R is taking the month of November off from blogging because she has committed herself to National Novel Writing Month! She has also committed herself to talking time off from the Internet and yes that means chatting with you fellows! This is very important because she will spend hours reading blogs and emailing where she could be writing! This is a serious matter, you can tell because she has even given up reading!!! Lets all be a little surprised and support her by giving her this month to write away at her novel ! DON’T TALK TO HER!!! Unless you’re G, then please send her the missing pieces from last year !
Great! After we got R‘s passport settled we decided to vacate the giant city of Bogota and head to the small colonial town of Villa de Leyva. After doing research about places to stay and not finding a couch surfer to host us, we ended up at a biologist’s hostel, Renacer Guesthouse. After the twenty-minute hike uphill with our very heavy bags (we are carrying 6+ pounds of peanut butter a piece) we arrived at the pleasant hostel. I immediately felt comfortable as soon as I saw the password to the Internet was 24681012! He must be a kindred spirit, he likes science and also fancied even numbers . We quickly set up tent and went and wandered through the beautiful cobblestone streets between the old colonial houses to gather veggies for our exciting home-cooked dinner (and no, R stayed true to her promise and did not make me get carrots)!
Villa de Leyva:
The next morning we decided to go hike around the surroundings! We had read about a pleasant hike located behind our hostel that led to two waterfalls and a mirador of the colonial town. It was beautiful, but finding the correct path was a bit confusing so we ended up scaling some hills and appearing in the middle of a random house’s backyard!
Hike behind the hostel:
Shortly after the hike we decided to get some meditation time in at the local cactus farm. We thought it sounded as random and wonderful as you probably do. We hiked for about two hours through the beautiful wide open space (reminding us of Wyoming) and passed some impressive blue swimming holes before ending up at the cactus meditation center. We were greeted by two hostel friends and the strange owner who instructed us to take off our shoes to begin the meditation. He spoke to us about the powers and thought behind native patterns like the medicine wheels from home and told us to enter the maze with an open heart, one at a time. Once the person in front reached a certain point in the maze, the next in line was to to enter. The entry and exit points are the same, so as soon as these people crossed paths they were meant to embrace each other. Once we had all exited our group meditation, we each broke off for some solo meditation around the garden.
Hike to the cactus:
After finishing our indigenous practices we walked back with our two lovely hostel friends and scored a hitch home thanks to some lovely villagers! We enjoyed our time so much in Villa de Leyva that the next day we decided to stay one more day (of course only after we had already packed and taken down our tent) in order to have a nice bonfire and quality time with fellow travelers. Also it was the first day of November and R was starting her novel so I thought hanging in hammocks may help start the process!
After saying our goodbyes we packed up for real this time and headed to San Gil, the adventure capital of Colombia. Upon arrival to San Gil’s bus terminal we asked the taxi driver to take us to our hostel that was 25 minute walk away, as this was the recommend type of transport to the city. He simply told us he wouldn’t be able to drive us unless we were willing to wait 20 some minutes at the terminal because the streets were closed down due to horses… We clarified to make sure we had understood the Spanish correctly. Strange, but we decided to hike our heavy packs in to see if we could camp at the hostel we found in our bible, aka Footprint: South America 2010. As we dragged ourselves and our ridiculously heavy packs through the streets of San Gil, the horse explanation began to bring us both back to some dark days in Panama, but we were both afraid to bring up those memories. After the long trek, still with those heavy peanut butter-filled rucksacks, we entered the horse-covered streets and watched the locals take shots of aguardiente from horseback. We enjoyed the entertainment warily and then wound our way up the steep inclines around the horse-infested streets to continue on to the camping hostel… It was closed! All of the sudden we both had panic attacks and looked at each other through scared Panama-remembering eyes and quickly found the quickest route, the last bus, to the neighboring city of Barichara.
We spoke to the driver about the possibility of a location outside of town that was reported in our bible to have inexpensive camping. He dropped us off there, but did warn us that he was unsure of this so-called camping spot! After walking down a hill in the dark to the noise of dogs barking the lovely owner told us that No es possible acampar aqui… We then proceeded to hike back uphill for the 5 minutes to Barichara, again with our heavy packs (now thinking is this peanut butter worth it?!?). We luckily passed by an old ladies artesian store that had a hospedaje sign along with helados. Ice cream and a bed? This place sounded perfect! We asked to see the room and were quickly sold when we saw we would both get beds (that were about as comfortable as sleeping on a dining room table), have our own bathroom (that had chunks missing from the walls so we could see the solid cement bricks behind), the place was surrounded by plants (since we were staying in a pottery tienda), had a kitchen to use (that smelled of the multitude of cats she had), a rock to close the door (the room was missing a door nob and the door itself couldn’t fit in the frame), and a stick of incense that our sweet old lady gave us (by jamming it into the hole in the wall in the bathroom) to help us sleep, all for the low price of $24,000 COP a night! And there was ice cream! The owner was the most adorable little old lady ever, the place had incredible charm, and it was so perfect for us that we didn’t even look any further. What a steal!
After our rough travel day, the next morning we decided to hike around the city as well as visit the tiny village of Guane located down a beautiful camino real trail through the gorgeous mountains!
Hike to Guane:
Guane is a small village that is famous for goat products, in particular goat milk liquor called Sabajon. We sampled some before our hike back to Barichara. It tasted much like Bailey’s to me.
The following day we decided to do a hike that our bible recommended to the villages of Villanueva, Los Santos, and Jordan that ended in a decent into the Chicamocha Canyon! It was stunning, but fairly far away along a hilly road. We tried to wait out the hottest part of the day with some fantastic ice cream in the plaza of Villanueva, since there is no escaping the madness of the sun’s hot rays without serious shade. Our impatience to get back to our little oasis in Barichara pushed us out into the sun, and it was so very strong that I could feel the life slowly draining out of me on the way home. I was so wiped out I passed out just after 19:00, aka 7:00pm!
Hike to Los Santos:
On our final day in town we took the advice of an adorable local tourist information man and went on his favorite hike through el bosque. It was a splendid hike! We passed a waterfall, saw beautiful views of the breathtaking cliffs and ended up on some strange pilgrimage hike with stations of the cross. We were however reluctant to finish it because it was down a giant cliff! This meant we would have had to hike back up, and after the previous days of hiking and our looming trip carrying our peanut butter filled backpacks again our bodies said no thank you!
Hike to Cabera:
While hiking back to town a very nice local pulled over without us even thumbing and asked us if we wanted a lift. We ended up with a free ride and 6 mandarins from a kind local farmer, who asked us to share with the US how friendly Colombians are and how we feel about the country. Well, Colombia is honestly a beautiful and diverse country, with it’s share of problems. We have felt safer here than we have in many other countries around the world, including our own. The people here are warm and open, and we hope that as more travelers journey this way it stays that way, even though we feel it will not. Tourists seem to wear locals down and drain a lot of the good will and welcome out.
We said farewell to our lovely old lady when we got back to town and caught a bus to the city of Bucaramanga (which is one of the most beautiful drives in Colombia)! More to come next week !
I hope everyone exercised their right to vote! R and I will be watching the coverage tonight from our hostel!