Villa de Leyva
After two weeks in Bogota, it was time for some adventure. We decided to take a bus from Bogota to the old colonial city of Villa de Leyva, a four hour drive. And, public transportation in Colombia provided plenty of adventure.
We successfully navigated the bus terminal despite a total absence of English and boarded the bus for the afternoon drive. No sooner than we had left the bus terminal, the bus driver pulled over on the side of the road and began picking up passengers standing along the roadway. Is this a way for the driver to supplement his income?
I don’t know, but soon the bus was filled with people who didn’t board at the station, including one who entered the bus with a basket of bread and baked goods who walked the aisle selling his products. He rode for about a mile selling his baked goods and then the driver stopped to let him off. Soon, people outnumbered seats and the newcomers began sitting in the aisle.
There were only a couple of near misses when the driver slammed on the brakes to avoid a dog and sudden swerves while attempting to pass other vehicles on narrow and winding mountain roads. We were pulled over twice by police who boarded the bus to check identifications and passports.
The people getting on and off, just added to the ambiance. I pulled out my Bose headphones, put on my Apple Music and somehow ended up loving the entire 3 hour trip. The roads were nice and the scenery was magnificent. I wish I had taken pictures. The rolling mountains reminded me of Montana, but the countryside was a vibrant Mississippi green.
There were beautiful farms with free range cattle, horses and sheep. Flower farms and gardens cut into the hillside. I found myself dreaming of having my own hacienda with roses, avocado and pineapples orchards and beautiful horses.
We passed a deep blue lake and quaint little towns, I saw my first llamas and school children on the side of the road in their school uniforms.
Horses and chickens dotted the landscape as did red tile roofs and crumbling brick buildings. We went through little towns that reminded me of the small towns between Seattle and Spokane, Washington; poor small agricultural communities.
Soon we started our ascent from the valley higher into the Andes, and the landscape became more arid and rocky. I could see where landslides could be a problem during the rainy season.
As we climbed, the hills reminded me more of northern California or Italy. Farms became more sparse and I caught a glimpse of a lavender field. The mountains in the distance, became more rocky and jagged and I wasn’t sure if they were topped in snow or clouds.
Yes, I enjoyed myself. I just couldn’t look over at my sweet husband, who at times depending on who was next to him, was obviously uncomfortable.
Finally, we pulled into our destination, the beautiful and quaint town of Villa de Leyva. The historic colonial architecture of the town dates back to the 1500’s and has remained unchanged for nearly four hundred years. The streets are cobblestone and the Spanish tiled roofs and whitewashed buildings makes one feel a bit like a time traveller.
We dropped our things off at the hotel and headed straight to the plaza, the largest cobblestone plaza in South America, where we watched the sun set over the Andes. The plaza is excellent for people watching and star gazing when the sun goes down. Indigenous people have gathered at this spot for centuries to observe the constellations. Astronomers still gather here each year to host a conference and share their findings.
We entered and prayed at the large Catholic Church that dates back to 1605 and which dominates the plaza. Afterward, we sat at a table overlooking the plaza and ordered pizza and beer. I took out the camera and captured some photos during the golden hour as the light of the sun retreated behind the mountains. It was the perfect way to begin a new adventure.