Walking in the Colombian Countryside – Villa de Leyva

Leaving Bogota we were up reasonably early and squeezed ourselves onto a micro to the bus terminal. Once again we got straight onto a bus about to depart to Tunja and since no one else had taken them we took the 2 seats up front with the driver, which was quite exciting but also somewhat scary to have such a good view of Colombian driving. After 4 hours we were dumped off outside the bus terminal in Tunja where we walked past the collectivos and were soon touted for one about to leave to Villa de Leyva.

IMG_4443Villa de Leyva is quite a small town in the Colombian highlands that was declared a national monument in 1954, with its white buildings and cobbled streets. It also boasts the biggest main square in the country at 120m square. The scenery on the way from Tunja was pretty spectacular too, reminding us of Toro Toro National Park in Bolivia.

The budget accommodation options listed in the Lonely Planet are no longer budget, they’re now fancy hotels with a price tag to match, but we only had to wander 50m from the main square to find a really nice quiet hotel at an affordable price. We spent the rest of the day leisurely exploring the town, dodging the odd shower.

IMG_4382aVilla de Leyva and the surrounding area used to be in the ocean (its now sits at 2,140m) and 4 kms out of town there is a big 7m fossil of a baby kronosaurus that is 120 million years old. It’s missing its tail (otherwise it would be 12m long) and part of 1 leg but its still a damn impressive fossil. So we spent our Sunday morning walking through the Colombian countryside to visit it (because we were too stingy to pay for a taxi). After visiting the fossil and viewing the other exhibits in the museum we had an ice cream to keep our energy up and asked the people in the shop how far it was to walk to Muisca observatory, easy they said its 2kms down the road. So off we went eyeing the heavy rain in the distance.

At the road turn off we met a gorgeous soft labrador whose 2 companions soon joined us and they proceeded to come down the track with us, running off to chase other dogs and jumping in every bit El fossil of water they could find. They were still with us when we got there.

IMG_4399The Muisca observatory is a park which contains numerous phallic monoliths, it was built by the indians (our info doesn’t tell us anything more specific) to determine the seasons and as a ritual site. The dogs ran riot, tormented a tour group, the boys peed up every monolith they went past and the girl threw herself into a big pile of reeds to play in the water.

On the 6.5km walk back to town the sun fried us and the dogs too, but it didn’t stop them from following us all the way back to our hotel (after 2 of them were nearly killed by a passing motorbike and them setting every dog in town off barking) where the bemused hotel owner chased them off with a broom.

We got back just ahead of the big downpour we’d been eyeing so spent the rest of the day getting something to eat and wandering around to photograph the place because we hadn’t done the day before. We spent the evening in a really nice old style pub where we learnt that having a bar tab is dangerous, particularly when a Red Bull costs NZ$9 and a Baileys NZ$7!

Observations:

  • Cobblestones are lethal when wet, so you spend the whole time watching your feet

Click on any image to enlarge and scroll through


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