Geo von Lengerke was a German who emigrated to Santander in 1852 which was then an independent state. From a wealthy family he bought large amounts of land and settled in Zapatoca which is a small colonial town about 30km southwest of Bucaramanga. The town is well worth a visit despite the long journey - the road is good in places but a very bumpy in others. The estates around his haciendas of Montebello and La Florita grew quinine, cocoa and tobacco. Quinine was supposed to make Santander and Lengerke rich, but the price collapsed and his fortune evaporated.
He had red, curly hair, which was very unusual in this region, and it still is. It was said that he lived somewhat like a feudal lord. He is rumored to have had many illegitimate children, and anyone with red hair, or blue eyes in Santander, and especially Zapatoca might still be suspected of being one of his descendants. Elena says she knows at least two such red-heads from Zapatoca, so perhaps there is some truth in it. No doubt there were other German colonists in the area at the time so perhaps the legend is due to his more recent fame. Although he died from alcoholism, he wasn't just a colonial playboy. He also met with the local indigenous tribes and produced a small book translating their languages. His life has been dramatized in a book & TV drama called “La otra raya del tigre” or “the tiger's other stripe”.
Von Lengerke left a more solid legacy as a result of his attempts to develop the economy of the region by expanding a network of 700 km of stone pathways and bridges including from Zapatoca to Barrancabermeja on the Magdalena river. The wide paths were built very solidly and some parts of the network have survived. They were well engineered with stone channels to allow the water to run-off in the winter (wet-season). The trails are still sometimes used by locals to move produce by mule and are popular with walkers. The local tourist board are trying to use them as a means to attract more visitors.
The “Caminos Reales” (paths) which are supposed to be better preserved include:
Los Santos to Jordán Sube. About 5km each way. Descends steeply 850m from the Mesa de Los Santos to the tiny & nearly deserted town of Jordan on the Rio Chicamocha.
Barichara to Guane. About 7.5 km. Descends about 300m from the beautiful town of Barichara to the small pueblo of Guane. This one was declared a national monument.
Zapatoca to San Vincente de Chucurí. About 28 km climbing over the Serranía de los Yariguíes mountains through part of the national park with that name. The route has been restored (at least in part) as a 2 day trip.
Curití to Aratoca.
We did the first walk on Monday and I'll post pictures of that shortly. We hope to try a few others with a local walking group soon.
These sites have more info in Spanish on some of the trails.
There are some GPS tracks on wikiloc for example: