Colombia, natural wonder, South America, ye olde worlde

getting ahead of the game to Villa de Leyva

Bec / 08/05/2013

Opting to fly to Bogota from Cartagena and then rejoin the tour group in Villa de Leyva was one of my wisest decisions to date. I skipped a hot and horrendous 18 hour trucking bus ride back to Bucaramanga and then more down to VdL.

Sharing with Hayley and Stephanie we got a pleasing introduction to Bogota and worked out the local bus service with a lot of help from the locals to get us to the lovely town of Zipaquira and the Catedral de Sal – Salt Cathedral.

The cathedral is carved into the third level of the old salt mine, using the stations of the Cross as subjects in a journey to the nave and towering altar at the base. It’s beautiful, I took the pathway of the pure (without being hit by a bolt of lightening, I might add!) and eventually had a miner’s cappuccino at 180 metres below ground. Coming out into the sunshine again was blinding and warming for our tourist train trip back down to the town.

We had some interesting interactions until a kindly English-speaking girl helped us get a taxi to the transfer bus to Villa de Leyva. A while to wait before we boarded a mini van and squeezed into the only available seats with the locals and endured a pretty terrifying journey for a few hours north. Apparently the white line in the centre of the road is to be kept in the centre of the wind screen of the van, seatbelts are optional, the driver is required to chat on the phone for the entire trip, they like to try and leave you behind at the midway point…and yet we made it to VdL at the same time as the Tucan truck. Go figure.

Dinner on the main plaza was delicious and the stray dogs are even cute. Covering 14,000m2 in cobblestones, it is considered the largest plaza in Colombia and in Spanish times was occupied with several gallows dispensing with freedom fighters. These days it’s just tourists and stray dogs. As in, occupying the plaza…not being dispensed with, that is!

Time spent in this beautiful town was spread between shopping in the many artisanal shops, having a spa package of massage, reflexology and facial for $50, cups of real tea and homemade cake in the courtyard of historical buildings, lunch in pretty gardens, dinner in upper level gems with stellar company to accompany the sensational meals, free-flowing drinks and taking command of the music playlist and singing along at tiny hole-in-the-wall bars, eating donuts late at night and generally soaking up the brilliant weather and atmosphere. I still hold to my preference for smaller rural towns than the big cities. Somehow the pace of life helps everyone feel warm and welcoming. I even got a passionate exclamation about the beauty of my ojos while waiting to pay for groceries at a tiny mercado. I turned down his offer to dance at a salsa club that night though…And before you get any ideas, ojos are eyes 😉

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