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Getting to know the new country – Bogota, Villa de Leyva, San Gil

COLOMBIA | Sunday, 26 August 2012 | Views [2261]

Gold Museum

Gold Museum

A quick flight to Bogota from Leticia (there is no other route) meant getting a slight temperature shock on arrival. I went from close to 40 degrees to 15… It also meant getting further away from Brazil and settling into travel in a new country. After 3 months of living in an already familiar Brazil it was going to be a little bit hard.

All the blows were softened by the amazing Colombian friends who have welcomed me into their homes in Bogota and took very good care of me.

My time in Bogota was dominated by capoeira, guess it was bound to be as I was staying with two fellow capoeirstas. And it was so good to be back to regular training!!! The only think that presented a slight problem was altitude. I was fine when just walking around but training proved to be slightly harder. Luckily it does pass after few days.

I really liked Bogota. In many ways it reminded me (very bizarrely) of London. Especially the Northern part of the city looked very much like parts of Hampstead. There are even some gastropubs… It also has the same weather – constantly chilly and rainy. There is no doubt that the city is beautifully set in the mountains but is by no means the most attractive place in South America.

I have of course visited the Gold Museum and it really is worth spending some time there. It gives a very good overview of the Colombian history as well as showcasing beautiful golden artworks.

I also spent a day wondering around the old town which is really pretty and had plenty of nice coffee shops to escape to when it starts raining.

I felt very safe in Bogota but that was probably because I was with the locals most of the time and even they would not wonder around the streets at night  - taxis are cheap and plentiful and really the most sane way of travelling round the city at night.

Unfortunately due to the sudden change of temperatures I got a bit of a cold so did not manage to make it to the salt mines near the city, I was also too lazy to climb up the hill to visit the monastery..

I guess I was happy to be staying in a normal flat again, have my own bed and be able to watch telly and laze around. I did make to cinema there as well and it was a real treat after 7 months break.

The one day trip I went on was to a nearby town of Chia to visit an old people’s home (it was for a charity event). It turned out to be surprisingly fun day with bands playing cumbia and salsa and the very exciting game of bingo.

 And once again I have managed to stay in a place more than expected so after 10 days it was time to get on with it and so I caught a bus to Villa de Leyva.

Villa is such a pretty place. It has the largest market square in Colombia (which is empty most of the time) and is surrounded by cute white walled cottages. There is not much to do there other than wonder the streets, take few walks into the countryside and just relax. It also is warmer than Bogota. Oh, and for dino lovers there are a few skeletons to look at.

The one walk that I did there was through the sites recommended by my hostel. The sites were pretty disappointing but it was a nice 6 hour wonder through the countryside, greatly saved by a small shop selling cold beers at about 4th hour point. And I was lucky enough to have a good company - you really need a good dose of sense of humour to stand and marvel at some of the ‘tourist attractions’. My personal favourite was the Big Stone - and it was, literally, a big stone…

Raquira, a small village about an hour from Villa, was a fun place to visit for a day. The first thing that hits you is the colours; it’s a good change after watching the whiteness of Villa for two days. It is also the clay capital of Colombia with some beautiful pots and pans (sadly I couldn’t buy any as I knew they would just get smashed in the next few months of bus travel). Apart from that it’s basically one street village packed with souvenir shops.

After 3 days at Villa it was time to move forward and as my next destination I chose San Gil. It’s an adventure sport capital and there is plenty to do - white water rafting, paragliding, mountain biking…

I went there primarily to do a mountain bike ride through the canyon which I heard was great fun. Unfortunately I have once again injured my knee in Bogota and the 6 hour trek in Villa did not help so I was facing a choice – do the mountain bike ride and give up on Ciudad Perdida trek or rest and recover. Since I had my heart set on the trek and knowing that there will be plenty of other opportunities of spectacular bike rides I decided to take it easy and just listen to what others experienced on their adventures. But since I wasn’t going to do any of the sports there was also not much point in hanging around there for too long. I did however go on the tour of the nearby town of Barrichara, beautifully set in the mountains. Spent a whole day there wondering the streets and in the evening joined the locals to play the Colombian bowling - it involves a piece of garden, metal balls, 3 sticks as a target and beer. The aim is to throw the metal ball and hit the sticks… It was pretty good fun enhanced by the fact that my team won 2 rounds of beer J Who would have thought that I would be so good at throwing metal balls at sticks…

The next day after a visit to the waterfall, me and my new travel companion Michel boarded the night bus for the coast. It was time to get some sun and get trekking!!!

Tags: barrichara, bogota, colombia, on the road, raquira, san gil, villa de leyva


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