Monday, July 29, 2013

Are You Bored Yet?

It's been nearly 5 weeks since I've been here and in two days I will meet Jarrod in Bogota to travel to other parts of the country. Time has flown by and slowed down all at the same time. Since arrivig, I have met lots interesting people from all over the world and I've made some wonderful friends. Colombians, in general, are very friendlypeople and so many locals here have welcomed me into their lives. The transition from being a tourist to becoming part of a community is something I cherish deeply. When I first arrived I felt very alone in this little town, even though I kept myself busy visiting the main attractions. Now I can't walk into town without seeing someone I know who is eager to share a cafĂ© or a cerveza with me in the plaza. These moments make my time here so much richer. I've had the opportunity to observe Luis teaching children Kung Fu, hike up to the lookout with Roland, William and Carolina, cook lunch with Lina and her roommate, get a massage from a friend of Lina, go to a party at the beautiful house that William designed and constructed, share coffee and cake with Ela, observe Fernando painting his latest masterpiece, participate in the Virgen del Carmen celebration in the small town of Sachica, go on group rides with local cyclists, and the list goes on and on! 

Many travelers spend just a couple of days in Villa de Leyva. A Belgian asked me yesterday; are you bored yet? My answer? Not even close! You may be able to see all the attractions here in just a few days, but the most memorable experiences that come with the transition from tourist to local never get old. Here are some pictures of these moments I speak of:

Ela and I visiting Lina in La Galleta and sharing cake and coffee:

My good friend Lina:

Group rides:

Visiting the vineyard and winery that Mauricio is constructing (wine cellar behind us):

Watching the sunset in the plaza with Awad and Sebastian:

Making pizza and enjoying time with friends at William's beautiful house:

Lina and I showing off our big calves:

Having lunch with Lina and Beto before my massage (which cost me a bottle of Colombian rum). 

Music in the plaza:

Another pizza and wine night with family at the hostel:

Luis and Carolina:

Me and Willy:

Making a fresh and delicious lunch with Lina and Maria Feenanda:

Evening stroll with Roland:

Hike to waterfall with Carolina:

Visiting the land that Ivone and Ali bought  where they plan to build their home:

Having a beer in the plaza with Willy during the Virgen del Carmen celebrations:

Enjoying a cappuccino with my friend the painter, Fernando Botero.

Making brownies for Carolina's birthday:

Luis teaching kids the art of Kung Fu:

Hiking with Willy, Carolina and Roland:

Hanging out at a little wine bar:

Reading in the hammock with Carolina:

These moments I will never forget.

Thanks for reading. Next post should have pictures of my sweetie! 

Friday, July 19, 2013


Living at a hostel has provided me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I think I lucked out by staying at less of a party hostel and more of a quiet oasis where guests relax in the evening and spend most of their energy going on adventures during the day. I'm no longer in the dorm and now have my own little space in a loft above the kitchen. 

There are lots of things to do around here and I've been checking things off the list, sometimes solo and sometimes with other travelers. Below is a little photo tour of the adventures around Villa de Leyva.
We'll start with a short bus ride to the Perikera waterfalls:

This is Ben (from Australia):


Gobble gobble!

View looking down from where the trail begins. There is a zip line that you can take all the way down but apparently it isn't the most secure because 6 people have died doing it! It is actually illegal for the operators to continue offering this service, but they continue to put people's lives at risk on the weekends. Glad I knew this tip from a local prior to strapping in!

Next stop is a solo bike ride to the Marquez Winery (Yes it's true: wine is produced here!)

They have about 40 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Vines are 20 years old and took 8 years to start producing grapes. I went in the middle of the week when it was slow so I got a private tour and tasting with the winemaker where I could pick his brain about the grapes and wine making process. 

Here is where they do their crushing, de-stemming, pressing and fermentation. 

Their Cab Sauv spends between 6 and 18 months in French and American oak. 

The final product is quite good! ABV is 12-13 percent so the wine has a good balance of acidity, fruit and tannins. I bought a bottle to bring back to the hostel but unfortunately it was knocked off the counter by a giant bag of water and shattered all over the floor! 

Next stop, Raquira! Raquira is a small, colorful town filled with shops selling pottery and other artesanĂ­a crafts such as bags, hammocks, jewelry, wind chimes, baskets and ponchos. It has a nice plaza in the center with interesting statues and a bakery pumping out fresh bread all day long. 

Sculpture of bull fight:

Little tea set carved from the Tagua seed.  (Also known as vegetable ivory) each peice is about the size of a ping pong ball so the detail here is really incredible:

My companions, Ben and Willy (Willy is a guide for Colombian Highlands, where I am volunteering). 

Passing by the mayor in Villa de Leyva:

Finally, we are going to visit one of Colombia's 55 National Parks to hike up 3600 meters (11,800 feet) to the Iguaque Laguna. This is where the Muisca people beleived that mankind was created. The weather up there can get chilly so bring a jacket!

The Muisca people believed that the woman Bachue emerged from the lagoon with a baby boy in her arms. When he was grown up they pro-created and populated the land. In their old age they turned into serpents and returned to the lagoon. On a warm day the lagoon is a nice swimming hole. The day we went was pretty cold so we took in the view for about 10 minutes and then headed back to warm weather at the bottom. 

It's amazing how much there is to explore just within a small radius from where I am staying. Colombia is a huge country (the size of California and Texas combined). It would take years to see it all. For now, I am quite content getting to know the people and places around here.