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I do sometimes feel a bit torn after getaways to Colombian pueblos — pueblo pick-me-ups as I like to call them — due to my desire or at least perceived need to blog about them.
It’s because, as mentioned before, they’re all pretty much the same, superficially at least. This is arguably even more so the case in the Andean region.
So for a town a short distance from one just recently visited and written about — that is to say Tibaná, just 10 kilometres south of Jenesano in the Boyacá department — it would seem pretty pointless to post about it.
Yet, the many similarities aside, each pueblo has its own peculiarities, however small and insignificant they may be. Each one has its own distinct characters, too.
What’s more, regardless of the place, the time of a visit plays its part in the experience. I could return to all of the previous locations I’ve written about and come away with a completely different perception, for better or for worse.
So, with that in mind, my two-night stay in Tibaná deserves its own entry, hence these words. (This also helps me to keep track of where I’ve been!)
For this part of the country, it almost goes without saying that folk are friendly but not overbearingly so. They’ll converse when the feeling is right or they’ll leave one to one’s own devices if such a vibe is given out (silence can indeed be golden).
‘While tempted to join some of the hardy souls drinking beer at 8 am, I stuck to the tried-and-trusted plan of getting in some hillwalking, including the now obligatory visit to the Virgin Mary on a high — she tends to occupy some of the best viewpoints in rural Colombia.’
Strangely enough, two of Tibaná’s initial offerings were things that in another context would have been deal-breakers.
Arriving close to dusk on a Monday and after, eventually, finding a hotel — the more-than-acceptable, well-kept Provincia at 25,000 COP per night — I went in search, as is generally my wont on such trips, of a nightcap beer.
My tipple of choice, a litre of Poker, was available, but only at room temperature — ‘al clima’ as they say. Yet, I found it more than drinkable; it had a slight chill to it in any case.
Then, seated in the tienda sipping on my beer, a couple of dogs invaded my personal space. I’m normally not a fan of excessively clingy canines but this pair won me over. Perhaps it was the bucolic air that led to this rare amenability on my part.
The aforementioned friendly locals — Tibanenses to give them their demonym — with a special mention for the softly-spoken tienda owner, Jorge, also played their part.
Sweet but savoury
The next morning, Tuesday, Tibaná’s market day, while tempted to join some of the hardy souls drinking beer at 8 am, I stuck to the tried-and-trusted plan of getting in some hillwalking, including the now obligatory visit to the Virgin Mary on (a) high — she tends to occupy some of the best viewpoints in rural Colombia.
What I hadn’t really prepared for was a strong sun. At an average altitude of 2,100 metres, I erroneously thought the weather would be something similar to Bogotá. Relaxing in the rays for a couple of hours in splendid isolation — well, apart from the Virgin Mary next to me — my skin got a bit of a shelling. It felt good at the time, though.
Thankfully, refreshing refrigerated beers were on offer back in Jorge’s tienda on my return to the town.
Tibaná may be tops for its tranquillity. However, it’s more of a flop when it comes to the coffee on offer in its various establishments. It’s not unique in this regard. This is a common complaint in many small towns, ordinary-at-best coffee, of the ‘I can’t believe it’s not coffee’ variety one could say.
Worse still, many seem to think that everybody wants his/her hot brew sweetened. ‘Oh, but it’s with panela. It’s good for you.’ Eh, no thanks.
Sweet, watery coffee aside — well to the side that is — Tibaná did the trick in terms of a pueblo pick-me-up.
More demanding, high-maintenance types might not be too enthralled with it. This shouldn’t bother the Tibanenses too much. They tend to move to their own beat.
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