From cold and rainy Bogota, we underwent our first South American bus journey of the trip – an eight hour jaunt to the city of San Gil, a 300-year old town according to the Lonely Planet. Its also known as Colombia’s adventure capital. Here you can try your hand at any number of adventure activities – caving, canyoning, white water rafting, rappelling, rock climbing, mountain biking etc.
We arrived at the Le Papillon Hostel, run by a Swiss gentleman and his Colombian wife. This is a great hostel about 5-6 blocks from the center of the town and close to all amenities. Sylvano, the owner is a great guy to talk to about what to do in the area and we pretty much managed our entire stay there without a guidebook and with minimal internet research. The hostel will help you book adventure tours, your bus tickets to your next destination and for a fee, do your laundry. Sylvano can also produce a missing charger or can give you a spare pair of shoes in case you dont have the right ones for your chosen activity. Sort of like a magician pulling a toy out of a hat.
Anyway, what set out to be an intended one day stopover in San Gil ended up being a three day stay. We loved it so much. We also signed up for a caving, rappelling and canyoning package and spent the rest of the time exploring San Gil and the town of Barichera and hanging out with fellow travelers at the main plaza. More details about our adventure in a separate post. Here are some pictures from San Gil.
San Gil is steep, really really steep. Had to walk up this hill every time to get back to the hostel:
The central plaza in San Gil. A great place to hang out with fellow hostelers or just meet random people.
The streets of San Gil at night. San Gil is incredibly safe at night and is great to walk around. The weather is balmy and one barely needs a light jacket to get through the night.
We cooked our first meal in the hostel. Shopped for produce from the market and made a veg pulao kind of dish sprinkled with curry leaf powder (karuveppilai podi) from our very own Adyar Grand Sweets.
A pretty building in the corner. Up this street is San Gil’s only vegetarian restaurant.
Cooling off with a mango drink. Very much like frooti.
My somewhat sad looking lunch. Rice and french fries with ketchup. And a salad (not pictured). This meal prompted us to use the kitchen in the hostel for our next meal.
Bajaj is pretty famous in Colombia – they have pulsar bikes and bajaj auto rickshaws.
The very pleasant Parque El Gallineral in the outskirts of San Gil.
The park has a very cute and neat cafe that sells organic coffee.
Colombia sells fruit juice (jugos naturales) in every street corner. Its hard to miss. So dont miss it. Here is my papaya juice with a little overflow container.
Spotted: leche de soya.
An aisle in the surprisingly well stocked local supermarket:
Swami is busy in the hostel kitchen. And look, there is a curious onlooker. Granted, he doesnt stay curious for long and saunters off to find a cozy spot soon enough.