Or maybe it is days 551. Or 548. I have lost count and it is not important anyway. The sun is up, the skies are brilliant blue and it is balmy outside. We have descended down in elevation from cold Bogota and there is only cold water in the shower. I tried to take one yesterday and couldn’t. It will take me time to adjust. Kuba is already complaining that the weather is too hot. I on the other hand love the heat and can easily visualize life without winter.
We are in Barichara and I already fear that we will have trouble leaving. The place is straight from a dream. I don’t think I have stepped foot in a prettier village. The streets are paved with huge sand colored stones, the sidewalks are lined with square terracotta tiles and edged with rough stone curbs. Everything is spotless. Houses huddle together to form a continuous undulating frame, only to be broken up by wooden window and doors painted different shades of green and blue, and by deep overhangs that would keep you dry if strolling in the rain.
I am so relaxed I can’t even think of going out to explore even though the place is new and exciting. Kuba and I take time in the morning to make breakfast. Then I read and watch the beautiful vegetation of the hostel courtyard. On to doing yoga by barely moving my limbs followed by a leisurely lunch while the kids do their school and fret over end-of-grade test answers. We can easily spend all of our time in Colombia here in Barichara shopping at the corner market, making friends with the locals, reading and resting, daydreaming, weaving bracelets, painting and savoring time with a speed that is barely detectable. There are not many distractions around and life hums with a peaceful lull that is meant to nurture the spirit.
Somehow over the 18 months of our journey we have transformed from busy bees into travelers content on exploring with a spontaneity and slow pace we didn’t possess at the beginning. The ambitious and high strung me has shrunk to a pea size and is hiding waiting for her chance to be once more hectic, productive and always on the run. The other me is stretched on a hammock studying the pattern of the ceiling above. Uneven wooden beams with undulating plaster in between that reflect the light in waves of dark and light. Then I turn my attention to the pomegranate tree decorated with fruits of different size and shades of red. The hostel lady comes over and picks the heaviest and reddest of all, then disappears into the kitchen and comes back with a bowl of fruit for us.
Her son, shy at first, approaches me and tells me all about his little precious self in a Spanish that makes me think. Then he takes my hand and wills me out of my resting spot. Together we cross the street to try some cooked giant ants, a local specialty. We enter a small shop filled with all kinds of stuff, but mainly handmade shoes that pretty much everyone in the village is wearing. A quick thought crosses my mind – I imagine us staying in Barichara, each of us wearing a pair of the shoes in different colors. I ask for the price. Around $8/pair. Instead we get the ants. $1 buys us a handful. The boy looks at them eager to devour them all. I take my time, studying the brown dots in fascination. They don’t look like food. All of their parts are in there! He pulls my hand impatiently but I have to take a photo first. I don’t snack on ants every day after all. B&R wrinkle their noses. Kuba runs away. Me and the boy finish the ants alone. They are good, salty and taste like sunflower seeds.
Now that I am out of the hammock I decide that we should do something productive. It is 3 pm after all. Kuba tries to beg me for an afternoon nap. His eyes are closing and he is stretched on the bed with a book in hand, the one he is trying to read since Arequipa, Peru. I bribe him with the promise of an ice cream and he begrudgingly gets up and joins.
We get the ice cream from the corner shop. There are so many flavors that it takes us a while to choose. Then we walk unhurried up the street from the square. The road goes up and up till the beautiful village fabric peels off to reveal a gap and then a mountain in the distance. We come to the edge and look down in disbelief. There is a valley below, green and lush. The land is neither agricultural, neither a Forrest, but something in between. B and I exclaim at the same time: ‘It looks like Africa!’ I love these moments when the invisible threads of our journey connect our thoughts in a sudden joined exclamation. We can see little white houses with red roofs dotting the landscape here and there and a steel river snaking through the green expanse. It is so beautiful that we have to sit down. Tomorrow we will descend down the valley on the old cobble stoned path to the next village, Guane. But today we just admire the view.
When we have our fill we turn back and dive down towards the village square. It starts drizzling. We hide under a deep eave. I spot a beautiful tall girl holding a baby on the corner across from us. She is dressed in an outfit that stands out in this setting and demands full attention – a black and fluorescent green checkered skirt, revealing on the front and long at the back, short black boots with medium heals and a tight leather jacket. I get intrigued and sit down on the curb to watch her. The family sits too. She is not doing much, just holding the baby and pacing in place. I wonder what her story is. An older lady comes to the girl and they chat. The baby changes hands. Two motorcycle guys park across the street, stand in the doorway of the small shop and wait for the rain to stop. Both have big helmets on their heads and chain smoke. They openly study us.
We pull out the bracelets each of us is working on and start weaving while still keeping an eye on all the action around. A Korean couple walks by and greets us in their language. Surreal. Then a fit couple on bicycles circles around to look at what we are doing. Before we know it it is dusk and we can’t tell the colors of the threads apart so we stop and cross the street to buy some groceries for dinner. The girl with the baby is even prettier up close. Her skin is chocolate and her hair black and shiny. We look at each other with curiosity and then smile at the same time. In a moment we pass one another, each of us going our separate ways.
B gets quiet so I know that he is up to something.
‘Travel is such a big part of us now, how are we going to go back?’ he says. This coming from a boy who was excited yesterday about having to go to a new school soon.
‘I thought you were happy to go back?’
‘I am having second thoughts‘ he answers and I know what he means.
Our family is forever going to be one foot on the ground and one in the clouds. I think I am fooling myself that the transition back to normal life would be easy.
I know that we will struggle to fit in a society of two weeks paid vacation time with the temptation to hit the road again always on the back of our minds.
But we still have time. So we push those thoughts away and walk the dreamy streets in silence.