After the bustle of Bogota and it’s cooler temps, we were stoked to arrive in Villa de Leyva with the sun shining and a bead forming across the forehead after 5 mins walking! It wasn’t quite hitting the high 30’s that we saw in Central America, but it was hot enough to give me a chance to get the guns out and Cel to expose the pins!
A bit about Villa de Leyva
The town itself is pretty small, we found that out as we walked around it about 3 times in our first hour desperately trying to find somewhere for lunch (turns out the restaurants shut down around 4pm and open up again at 6!) About 10,000 Colombians call it home, with a whole heap more from Bogota calling it their holiday spot. It’s all centred around a large plaza (pic above) and is what you’d expect from a colonial town – nice buildings, cobbled streets and plenty of places to eat and drink. One of the best parts of the town is the surrounding countryside, on one end you’ve got massive hills and cliffs, while at the other end it falls into rolling countryside (which we thought was very similar to what we saw in Tuscany, Italy).
It’s all a bit easy to let the time float by, wandering the streets, stopping for outstanding coffee, taking picture after picture of yet another colonial building and filling yourself on freshly baked empanadas (like a small pastie) for less than $1. Cel even took it upon herself to start practising leap frog, as she is sure that it will be in the next Olympics – the evidence of her form is below.
Taking to the Countryside
It’s not often that you find a house that is a tourist attraction, where the owner of the house is not old, famous or wrote books. Colombia changed the script on us in Villa de Leyva, we were actually quite intrigued about going to visit a house in the countryside – the main reason: it was hand made from terracotta. Now even then you might be thinking, ok it’s just a house, but it was something you had to do to fully appreciate just how unique / impressive this place was. It’s owned by a local guy who has decided to build his house completely out of terracotta – aside from a few fixtures and fitting such as taps, elements and windows. It was the first stop on our countryside adventure, 20 minutes down a farm road brought us to the glowing orange house. It’s 2 stories, with bathrooms, bedrooms, a kitchen and a BBQ located on the roof – along with a bunch of seats that have been moulded into the roof. Not sure how well the pictures will do it justice but here is a flavour:
After the open home visit, we decided to continue on the country road for a while, we deciphered a few signs and realised we were on a loop track that (after 16km) would take us back into Villa de Leyva. In need of exercise and enjoying the sun we carried on through the farmland, past holiday homes, animals and locals tending to their crops. About 12km into the journey we found a small tienda (shop) and decided it was beer / drink time. Pulling up a chair next to a few locals farmers who were also of the opinion that beer was fine after midday, we sat there and watched as a mound of thick clouds moved in. Next minute it was pouring down, 30 mins and another beer later, it was still raining. Cel made the call that it was time to toughen up and start the trek – well within 3 mins we were soaked through. Laughing our way along the road and looking like a couple of tourist idiots, we were tooted at my a vehicle behind. A nice (wealthy) family from Bogota had taken pity on us and stopped their Audi to ask if we’d like a ride into town. We jumped at the chance and ended up chatting with the family all the way back to town (the Dad spoke english) it was a great experience and was clearly quicker and drier than the alternative option!
The Power Hour
It’s relatively common knowledge that you don’t go walking into the countryside when it’s dark. There are a few opportunistic people about who are happy to be in the countryside waiting for you to arrive with your nice camera and money – I’ll let you figure out the rest. In our situation, it was 5pm and we were really keen to head up to the mirador (lookout) behind the town square. We were unsure on how long it would take but again Cel decided that we were doing it. 20 mins later we were hauling ourselves up a cliff face, on route to the viewpoint – the lungs were hurting but we had a time limit so the only option was to push on through! Reaching the summit, after 35 mins, we took stock of Villa de Leyva below, snapped of a few pictures to prove we’d made it and hurtled back down the cliff face – making it back just after 6pm as it started to turn dark. Pretty sure Cel was stoked that this idea had worked out better than the last!
After two nights in Villa de Leyva, we were feeling well exercised, well fed and definitely well caffeinated. We were up for more adventures and just up the road, San Gil had some steep slopes and wild rivers which were calling….