Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Colombia, Barichara; Adventure, romance and art.

 For so long Colombia spent time in the news for all the wrong reasons. In fact when we first moved to Ireland and people asked Vanessa and I where we were from, "Colombia", was usually quickly followed, by "oh gosh, poor you,  must have been so dangerous with the mafia and the drugs".  I soon developed a canned response highlighting all the other exports it was famous for;  flowers, coffee and emeralds to name but a few! I'm genuinely over the moon to say that in the last decade there has been an incredible turnaround in the country, both economically and socially and perhaps equally importantly, how it is perceived internationally.  Its daring tourism campaign "The only risk is wanting to stay" was a huge success and peaked an interest with people.  As its political climate improves it's becoming a very real player in the world stage. These days when asked where I'm from, it's more common for people's reaction to be "Wow, I'd love to go there/ it was my favourite place when travelling/ my little brother is heading there on his gap year"

I feel incredibly lucky that Vanessa and I got to experience our early years in South America. Firstly in Ecuador, on a large farm in Maglaralto, then in Colombia in the colonial city of Cartagena. About four years ago mum and dad moved back to Colombia full time and our love affair with the place continues; the biodiversity (it's the second most biodiverse country in the world), the people, the festivals, the music, art and the climate are all infectious. 

There is a particular place in Colombia, that has a very special place in my heart and that is Barichara. It is there, in the main square in the midst of ear popping fire works, live music and perhaps one too many aguardientes that my now husband proposed to me, on one knee on new years eve 2006. 

It is very rare these days, to be able to arrive in a place and to feel, even if only for a few minutes, that you could be the first non local to set foot there, that you could quite possibly be the first to discover it!  
Well, that's the beauty of Barichara. 

Walking along the paths of red and yellow earth leading up to it, as you catch a glimpse of the palm trees and cathedral dome, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd somehow ended up in the movie set for Indiana Jones or Romancing the stone! But this is no movie set, it's much much better, a town that has been here since the time of the Spanish conquistadors!

The streets, cathedrals and churches are made from stone, while many of the houses are constructed from compressed mud painted white. It is so loved by Colombia that it has gained National Heritage Status. 

    Many artists have moved to Barichara as a result of its unique atmosphere and tranquility. Craft workshops and galleries are now part of the town's draw. There are so many wonderful places to stay for visitors to this little town. Houses with beautiful internal courtyards and that embody and promote all Barichara is famous for. Art, history and a sort of serenity.   La Nube Posada is one of these places.  The house was once owned by a rich landowner who kept horses in the internal courtyard, which is now surrounded by guest rooms. It's current owners have created a wonderful retreat where less is more.

David enjoying the best resting spot at La Nube Posada. 

If you are ever lucky enough to visit Barichara and the surrounding areas you cannot miss the Cascadas san Curi; an incredible cluster of 200 meter high waterfalls.

You follow a series of wooden ladders and ropes, which would almost certainly not pass health and safety here in the U.K (but life's too short to worry about all that) to reach the pool of the waterfall where you can swim.  These waterfalls really have to be seen to be believed, such an incredible piece of natural beauty and climbing them an utterly thrilling experience.

So that is a little taste of my Colombia. A tiny little taste of the magnitude of what it has to offer. Vanessa and I are planning a sourcing trip to Colombia for Ginger & Mora very soon and have some darn exciting things planned. We will let you know about those plans as soon as we can! 

Have you ever found a hidden gem of a place?  We'd love to hear about it.  

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