Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Cute Towns of Colombia

The last week or so has been a wonderful little journey of discovery.  After dropping Sal and Shaun at the airport early in the morning we hit the road for a long day of driving, with the aim of getting to Bogotá in a couple of days.  The van is back to its good old self and we put in a huge 10 hour drive in the first day. But after that, we slowed down.

Not because of the van, but because we have been continually surprised and enchanted by the mountain scenery and the beautiful little towns dotted throughout the hills.  We couldn’t help smiling as we drove through the Chicamocha Canyon. It felt good to be on the road again, and in the mountains with expansive views opening up before us.

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We took a few detours to visit some small towns along the way. The kind of places that make you want to stay a while and wander aimlessly through cobbled streets and town plazas. So, that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing.

Oscar the chameleon OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsquare2  square1magic towns 08The picture perfect town of Barichara

It took us quite a while to get to our next stop.  The day’s drive took us through some beautiful dairy country of rolling green hills. Farmers hand milked their cows in the fields then waited on the side of the road with their steel churns for the milk truck to come by in the afternoon.  We stopped often to buy locally made snacks and dairy products. After missing a turn and taking a 2 hour detour we finally rolled into the camping area of a hostel in Villa de Leyva just after dark.

We spent a few days here, because we liked it so much and we were in the mood for some downtime. When the weather was good, we spent our days exploring the village and hiking up to a lookout point high above the town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAScenes from Villa de Leyva

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe weather rolling in

When the weather turned cool and rainy, (a welcome change from the heat of the Carribbean), we had the perfect excuse to hang out in the van with a cup of tea and a book or a movie.

Every cloud…

There are loads of little attractions for the weekend crowds around Villa de Leyva, so we hit up the local deli for picnic supplies and headed out on the bikes to find a nice spot for lunch.

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One of our favourite spots was the Casa Terracota.  A passion project of an architect from Bogotá, it’s a house entirely handmade from terracotta. Every inch of the house is a custom handmade work of art. There are no straight lines anywhere, it’s all odd curves and lumpy walls. Inside it just feels comfortable and peaceful, sort of like a cave, but with natural light pouring in from every direction.

It’s open to the public for a small fee, and I was able to chat to the builder about the curing process. Since you can’t exactly put the house in a kiln, instead, when a new section is under construction he lights a big coal fire inside the structure and it cures from within.  One of the pillars in the back patio was undergoing this process when we were there. Boring details for some, but not for me.

Posted from Bogotá, Colombia.

Unwinding up North

We spent a few days on either side of our hike to Ciudad Perdida, relaxing in Northern Colombia. Oscar has been an absolute champ lately and has been running like a new van since getting off the ship in Cartagena. Mum thinks its because we have finally accepted that he has gender identity problems and is actually a menopausal woman, dubbed “Oscarina”. Mark’s Dad has a theory that it’s a fuel blockage which builds up over time, this is starting to seem more likely.

colombia north 01Oscar dropping us off at the hotel in Santa Marta. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Animals follow Dad around where ever he goes – this pussy is territorial, watch out Mum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis parrot thought that Mark’s hair looked like a good place to build a nest.

So far in Colombia every town and city has had something named after Simon Bolivar. He played a big part in the fight for independence in a number of latin american countries, including Colombia. He died in Santa Marta and we toured the Quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino where he spent his final days. The house has been meticulously preserved. I felt a bit creepy peering into the bedroom and bathroom of a man who died almost 200 years ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe grounds of the hacienda – i’ve never seen so many iguanas in one place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On our way to Lulo for the second time, best arepas ever!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Shauno trying to fix his beloved hiking stool. I still laugh thinking about him falling off it.

In an attempt to avoid the crazy Semana Santa (easter holiday) crowds we headed to Playa Costeño. Shauno was a big fan of the cheap communal meals, keeping it simple with only one option. He wasn’t as keen on the portion sizes though, and feared starvation. Mark and I braved sea sickness in the choppy Caribbean for a surf, but mostly we just lounged around napping and reading our books.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABackseat bandits.

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The north desperately needs some rain. Mum informed us that “dust” will be one of her lasting impressions of Colombia. This was definitely apparent up in Minca, where were stayed in some beautiful Ecohabs. Despite the dust, it was a beautiful setting and a great way to end the trip with Mum and Dad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEchohabs with their amazing flaura and fauna.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKakaw – the chocolate place. Most of their products are sourced from the jungle. Dad’s description “rustic”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmigos

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChasing waterfalls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACocktail hour with Shauno

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAViews

It was fun travelling with Mum and Dad for a few weeks. Along the way I realized that travelling with aging parents, is probably a bit like travelling with children. The biggest challenge is getting them to keep their pants on.

colombia north 26Speedos this far from the beach = underwear

Posted from Villa de Leyva, Colombia.

Sweat and the City (The Lost City)

After 2 weeks in Chile and Argentina sightseeing, wine tasting, struggling with jetlag and the worst cold ever, it was time to fly to Cartagena to catch up with Mark and Bec.

We had left the itinerary up to them, as we were keen to experience the brown bus life. They suggested we hike to the Lost City and as Shauno is into suffering, we were up for it.

The drive to the trail’s start was a mini-epic of a dusty, rutted uphill dash with the driver seemingly in drug running mode. Curiously, we waited until the hottest part of the day to set off. 5 minutes later we jumped into our first swimming spot.

Ciudad Perdida01Mules readying to perfume the track

And then…. it was uphill with the sun beating on our sweat soaked backs.  The heat intensified by its reflection from the grey dust of the track and at times amplified by the 2-3 metre deep ruts worn by mules and people. There was a pungent smell of hot dust mixed with mule urine and dung.

It was a brutal beginning and ultimately a brutal ending. The rest was easy, apart from the hard bits.

Ciudad Perdida02Dusty leaves, dustier throats

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA                                 Side walls to the cauldron

We were twice as old as most everyone else and it showed!

Nights were spent swinging from the ceiling but alcohol was not involved due to the fact there was no refrigeration.

Shaun ran a small morning clinic treating blisters on the feet of young ladies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5 star luxury

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASunrise from the hammock

We hiked though thick jungle and along the way swam in pristine natural pools, marveled at the beauty of the birds and butterflies and glimpsed a shy armadillo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWiwa preschool class photo

Ciudad Perdida10 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Ciudad Perdida12A moment of distress. Nothing that chewing some coca leaves and lime can’t fix.

Ciudad Perdida13 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Porkers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Many rivers to cross

The final ascent after 2 days of sustained sweating was a cheeky climb of 1200 steps into the fascinating world of the indigenous people. Their culture and society was rich and well organized. Their gold too much of a lure for the Spanish conquerors, and their destruction inevitable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuffer baby suffer

Ciudad Perdida1Our guide, looking comfortable as always

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe money shot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFour’s a crowd

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFree coffee/internet cafe!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADos cervezas, muy frio, por favor

We learnt a few things…that it was as tough as the Kokoda Trail (a jungle trek in New Guinea) and that it would be Sal’s first and last jungle trek. And now Becci-Rae can bond with her brothers over trekking with their Dad.

Posted from: Barranquilla, Colombia. The brown bus is headed towards: San Gil and Bogota, Colombia.