After Bogota, we escaped to lower altitudes so that I could regain my equilibrium (and my lunch). We headed for San Gil which is roughly in the center of the country and is a hub of Adventure Tourism. We took a bus ride from Bogota and arrived in San Gil ready for a good long nap (we haven’t really gotten this whole “adventure tourism” business down). Buses in South and Central America are really great. There was a movie on board, two actually, and although they were in Spanish, it was a fun way to pass the time. We were only boarded one time by Federales checking out the pasaportes and we were cleared for travel.
El Centro in San Gil is a happening place. It truly is the hub of this community and was well populated day and night. One thing that I really liked about Colombia was the bustling economy. After the closed and graffiti’d shop fronts in Puerto Rico, we were encouraged by the apparently healthy economy in Colombia. It is true that most of the population lives below the “poverty level” but we saw people rich in relationship, happy and genuinely friendly and welcoming. We frequented a newly opened restaurant and chatted (as much as we can chat with non-English speakers) with the new owners. We gave them encouragement and repeat business for our time in San Gil.
The following are some of my pics from San Gil Centro and around town…
Creepy photo op… This is a real buffalo head attached to a small body that children are invited to sit on for a photo. I think I prefer the live llama and pony pics.
Weird statue award. I am sure this is an image from Greek mythology, but I don’t know it. A bird emerges from the man’s chest. I am not sure what type of bird this is or what special powers it imparts. Mostly it just looks painful.
Michael in the jaws of a giant hormiga. These are the fat bottomed ants famous in the Santander region. They are served fried as a snack or strewn on top of a grilled steak. Adventure dining was not in our plans, so we cannot report on how they taste. One guidebook said they tasted like iron in salt and dirt. Yummy. Another said that if you want to meet up with Colombianos, carry a bag of fried ants in your pack and then offer them to the natives you encounter. They love ’em.
Being built in the Andes, San Gil has many steep streets and after hiking up and down a few I will attest that they are better than any stairmaster! The people here look so fit and now we know why!
This picture does not do this tree justice. We snuck into a botanical park from the backdoor. We were down by the river and Keegan wanted to explore a bamboo jungle. It turns out this was in reality the fence to keep intruders/freeloaders/us out of the park. We found our way to the front gate and paid admission as we were leaving. I’ll bet they are still confused by that one.
We really enjoyed San Gil. It is largely unvisited by international tourists and so was relatively unspoiled. We were not hounded by street vendors and people were so welcoming, not just after our $$. We stayed here for five days exploring the region and enjoying the local culture. We did have a little adventure…that will come up in the next blogs.
Life lesson: Staying put in one place allows you to go deeper in your exploration of the region and to find the oddities that are common there.