I rose at dawn in Santa Fe de Antioquia, restless from the heat but enchanted by the beauty of this town. As I crept through the streets taking pictures of colourful houses immaculately painted, a few locals sat nonchalantly in the park under the shade of a tamarind tree. A tuk tuk stood on a hilly street waiting for its owner. From an open window came the voice of a teacher calling out the numbers one to ten. As she spoke the children in the classroom repeated after her: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.I was so tempted to clap and shout eleven but decided to explore further.
The previous day I had travelled along the winding road past the Rio Cauca where men in rickety huts panned illegally for gold. The scenery was like an alpine valley but for me arriving in Santa Fe was the highlight. The narrow streets with cobbled stones set against brilliant white houses awaited and music flowed from cafes in town. It is renowned for art galleries and crafts. A market ran through one of the streets where people browsed as they absorbed the beauty of Santa Fe.
I rode a tuk tuk out to one of the world’s first suspension bridges on the outskirts of town. The Bridge of the West or Puente de Occidente was built by one of Colombia’s best known architects- Jose Maria Villa who was also renowned for his drinking. The bridge was completed between 1887 and 1895 and now carries only light vehicles. I walked across with the Rio Cauca crashing downstream below.
Back in town I learned more about the past in Santa Fe De Antioquia. Slaves once worked here and if they did not work hard enough were marched down these streets and publicly whipped. Today a Humiliation Cross stands in a quiet square to remind people of the past.
But it was also in Santa Fe that I learned about the power of letting go and forgiveness. As I dined in a restaurant I listened to the owner who had a captivating story. He had been kidnapped by a group of terrorists but was later released. Today the profits from his restaurant are used to support educational projects with disadvantaged children in Colombia.
In Santa Fe De Antioquia I relaxed walking those cobbled streets and narrow passages. This was a delightful town less than 2 hours from Medellin and where time seems to have stood still.
January Journeys: Visit Colombia, Learn Spanish