The Prettiest Town in Colombia
I will never forget the feeling I felt when I opened my email and found out where I would be spending the next ten months of my life. The email read “As of today, your placement city is Barichara”. I was at a loss for words, I had never heard of Barichara, and I was unsure if the town would be able to offer me what I thought I was looking for in Colombia. I immediately looking up information on Barichara. I was quite surprised to find out that Barichara only had a population of around 8,000 people. It also had very limited information on things to do around the town. One thing that did strike me on a positive note was that the town on all the web pages I searched referred to Barichara as “the prettiest town in Colombia”. It was also highly recommended for travel by sites such as TripAdvisor, and Lonely Planet. Nevertheless, I was still felt uncertain about my placement city.
Once arriving in Colombia, my desire to see my placement city only increased. Everyone in the Heart for Change orientation who had traveled to Barichara expressed to me how beautiful Barichara was, and how fortunate I was to be able to live there. On February 17th, I finally got my chance to see the town of Barichara. I brought three bags with me (way too much), and I lugged them off the bus and began to make my way to my hostel. As I started to drag my suitcases, I immediately noticed the cobblestone sidewalks. I looked up and it felt as if I was in the year 1733. All the buildings were white with a colonial design. In addition to the cobblestone, sidewalks city looked as if it had been preserved in the colonial times. The old architectural designs of the buildings, one could not help but fall in love with. I quickly spotted a source of transportation that the Barichareños call “mototaxis”. It is what many other countries refer to as, “Tuk-Tuks”. As I was being taken to my hostel, I saw that it was not just one part of the town that had that colonial design, but all of it. I was slowly beginning to understand why people referred to Barichara as the prettiest town in Colombia.
Over the next few weeks, I began to explore Barichara. One of the mentors during the orientation, who I believe was from Santander suggested that I check out the “Camino Real”. Camino Real is a path that leads to a small town called Guane. The path was created by a German named Geo Von Lengerke who fled to Colombia in 1852 in order to escape criminal persecution in his own country. It was rumored that he and some of his German friends “slept” with many women while in Colombia. It is also believed that because of the many offspring he created while in Santander, many Santandereanos have similar German features such as lighter eyes and a taller stature. I decided to go down the famous Camino Real path. Walking through this trail once again showed me the beauty of not only Colombia but also Barichara. My roommate (another fellow) and I continued to hike other trails. We went to places such as Villanueva, and the countryside of Barichara. One of my favorite things about Barichara is that it is the definition of a perfect Instagram picture. But even with all the Instagram filters, it can’t capture the beauty of seeing Barichara for yourself.
Aside from hiking, I was always looking for ways to get a better understanding of Santandereano culture. Santander is famous for its hormigas culonas. Hormigas culonas are ants that are commonly eaten in Santander during April and May. Naturally, I had to try a few. They appeared to be salty and roasted, and for ants, they were quite expensive. The hormigas culonas had a unique taste which many people believe taste like peanuts, but to me, it had more of a popcorn taste. Although it wasn’t horrible, I don’t intend on eating hormigas culonas in the future.
So far, I have thoroughly enjoyed living in Barichara, however, it takes flexibility, open-mindedness, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone to fully enjoy Barichara. If I hadn’t been willing to give Barichara a chance, I believe that there is a lot that I would’ve missed. My experience in Colombia is unlike many other fellows, but its wonderful one that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I hope that future fellows will also give whatever placement city they are initially placed at, not only a chance but an open mind because there is so much beauty in Colombia that we must be willing to open ourselves up to in order to see it.
Author: Melvin Fatimehin
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