From Villa de Leyva we hopped on a bus or 2 and got off a few hours North, in the busy city of San Gil. We were not that keen on staying here, we’d rather have gone to Barichara, but sometimes you just have to chose the more convenient way when you’re travelling with children. So, San Gil it was! It’s a noisy city with lots of traffic, but all is centered around the main Plaza where everybody hangs around while eating, chatting and people watching.
San Gil actually draws quite a lot of tourists too as it is known as the adventure capital of Colombia. However we are not here for the rafting, canyoning, parapenting or other more or less extreme stuff. We are here for the famous Camino Real: an old path between the villages of Barichara and Guane. We originally planned to only stay here for 2 nights, but because of some public holidays the bus prices doubled, so we decided to stay 2 more. This turned out to be a good thing for our budget as our hostel charges only about € 12 for a room with shared bath. Our hostel has a wonderful terrace with a great view, so we enjoyed more than a few hours there chilling and playing! Oh and we forgot to mention: it’s hot over here!
On Sunday we got up at 6.30 am to start our Camino Real adventure! After a quick breakfast we walked a few blocks to the bus station in order to catch a bus to Barichara. Lucky for us, there was one leaving in a couple of minutes! About 40 minutes later we arrived at another of Colombia’s jewel pueblos. We tried to ignore the urge to go out and explore and instead walked straight up to the start of the trail. A couple of fotomoments later we left the road and submerged into the mountain path of the Camino Real. Like most travellers, we were walking the path from Barichara to Guane and not vice versa as it’s supposed to be mostly downhill.
The first half an hour was rather easy as it was still early and mostly in the shade. But once we started walking in the full sun it soon became HOT! N. wasn’t too keen on the warmth either and since it was really rocky, it was difficult for her to walk on her own. Therefore she spent a lot of time in the carrier, but that was not to her liking…
After about an hour we encountered a place where we could buy some drinks. Needless to say we met that with loud hoorays! The guy told us we had an hour to go, and I had read before that it indeed takes around 2 hours to complete the trail. However, on and on and on it went.
After a killing 3 hours we finally made it to the little village of Guane! Yay! We dove into a cafe to ease our thirst and once we cooled down enough, wandered to the village’s little plaza right in time for the end of the Sunday Mass. Guane is supposed to have a rather good archeological and paleontological museum, but we really had no energy left. All we could do was wait for the bus to Barichara on a little bench in the shade. Once in Barichara we had a lovely lunch and walked around for some impressions of this beautiful town and then we headed back to San Gil for some well deserved rest.
On our last day in town we decided to take a look at the Parque El Gallineral. At only 10 minutes from the main Plaza this park is very walkable and it is famous for it’s large trees with ‘barbas de viejo’, a kind of moss hanging in the trees like old men’s beards… We can honestly say it did not dissapoint. The only regret we had was not arriving sooner as we had only one hour left before closing time. Lots of supertall trees, rivers, little bridges with romantic names. It was definitely worth a visit!
The rest of our time in San Gil was spent chilling on the lovely deck, eating at Gringo Mike’s and visiting the Plaza and the Mercado. On Tuesday around 9pm we hopped onto our very first night bus!