Los Pueblitos (en)
La Mina & Atanquez
In my opinion, there are a few villages around Valledupar which are quite interesting to a foreigner who is not hungry only for the renowned attractions. I remember how fascinated I was when my Colombian friends took us to La Mina and Atanquez. I was hoping my visitor would get a similar impression. This time we traveled by 'collectivo', which is another of the specifics of the local travel. 'Colectivo' is something like a cross of hitchhiking and car-pooling and public transport. It basically means sharing a ride in a car or van with random people who want to go to the same place at the same time as you. The 'colectivo stations' are well-known by locals and there's no schedule though there's a certain time after which you won't be able to get any 'colectivo' to your destination. The best approach is talk to locals in order to gather useful information and then just rely on your luck.
I have to say that we were quite lucky. A van to La Mina filled up reasonably quickly despite the fact that it was after the heavy rain (the 'tail' of the hurricane) and everything was a bit different than usual. The streets of Valledupar normally busy and noisy were rather empty. Some people even said that traveling out of the city wasn't a good idea because some of the roads could be flooded. However, once we were on the road, the highways were unaffected by the heavy rain and we could make more ambitious plans. In the van I mentioned that I'd like to get to Atanquez afterwards. The driver advised us to wait by the side of the road and one lady offered a moto-taxi lift provided by her brothers. Of course that moto seemed more exciting!
The banks of the River Badillo were quiet. Instead of the usual crowd consisting of Colombian families bathing in water and cooking under the trees, there was only a bunch of girls and us. I liked to see it so tranquil. We admired the huge white boulders, took a few pictures and then walked to the house the lady from the van had shown us. The 'motos' were not ready yet so we were offered plastic chairs right away and joined an elderly 'señor' who had been sitting under the tree. 20 or so minutes later our 'motos' were finally ready. We hopped on, stopped at a local 'gas station' (bunch of guys sitting at the crossroads with a few bottles of red gasoline 'imported' from Venezuela; see the photo below) and off we went riding a winding road to Atanquez. There we just walked around and enjoyed the view of the mysterious-looking mountains covered in fog. When we walked down to the main square, a 'colectivo' was there waiting and we were good to go; with 1 driver and 5 adult passengers – the locals never miss an opportunity to earn extra peso if they can.
Random photos from the streets of Atanquez (by Cia Lu)
Next weekend we decided to go another village no so far away which has a nickname 'Valledupar's balcony' – because it's a bit cooler and really green. A fair number of Vallenatos have their weekend house there. When we were there, I remembered that I actually know a local person. I texted my friend if he, by any chance, was at home, and he was! He joined us after our walk and recommended a bowl of 'sancocho' soup for our late lunch.
While we were eating, we heard the sound of explosion and my friend wondered what it was. At the place next door a bunch of local guys was playing 'tejo' – a sport very specific and typical of Colombia. I don't think there's a better sport to go with casual drinking at the bar as well as 'tej'o does. The aim of this peculiar game is to throw iron weights into the square- shaped box filled with clay to hit one of two paper triangles full of gun powder and make it explode. Hard to describe, fairly easy to understand and almost impossible to hit one of the triangles; at least for us it was. But we had lots of fun anyway and before we noticed, it got dark and it was time to catch another 'colectivo' back to Valledupar.
Playing 'tejo' (by Cia Lu)