.
1. Entrance prices to the Chicamocha National Park: The cable car = 38.000 cop/pp (adults), 20.000 cop/pp (children). When you only choose to visit the park: Adult = 13.000 cop/pp, children = 7.000 cop/pp. Be aware: At around 4pm it is quite possible that you will encounter a long line of people in front of you waiting to take the cable car. The park is closed on Mondays but open on public holidays, however be mindful that it is closed on the following day after a public holiday.
2. Casa de la Cultura @ Socorro: Mon-Sam 8-11am, 2-5pm. Sun & Public holidays 8-11am.
How to get there
Bucaramanga - San Gil = 2,5hrs, 22pp.
San Gil - Santa Marta = 12hrs, 55pp.
Bucaramanga - Santa Marta = 7-8hrs.
Bogotá - San Gil= 7-8hrs, 30-57pp.
Medellín - San Gil = 11hrs, 60-80pp.
San Gil - Barichara = 1hr, 4-7pp (every 30min, last one 8:15pm).
Barichara - San Gil (every 30min, last one 6:30pm).
Guane from Barichara = bus 15-20min, 1.7-2pp/motocarro = 12pp.
Bus San Gil - PNN Chicamocha = 1hr, 10pp.
Barichara - Chicamocha = 1hr.
Bucaramanga - Barichara = 3,5hrs.
Bucaramanga - Cucuta = 7hrs (till the boarder with Venezuela).
Bus San Gil - Socorro = 8-10pp, 30min.
Barichara - Socorro = 1hr.