Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day Trip to Curiti

Iglese de San Joaquin was started in 1640 in Curiti, Santander in Colombia.
The church, as seen further up the street in
Curiti; this is the older section of village.
An inexpensive day trip (less than $25 USD) can be made to Curiti in Santander, part of the Andino region of Colombia. A relatively clean village of about 3500 people, Curiti was established in 1640 when the first phase of construction of the church of San Joaquin began.

The best way to get there is to go to the municipal terminal (not the big one) and catch the little bus (bussetta) under the Curiti sign. It will cost about 2100 (COP) each way and take about 20 minutes, depending on traffic. You head out toward Bucaramanga and just after a large gas station on the right, the road dips down and you head off into the hills. Just as you arrive, you cross over a small bridge for a little river which has lately been much larger with all the rain. Because the bussettas are the lifeblood for the campesinos getting to and from the market in San Gil, you can expect to be traveling with a variety of ages and materials, especially if you make the trip on a Sunday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday as those are key market days.

Interior view toward nave of San Joaquin church in Curiti.
Stained glass windows of San Joaquin church in Curiti.
View looking toward entrance and first phase of the
construction of San Joaquin church in Curiti.
Detailed view of entrance of San Joaquin church in Curiti.
Exterior view of entrance to San Joaquin.
Like most of the Colombian villages, the church sits on the eastern portion of the plaza square, and it is often the highest point of the plaza as well.

This church clearly shows its early construction and while there were no plaques to tell of the history, there was a tourist information booth staffed by two local young ladies who had a book they had taken notes in with lots of answers. They were able to tell me that the church construction began in 1640 and was built in three phases. It is well maintained overall and the stained glass windows are beautiful but would benefit from being cleaned.

This street is where you will find the 'full-chicken BBQ'
across from the market buildings.
What is different about Curiti is that while there are a few rammed earth homes, obviously in the older section of the pueblo closest to the plaza, most of the construction in the last half century has been in cement blocks and those houses have windows with glass in them. The elevation is lower than that of Barichara, and I would suspect that a fair number of people live in Curiti but work in San Gil as there are apparent signs of new construction at the edges of the village. Also, the exterior colors used to paint the homes are quite bright and lively, very different from the colonial styles in other places and more like the seaside towns further north. But you will still see the narrow streets and cobblestones paving them as in other small towns in this region.

This is one of the last chickens on the spit; we had already
eaten and they were winding down for the day.
My son and I decided to have lunch in the marketplace with the locals and that consisted of a whole chicken roasted on a spit which is liberally seasoned with a tasty sauce served in a basket already sectioned up over cold boiled white potatoes and steamed yucca. You are given a choice of beverages along with a set of plastic gloves and if you insist, you can get a plastic fork and knife, but the locals don't use them. You pick up the pieces of chicken in your hands and eat the cold potato the same way, but it is delicious! All the ingredients are fresh, the beverage was cool (we opted for gaseosa/sodas) and we had a table in the back where we could watch all the comings and goings of the market crowd. In fact, there were bags of potatoes right behind us and people were picking them up and leaving with them after their lunch.

We walked around the village after lunch, but since many places were closed because of it being Sunday or until after 2 p.m., it was rather quiet. There are two rather large hotels on the plaza, and a huge hostel just at the entrance of the village, so if one wanted to come and stay here, that should not be a problem. It is the sort of place one might choose as a retreat as there does not seem to be a lot of distracting energy and noise here.

One artisan shop showing a sample of the
kind of fique work they can do - a lovely
scenic wall hanging!
Known for their fabrication of all things in fique, from the plant of the same name, you can find colorful mats, bags, hats, rugs, and even a source of fique threads to make your own. Curiti's theme is "Tierra de Tejedores," or "Land of the Weavers."

This little girl was trying on a hat and to her
right and behind her you can see some of
the kinds of materials created here.
I bought a multicolored 2X4 rug to have by my bed for about $4 USD. Curiti is also known for the fresh water and small cascading waterfalls creating wonderful places to swim along the small river, the same one that eventually flows into the main swimming pool in the Parque Gallineral in San Gil.

The bus waits at the main plaza and then makes one loop around town, honking to alert potential passengers, and then stops one last time at the park before heading back to San Gil. It seems to leave and arrive about every half hour. We left just in time as it was beginning to drizzle and by the time we reached San Gil it was a full-on downpour. But it was a peaceful and inexpensive journey for the day.
One last look at the oldest section of the church from
the inside looking out at the park plaza.


  1. Hi Sandy-

    That church takes my breath away. How gorgeous! Looks like a neat little village. You really seem to be living the good life down there...really happy for you!

  2. This makes a great travel guide - photos and all!

  3. As always I appreciate your posts about your adventures in Columbia. I had the opportunity to spend several weeks in Peru in 2007. It was not nearly long enough but I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to learn something of another culture and language.
    With the circumstances of my mm I don't know if I will ever get much chance to travel but just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy seeing pictures and hearing of your travels. Thanks, Kris

  4. Kristine - It is my great joy to share my adventures and delighted to bring them to you; thanks for coming along!
    Liling - I thank you for stopping by!
    Dom and Nan - Life is what you make of it; I try to make it good. But your food photos pale in comparison!