Street leaving town square to south
Barichara is simply a classic.
Isolated above a deep valley, it has sat for a century waiting for tourists.
Well, not exactly.
According to the deputy mayor (secretario del gobierno), there were lots of foreign
tourists in Barichara in the seventies, but since then they have been frightened away by the stories of
guerrillas and drug-traffickers.
But there are
still lots of Colombian tourists who come to admire the colonial architecture, enjoy warmer weather (the
residents of Bogota) or cooler weather (those of the coastal regions) as the case may be.
And we can testify to the perfection of the temperature here, although it is perhaps a little
too dry to support a much larger population.
Sitting room in Hotel Corata
We didn't stay in Barichara, although we certainly could have as there are hotels to fit every
Instead, we made a day trip from
San Gil where we were comfortably ensconced in Senora
Pereira's bed and breakfast.
We took an early morning bus and enjoyed a very pleasant ride
up a steep ridge and across a high plateau to the canyon edge where Barichara sits.
South side of square from Casa de la Cultura
Barichara Town Archives and Archivist
The early morning bus dropped us off in the main square of town, where
we watched a community celebration of senior citizens. As always the main square
is the focus of the community lined with a lovely old church, the town
hall as well as the usual stores and cafes. We visited the town hall, which
doubles as the Casa de la Cultura and fell into conversation with the deputy
mayor. Delighted to find foreign tourists in his town, he gave us a grand tour
of the town hall, including the archives.
Church dome seen from town heights
Church interior with stone columns
The old church in Barichara is typical of the region.
A stone church with a
traditional red-tile roof supported by canes all held up with
rough-cut beams and the whole open to view from within.
The main feature of the church was its gilded altarpiece, rich
and sophisticated as so many of these old colonial churches are but somehow a
little out of place nowadays in such a small unassuming town.
Mirador and View of Suarez River Valley
After leaving the main square we
wandered over to the edge of town and followed a nicely laid-out path that skirts
the edge of the canyon and leads to this nicely shaded lookout, or mirador, that
gives nice views of the river Suarez down below.
There is also a walking trail
down into the valley that leads to a small indigenous village, but we had to forgo
that pleasure for lack of time.
Iglesia Santa Barbara
Cross in front of Santa Barbara
Re-entering the town from above,
we came along to a small sculpture garden that was neither inspiring
nor well-maintained, but just below it we found the lovely little church
of Santa Barbara. Sadly we did
not get to look inside, but did get to admire the view of the town laid
out below us from the small square in front of the church.
Church dome over white-washed houses
After our canyon expedition, we were hungry and so were pleased to find
a small restaurant with a hearty daily special, cooked in
the style of Cali, we were told.
The food was good, the environment very colonial,
and we enjoyed as a bonus an hour of conversation with a young salesman who was
based in Bucaramanga and travelled the region selling paints.
This was our second
conversation of the day, as we had already spent an hour chatting with the deputy
mayor who seemed so surprised but so pleased to find foreigners once again in his
Wherever we have been in Colombia so far, except perhaps for Cartagena, which is
overflowing with tourists, we have always been greeted very warmly because foreign
visitors are such a rare breed here.
Our two conversations in Barichara centered on
the fact that the whole country is suffering because of the troubles in only a few
We commiserated and promised to tell our friends (that's you) how
much we liked Colombia.
Ancient Stone Bridge
Our last goal for the day was to see an old bridge on the very edge of town.
As we approached, it reminded us of the old bridge on Salter's Lane in
Darlington, now isolated from the main road network and left to the use of
foot traffic only.
Painting of Barichara Main Square