Villa de Leyva

Trip Start Jan 01, 2001
Trip End Dec 28, 2010

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Thursday, January 15, 2009

It was a very noisy place and so we were awake at 5 am and set of for the town of Duitama, about an hour away. We are going there because our front wheels are out of balance and it is the only commercial balancing garage for miles around. When we arrived they suggested that we should swap the front tyres for the rear as well as balancing them. We agreed to this and so sat around for about 2 hours whilst they did the work. On leaving we got about 1 km before we heard a thud and on checking found some of the weights had come off so back we went. Once again they rebalanced the tyres and off we set, this time it was about 3 kms before the weights came off. This time around Mike asked to speak to the manager who had spoken good English to him before. Once he arrived he told us that our wheel rims are thicker than those used here and that they could not get the weights to stay on. He offered us the money back for the balance but Mike queried this since we had only changed the tyres at their suggestion. At this he decided to give us a total refund, that said it is not too bad since one wheel is balanced now and the other only starts o shake when we get above 80 kms, which is very rare. From here we had to return to Tunja and then continue through some very spectacular scenery to get to the town of Villa De Leyva. There is a campsite here that we know about and so asked for it when we got to the town; unfortunately no one had heard of it. We got lucky though since as we went round the ring road we saw a sign for camping. We could not camp there as you had to carry the tent through the building to the garden, but the owner told us we could camp outside his house about 1 km out of town. We ended up following him on his motorbike along some narrow and bumpy dirt roads and ended up situated on a slight hill with a lovely view of the town and the surrounding hills (N5.38.33.98 W73.31.39.17).
16th - Into the town on the moped to see a virtually intact colonial town. It was founded in 1572 and today is a popular weekend retreat from the capitol. The whole town was declared a national monument in 1954 and so there is virtually no modern architecture, even the new buildings and house have to be built in period style. The centre of the town is paved with quite large boulders, very rough on the moped, and is built around the Plaza Mayor. This square, the largest of its kind in Colombia, is just a large cobbled square with a fountain, not working, in the centre with large whitewashed colonial houses around the edge. The main parish church is also located here, but as usual it is locked up unless they are having a service. The whole area is just a mass of white colonial houses, but we could get into three of the buildings. The first is now the town hall and has a nice garden in its patio. The other two have been made into small craft shops and restaurants, but again allow us to see what the original house would have looked like with their inside patios. On leaving the town we drove about 6 km to the Estacion Astomomica Muisca, this dates from early AD and is supposed to be like a type of Stonehenge. That is it was used to determine the seasons of the year. This looks nothing like Stonehenge, in fact it consists of about 30 cylindrical stone blocks sunk vertically in the ground in two parallel lines. They are only about 3 ft out of the ground. At the same place though they also had a ritual site which is noted for its large, phallic stone monoliths, each of these is about 8 ft high and 3-4 ft wide. From here it was another 8 kms to get to the Convento Del Santo Ecce Homo, a Dominican convent (we would call it a monastery) built in 1620 and in use until fairly recently. Once again it is a large stone and adobe construction with a very lovely garden patio in the middle. On some of the walls we could see some of the original artwork, but easier to make out was the large number of fossils that had been built into the bottom section of the main walls and used as tiles in the entrance lobby. It was well laid out with various examples of rooms, libraries and such like. Next stop was to El Fosil, an almost complete example of a kronasaurus, a 120 million year old marine predator similar to a very overgrown crocodile. I certainly would not have liked to step on his tail; his jaws were bigger than me. In the same museum they have lots of other marine fossils that have been found in the surrounding area. Finally it was then back to the vehicle for the night.
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