To the mountains

Trip Start Mar 31, 2008
Trip End Jul 04, 2008

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, April 20, 2008

After two enjoyable weeks on the coast, it was time to head South for the hills and make our way to Bogota. The landscape changed quit a bit as we got further from the coast - becoming green and for the first time we even had a few spots of rain. Only the roads and the driving hadnīt changed - as we still had to close our eyes with some of the scary overtaking maneuvers of our bus driver. It was a long 9 and a half hours.

We decided to break the trip up and stay a night in Giron - a colonial town which was now almost a suburb of the city of Buccaramunga.We decided to try and find somewhere not in the Lonely Planet to stay as there was only one place listed, but the helpful locals kept brining us back to the same place, so we had no choice in the end.  Then we went looking for food and found that almost everything was closing at 6pm. Luckily we found a cafe serving pizza otherwise we might have gone hungry. It was a quaint town - not at all set up for tourists but quite cool all the same.

Next day we say the sights - the town plaza was cool and we enjoyed walking around the cobbled streets and checking out the old buildings and stone bridges over the river. But we were done by 10am and decided to catch a bus to San Gil - an adventure activity town a few hours south. However the mini-bus trip was an adventure in itself with the driver practicing his racing driving on the hills, but we made it in one piece.

San Gil was good sized town and we headed out for lunch to witness a torrential downpore while we dined. Luckily it stopped by the time we finished lunch and we didnīt really need our jackets, but were glad we took them with us for the first time on our trip.

The next two days we caught a bus to Baricharra and checked out the old buildings and cobbled streets and then walked to Guane for lunch along an old stone pathway. We were glad it was mainly down hill as it was hot and not exactly a walk in the park stepping from stone to stone. The following day we hiked up the two hills on either side of San Gil to check out the views and then relaxed in the botanical gardens with huge trees to shade us.

We had an enjoyable few days at our hostal in San Gil and we got to know some other travellers including Sheila from England who was also keen to head South to check out Villa de Leyva on the way to Bogota. So we jumped on a bus and a few hours of green countryside and some big canyons later we were in Tunja to change buses. There we had to quickly put on more clothes as we forgot it would be cooler at the higher altitude. The locals were all in jackets or ponchos so we were very underdressed in our short sleves and shorts.

Villa de Leyva was only 30 km away (a bit like heading over the hill from Wellington to Wairarapa) but the difference in temperature was about 5 degrees warmer as it was at lower altitude. The town itself was very nice with cobbled streets and white washed colonial buildings full of craft shops for the weekend tourists like us. After a walk around we headed for the hill behind the town to check out the view from the cross up there. What looked like a reasonably easy walk turned into a very good workout for an hour but the views from the top were worth it. We got to see the whole valley and the surrounding hills and got down again just before it started to get dark. 

There were plenty of options for dinner and we settled for a place on the main Plaza opposite the picturesque Cathedral to have some really nice steak and grilled trout - a great treat from the nearby lake. We also splashed out on a bottle of local Sav Blanc. Not quite what we are used to back in NZ but not a bad drop all the same.

The next morning we were up early to check out the local market. By 8am it was already busy and we spent a good hour and a half checking out the fruit and veg on offer. Hightlights on the taste stakes were the fruit salad punch and the delicious strawberries which we bought several bags of. We also had a huge breakfast of pork and crackling roasted over charcoal fire which was really delicious, with potatoes and avocado on the side. I think we were the only Gringos there and it was cool to just sit and watch the people getting their weeks supplies of fruit and veg (and take a few photos too). The people were noticably different looking (more Equadorian and Peruvian) with ponchos being worn by many of the vendors.

After eating way too much, it was time to head for the bus depot again and catch another bus to our last destination in Colombia - Bogota about 4 hours away.
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