I had been to so many fiestas despedidas, goodbye parties, for leaving volunteers. On Saturday night, however, it was now time for mine. The following day, after watching Colombia unconvincingly beat Peru 1-0 in the latest of their World Cup qualifiers, I left Santa Marta, my temporary home for the last eight months. It was an emotional affair as I said goodbye to Elena and her family. From the first day the whole family welcomed me into their home and looked after me. Shortly before I left, I was walking down the Avenida Libertador, one of Santa Marta’s main roads, with Fito, one of Elena’s sons.  I said to him, “this is the last time I am going to walk down this road”. He replied, “perhaps in 2012 it will be but I am sure you will walk down it again one day in the future”. I hope I will be able to return to Santa Marta one day in the future but, to be honest, I don’t know. I haven’t a clue what my future plans are. If I did return to Santa Marta, though, it’s a lovely feeling to know that there are friends and family awaiting me there.

I took an overnight bus from Santa Marta to Bucaramanga, the capital of Santander, a department in the east of the country. It was a tedious journey apart from my run in with the man sitting next to me. Let’s just put it this way; he either fancied me and hence the constant tapping and stroking with his left hand up and down my right leg as we both tried to get some sleep, or he wanted to steal my camera and money belt from me?! Unfortunately I will never know because after the bus had taken a short stop he changed seats.

As soon as I had arrived in Bucaramanga, I had left for the pleasant pueblo of San Gill, Colombia’s so called adventure capital. I have spent days mountain biking and white water rafting down the grade III and IV rapids of the Rio Suarez, followed by days recuperating from sore buttocks and stiff shoulders.

In between the adrenaline rush action I visited Barichara, a sleepy pueblito which I doubt has barely changed since it was founded in 1705. It is a beautiful pueblito and has been declared a National Monument. All of the buildings have terracotta roof tiles, white walls and either green or blue window frames, shutters and doors and the streets and pavements are made from hand carved stones.

A two-hour walk away from Barichara, along El Camino Real, lays another pueblito called Guane. The trail begins by descending down into the Suarez Canyon before following the valley floor pass the occasional farm-house and herds of grazing cows. I was enjoying a very peaceful walk in the late afternoon sunshine until I saw five cows approaching me. There’s no need to worry, I thought to myself, I’m sure a farmer will be following behind them and he will ensure that they pass by me without any problems. Unfortunately, there was no farmer to be seen and of the five cows approaching me, two of them were in fact bulls. So I stepped to one side, as a polite Englishman always does, off the path and stood next to the stone wall which marks the trail. The cows moved closer and stopped. Instead of continuing their journey they surrounded me and began to munch on the grass around my feet. I wasn’t really sure what to do? One of the bulls was far too close to me for comfort. So I decided that I would walk through them, but as I lifted my leg to make that first step, the bull nearest to me flinched. His head moved, I panicked, and I all I remember doing is scrambling up over the stone wall to safety, my heart pounding.

I knew I was getting close to Guane because I could hear music in the distance. If you think Barichara is sleepy then you should pay Guane a visit; it’s smaller than Barichara but all of the buildings are of an identical design to its older brother. Daily life in pueblitos such as these tends to evolve around the parque central and it was no different when I arrived; People sat on the pavement outside their homes chatting to neighbors. A small group of boys and girls played football in front of their school. Old men sat on the park benches sipping beer while Colombia’s equivalent to NADFAS visited the local church and walked the streets, before boarding their bus back home.

My next stop? I haven’t decided yet but somewhere between San Gill and Bogota.