I arrived here rather unamused after a 17 hour bus journey....I always knew it would be a killer as I'd gone such a strange route across the coast and back. The road was bumpy and the suspension squeaky....goodness knows how I got any sleep at all!
However, San Gil is the adventure capital of Colombia, and is quite picturesque, set on a hill with several rivers running close-by. The houses are white and the rooftops red. Note Colombians pronounce 'G' as 'H' so Hill is actually in the name...the roads are very steep..a bit like San Francisco in a way!
Most people come for the adventure sports...caving, paragliding, rappelling (abseiling down a waterfall), hydospeed (body surfing down a river with flippers on), hiking and rafting (grade 1-5).
On arrival I had a day of rest and met some people at the hostel that evening, unfortunatley most people had left that day (about 25 people apparently) but there were a couple of English guys who were sticking around until after the weekend which was great news for me so I wouldn´t be the only one there!
The people who were leaving did make a great dinner suggestion though...Gringo Mike´s (http://gringomikes.net/) even if it was salads/sandwiches for dinner which seems like a strange concept at first...I was sold on the fact it sold salads which can be a rarity in South America! Even the boys were full up after a salad...lots of meat I think was the winning combination! There was an added bonus of adding rum to the fruit juices to make a nice evening tipple.
Everyone was also raving about the rafting so I realised I had to do that the following day, its something I´ve never done but always thought of as fun and something I´d want to do.
Woke up for 9am the following day, the rafting was cancelled due to heavy rain, the river was too high! After chatting about my options, rappelling seemed like the best alternative, I always like the abseilling part of rock climbing. Off I went on a local bus, meeting a group of French guys along the way before taking the 45 min hike to the top of the waterfall. The hikes and parks can be different from the UK in that there are a lot more of an adventure...rocks, muddy paths and dodging trees, walking over small rivers and waterfalls are all the name of the game. We didn´t actually get to the top of the waterfall...I think its 180m high but looking up it was amazing!
The rappelling guys were well equipped though...lots of ropes, people at the top and the bottom, instruction in Spanish as well as English. The height was the main issue...I knew 60m was high, and learning from my bungy jumps I knew not to look down! Progress was slow and I kept slipping, the water was cold but refreshing after the hike up. It was only nearer to the bottom when I started to get into it more, so I wasn´t slipping and just guiding myself down...I seemed to forget everything I had learnt from rock climbing!!
After the climb, the guys walked me down and stopped to climb trees and pull off fruit to eat, it tasted sweet, and was good to have a bit of energy back after the rush of the rappelling. I also saw an amazing peacock...what an adventure!
That evening was dinner at Gringo Mikes again...another day another salad...
The following day we went to Barichara, which is a small colonial town with whitewashed buildings and cobbled streets....very beautiful!!
We were going for lunch pre-ordered at a chef's house. They usually had a restaurant, but it was closed for re-furbishment. It was going to be a treat as the restaurant was supposed to be the best in Colombia and served Colores Hormiga ´translated as Big Arsed Ants!!
After an hour bus ride we met George, who was our chef, after a choice of walking or a lift, unfortunately we decided to walk. The 15 min walk ended up over an hour climbing up 4 hills in the midday sun...not ideal really, we nearly gave up! Luckily someone came to find us and took us to the most idealic setting, it was peaceful and beautiful...a small hostel with an open kitchen, on a small Ant farm...amazing trees and fabulous birds.
George the Chef told us about the Ants and microwaved them which is the modern way of eating them (they used to put them on the hob and cook them for an hour and a half). You only eat the Princess ants, and not the others. They taste a bit like peanuts...great for Antony who has a nut allergy so doesn´t usually have the pleasure of eating them!! Our full menu was...
Aubergine pate, cream cheese with ants and pearl barley with parsley & bread appetisers
Beef medallions wrapped in bacon with potatoes, salad and rice main course
Finally some Coffee which was good.
We also tried the tangerine jam which they had made from what they had been growing...it was delicious, I don´t usually like marmalade but this was different...mmm...
We went for a walk back to the town and went out later to play Tejo...the national game in Colombia. Its a bit like bowling, except you have a 50 or 100 kg weight which you aim to hit one of two packets of gunpowder to make them explode. They are set in a block of clay. You don´t directly pay to play but instead buy drinks to continue playing...after a while we all got the hang of it, although I was the worst being a girl and not being able to throw very well!!
My last day in San Gil I wanted to go rafting, unfortunately it was raining again so the day was spent chilling before I got the bus to Bogota that night. It was good as I got to go to the amazing food market again, ate breakfast, cook my own lunch (for the first time in my trip) and take photos despite the bad light!!
In the evening I finished off my time in San Gil off nicely with another trip to Gringo Mike´s...and another salad...I tried all of them...mmmm....and we played a game of poker which I was actually doing quite well in before I had to leave...shame really! Beginners luck most likely and big risk taking as I was running out of time!!
Next stop Bogota.