I had wanted to go to Barichara, but didn’t have enough time, so I ended up in Villa de Leyva – and I’m so glad. What a great place.
It was a gorgeous, charming little colonial town. There were some museums in town, but just wandering the gorgeous cobblestoned streets, stopping in cafes, or shops is likely to be enough.
I barely caught the express bus (Liberatadores) and sat next to a friendly Colombian woman who kept trying to give me food. When I arrived, I couldn’t find a cab right away, and then I found a chatty driver. The road to the hostel seems desolate and dark and scary and I was worried about express kidnappings and such – but no, he was a good man and I got to my hostel, Renacer Guesthouse. It was a great hostel/hotel/guesthouse, and the on-site café was great because it meant you didn’t need to walk the 1.2km into town.
My first night, I chatted with other backpackers, ate a rather salty but good falafel from the café, and passed out pretty early.
In the morning, I got up and ran an hour and a half, ate again in the café, and went to do a lovely hike just beyond the hostel. You get to see three miradors, and a small waterfall. On my way up, I met some rather friendly English backpackers. We hiked it together, laughing and talking the whole way. After, I went back to my hostel, swapped my stuff, and headed out to walk around the town. It was gorgeous. I tried to sort out my bus ticket for the following day, but you can’t buy it until the next day. I went to sit on the bus to Santa Sofia. After waiting an hour, I realized the bus would take forever and I wanted to do a lot. So I hopped in an 18,000 peso cab ride and headed out to the ruins. It’s a small site, but almost all of the ruins are phallic sculptures. When the guy at my hostel told me about it, he said “las ruinas son penises.” Yep, Spanglish. I wandered around, but it’s pretty small, so after taking some phallic photos, I confirmed my directions with the guards, and headed to the next site, Pozos Azules (a set of five small gorgeous lakes of a lovely turquoise colour – unfortunately that did not come across in photographs). After walking for a bit, I asked a guy working at the antique car park for directions and he verified. Okay, so this desolate way is the right way. I came to a fork and took the one the cabbie told me about but it seemed wrong. I went into someone’s house where there were geese quacking all over the lawn. Yep, keep going. I kept going. I was supposed to take another fork after a bridge; I saw a fork but no bridge. I took it, nervously. Then I walked for a long time without seeing anyone. Finally, I saw a bunch of people working in an onion field. Yuck. I asked them to verify I was going the right way, and they told me to keep going and ask at the Fossil Museum. This was new. When I got to the Fossil Museum, I should have continued straight but went to the museum, which was small and not fantastic. Then I got new directions from the staff of the fossil museum, which I verified with a jewelry seller. Still, I wasn’t convinced. It was desolate. I yelled at a house where I saw someone on the terrace; the woman yelled to keep going. Turns out, I was sent on a back road that was an okay way to go, faster than the way I was told about earlier. Finally, I found a parking lot and asked where Pozos Azules were. “Aqui.” I had arrived.
I walked down into the lakes and they were gorgeous. There were just a few people there, so I sat for a bit and wrote in my journal and meditated on the beauty of the lake. After a while, I headed out on the road to walk another 1k or 2k (I probably ended up walking 15k that day; I spent most of my day walking.) to Casa Barro, a house made entirely from mud. Mud furniture, mud steps, mud shelves. Well, not really mud, but clay. It was gorgeous, and inspired from Gaudi. The bathrooms were gorgeous with lovely tiles and small squares of mirrors.
After I left, a man in his seventies began chatting me up in Spanish. He was really friendly, and we conversed for a while. He told me about the history of Villa de Leyva and we discussed the atrocities committed by missionaries to the indigenous people who wouldn’t convert. Horrifying. Then he gave me a fist bump and a kiss on the cheek and I walked back to town.
I had a lovely dinner, stopped in some shops, and then chilled at the hostel, chatting w other backpackers until the morning.
In the morning, I went for another lovely run on cobblestone, and then had a long wander around town. I stopped at the market, eating avocados, buying bocadillos, enjoying the sites. I had a final maracuya juice, and then I went to the bus station. The direct bus was sold out, but I got a seat on a minibus that arrived rather fast.