Barichara captivated me with its charm. I arrived after a 45-minute bus trip from San Gil, where nothing hinted at this colonial masterpiece. The village lies on the side of a hill, which descends on the Suarez River Canyon on one side. Green mountains lie on the valley’s other side. A river meanders through the valley. There’s no easy way down.

Walking around Barichara involves walking up and down hills. Stone-paved streets, lined with white houses, with windows framed in green, blue and brown, with wooden coloured doors to match. Some have dark brown, earth-coloured stone blocks, which match the streets. Several two-story houses have balconies overlooking the town. Rust red-tiled roofs enhance the feel.  

I climb to a park overlooking the town and the valley. One step and I almost sprained my ankle. I make my way to a nearby store. The owner sits me down with my drink and we talk. He’s been to New York but likes it here better. Who wouldn’t?  

With my foot fine, I bid goodbye and head back to the centre and its palm-filled park. It’s time to photograph the large, two-steepled sandstone church across from the park. A high-ranking police officer walks beside it and spots me. One doesn’t want to deal with a Colombian cop. He walks away and then turns towards me and smiles, the type of smile that says, “I’m not here to hassle you.” He asks me some tourist questions for the local tourist board and then complements me on my Spanish and departs.  

It’s late afternoon and time to see the valley. A road runs along the canyon’s edge, a great place for some photos. It’s best at sunset when the haze lifts and the green hills show their power.

If you find Barichara just too big and busy, Guane awaits. I come across a cross with three black vultures as I walk towards the village. A brilliant picture awaits. I snap a photo and then try to move closer. Well, even vultures don’t let you get close. They open their wings. I step back so they don’t fly away. 

As I continue down towards my destination, a bus stops. The driver offers me a ride, at no charge. We talk in Spanish, a great opportunity for me.

Guane makes Barichara look like a metropolis. Small, one-story buildings, some made of stone, line its small square. Goats and chickens roam the back streets where dirt mingles with large stones. In this village, time stands still and pressure is forbidden.