August 23-26, 2004
Giron became our base for two days by a simple accident of geography: the Bucaramanga bus station ("Terminal des Transportes") was actually about halfway between Giron and Bucaramanaga. Since Giron was the smaller, and we supposed the more intimate, and was recommended for its colonial architecture, we elected to spend our nights there and visit Bucaramanga for the day.
It was a very good decision. The town wasn't quite as charming as Mompox, but its square and Cathedral reminded us very much of the colonial town near Heredia, Costa Rica that we visited one afternoon and wished we could be staying in.
Lonely Planet only mentioned one hotel in Giron which, as we later discovered, is because there is only one hotel in Giron. Located right on the main square in another lovely colonial building, we expected to be very happy there. Sadly, although the people were friendly and the price was low, the room was hot and airless and a little too uncomfortable for us without air-conditioning.
Just behind the main square we discovered a second, smaller square and on the square a couple of restaurants. We chose the Villa del Rey and enjoyed a typical set lunch sitting at a table on the verandah of the central courtyard. You can see from our dress that we are still in a warm climate.
When we finally had to leave Giron/Bucaramanga, we showed up at the bus station without reservations looking for a bus to San Gil, which we were assured went very frequently. We had to wait only as long as it took to find the right ticket office and we were hastily bundled into a minibus for the relatively short but quite spectacular ride to San Gil.
The photo, above, shows Gerry on arrival at the bus station with our luggage carts laden to capacity. We rarely have to pull them far, but need the comfort that comes with knowing that when absolutely necessary, like in Cartagena, we can be completely independent. In fact we have been trying to downsize our luggage ever since we sold the car but are still working on it. We gave up two boxes of stuff before leaving Panama City but have acquired more books and an electric kettle since then, so we aren't being very successful. As long as we travel by bus and taxi, it is manageable but we wonder what will happen if/when we take our first airplane flight.
Every part of our luggage has a story. The bright green and purple sport bags have been travelling with us since we left New Jersey and served us for several years worth of travel before that. They seem indestructible by now. The large dark green bag topping off one of the carts was purchased in Çanakkale, Turkey and is already showing signs of wear. We bought the small blue and black bag in Bucaramanga to replace it, but then instead consolidated three smaller bags into the large green one for easier carrying. You will also notice perhaps our ice chest — that's the red thing anchoring one of the carts. We bought it as soon as we hit the southern U.S. on our drive to California. We keep thinking we will give it up, but have so far not been able to bring ourselves to do so. We use it to carry around a small number of dishes and plastic utensils and a minimum amount of non-perishable food (cookies, coffee & tea, cereal). Perhaps our first airplane flight will force us to abandon it. Hidden by the blue bag is a cardboard box that anchors the other cart. Originally our book box (how could we survive without books?), it now carries our office: notepad and all-purpose cards, felt-tip pen and tape for parcels, and computer and camera supplies such as tapes and CD's that need more protection than our soft-sided bags can offer. The books, an assortment of shoes, and some papers complete the inventory and are carried in the large green bag. And finally the carts themselves. The one closest to Gerry is now almost ten years old. Purchased on impulse one day in Macy's at Monmouth Mall, it has provided us outstanding service and although battered and worn still serves its purpose. The second, newer cart was bought in Thailand and then mislaid in the Daggetts' basement for a year before coming with us through the U.S. Mexico, and Central America. We doubt it will last as well as its mate, but so far so good!