We finally got ourselves together to make the move from La Serrana in Salento. It was a holiday weekend in Colombia so we knew everywhere would be busy. We chose another coffee finca (estate) to stay at, but after being there 2 hours realized that the party taking place was going to be an all night event with blaring music.
Leaving there, after some great coffee we headed for some thermal springs, Termales Ruiz. We did not plan on the road being so bad on the way in. Not only was it narrow, but very rough with ditches on either side that came almost impossible to see as cloud rolled in and night fell.
We arrived at the springs and set up our tent outside the gates, reheated a soup from the night before, had a drink to calm our nerves, pulled out our warm sleeping bags, being once again at altitude and climbed into bed. The next morning with the cloud cleared we got to see the amazing view. We had the thermals to ourselves since we went in early, and soaked and swam until our skin shriveled and the crazy drive from the night before was a distant memory.
We were headed north towards Villa de Leyva, but ran into a traffic jam due to a bad accident, so needed another overnight stop. We pulled into Tobia a small adventure sport town near Bogota. The campsite was busy with Colombians camping for the long weekend. Setting up we became the attraction of the campsite with people calling by to talk with us and take photos of us and of the vehicle. After a good nights sleep we arose early to get on the road to avoid the traffic returning to Bogota after the long weekend.
Mike had another repair to do as our ladder on the roof top tent shredded from metal fatigue and constant use. Our tent has taken a beating and has needed multiple repairs.
We had decided when we arrived in Colombia that we had seen enough of big cities, so we avoided Bogota. We enjoy the smaller towns more and after awhile all the cities seem the same. We would leave our city exploring until we got to Cartagena.
Wanting to do something to break up our journey, we decided to stop by a salt cathedral. We knew nothing about it, but a friend had mentioned the church as being a place to see and it was a red mark on our National Geographic map as a place of interest. We soon found out that it was extremely touristy, and we would have probably missed it had Keira not been totally excited about seeing a salt church. The cathedral is in fact underground in an old salt mine. It is 75 meters long, 18 meters high and can accommodate 8400 people. I don’t think I would like to be underground with that many people at once! The stations of the cross were set up at different points in the tunnels with the main cathedral being in a large open chamber deep inside. It was interesting but after 10 mins we deserted the guided tour and explored ourselves. It was quite eerie actually and is definitely like nothing we have seen before.
Villa de Leyva was all we had hoped it to be. It is an old colonial town with beautiful white colonial style buildings, cobbled streets and a huge plaza. It has a very relaxed atmosphere with minimal traffic. We found a great hostel to camp and stay at called Renacer, a 10-minute walk from the plaza, set in a beautiful location. We were happy to have a real kitchen, and sofas to hang out on again. We felt very spoilt.
We explored the town, which was really beautiful and very relaxed. Mike couldn't get out of there quick enough!
During our exploration we discovered the French bakery we had heard about from multiple people. AAAAAAHHHHH!!! Cakes, flans, cookies, breads and delicious pastries! We visited everyday. Obviously we were missing some of the luxuries of the western world.
We completed a day trip to the town of Raquira, a quaint town with painted houses and shops. It is known for pottery and the work of local artists. We thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the town, and enjoyed walking through the shops, making several purchases including hammocks and some pottery pieces.
On the day trip we visited a dinosaur museum, home to one of only two complete kronosaurus dinosaur fossils in the world, the other being in Australia. The fossil was left where it was found and a museum was built around it. The fossil is 120 million years old and its sheer size was so incredible, measuring 10 meters long (33 feet). The museum also had a great collection of other fossils. Keira loved it!
A clay house is one of the other tourist attractions. It reminded us of the eco-homes we had visited near Taos in New Mexico. Keira loved exploring the interior and the many balconies. She actually wanted to move in!
Markets in Sth American countries are really interesting to visit. We usually go to the local markets to buy our fresh fruit and vegetables. The Villa de Leyva market was no exception, with its many colorful stalls exuding wonderful smells and fragrances of local produce. They were even selling ice cream and fish from the back of trucks. (not the same truck) Keira not liking the odor of the fresh fish, held her sensitive nose as we explored these areas.
There are so many images that come into your immediate environment whilst traveling, some just "flashes" as you pass by and others that linger long enough for you to take a mental picture. There is the odd occasion when you actually have your camera handy to capture a photo.
Once again we had the pleasure of meeting some very cool people, including a group of Colombians from a band called Caribe Funk, and a girl from Germany, Susanne. In the course of our conversations we realized that the friend Susanne was going to meet up with and travel in his vehicle was Alex. We had met Alex in Copacabana in Bolivia many months ago. We had kept in contact with Alex, hoping we would see each other again. We made arrangements to meet up with Susanne and Alex at San Gil.
We did a last stop by the French bakery on our way out, spending more on cakes than we had spent on our previous nights accommodation. (Which in fact was only about $12 USD, but a lot on our travelling budget)
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: Mike and his tools for being able to repair the tent ladder
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- meeting great people; Keira- the dinosaur museum; Riss- morning walks in the town of Villa De Leyva/shopping in Raquira
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-repairing the ladder; Keira- wanting to eat every cake; Riss-leaving Villa de Levya/resisting buying every cake at the French bakery
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike-real flans, Keira- everything at the French bakery; Riss- chocolate tart at the French bakery
BEST CAMPING SPOT: Renacer at Villa de Leyva
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.