Villa de Leyva (VDL) is said to be one of the most beautiful colonial towns in Colombia. I'd visited there before and thoroughly enjoyed it. One takes the bus north from Bogota about two hours through beautiful countryside, transferring to a smaller bus in the city of Tunja for the hour's ride to VDL.
(Colombian buses are almost on a par with Mexican ones I'd say. Bathrooms, wifi, but they haven't gotten on to headphones for the TVs and they're really loud. Also, no paper of any kind in the bathrooms. Be prepared.) for the last leg to VDL, I had a very nice seatmate, an elderly Colombian woman, now living in Maimi, visiting VDL with her family. I love these bus conversations that occur out of the blue. It was chilly in Tunja but became warmer as we descended to VDL.
One of the things that made my time there so enjoyable before was the fine hostal where I stayed. A beautiful place in a beautiful setting. Met lots of interesting people there from all over the planet, some of who I encountered again down the road. To my dismay, they were totally booked up so I settled for a place that, while it was ok, didn't really measure up. My room was very plain and a bit dingy but did have a terrace with a nice outlook.
(It's interesting, I've found that when I travel solo, the quality of my accommodations is much more important than when I'm with someone else.)
I'd seen many of the sights around Villa de Leyva on my last visit so was looking for something new. A Swiss couple in the hotel had visited the monastery Ecce Homo and thought it was worth seeing. It was a half hours bus ride followed by a walk of a couple of kilometres up a dirt road to the relatively isolated site. The monastery, built in 1620 by the Dominicans, occupied a beautiful setting high up on the slopes overlooking the valley where Villa de Leyva is situated.
I had the place practically to myself and spent some time exploring the buildings and grounds. Must have been something to be cloistered up there.
There was a wing that had been a school and now appeared to be accommodations.
A few kilometres up the road from the monastery was the little town of Santa Sofia that the Swiss couple said was an easy walk. I was given a ride to the highway by some nice locals. It was pretty hot and the road climbed steeply so when I saw a sign saying 4k to the town I stuck out my thumb. The first vehicle to come along stopped, two young guys in a big old Chevy pickup. They were from Tunja on the way to Santa Sofia, nice guys. One of them was headed to architecture school in Bogota. Pretty soon we were stopped by construction and had to wait a long time and passed the time chatting, as best as I could. Interesting that almost all the music they were listening to was in English. I asked them about that and they said they understood most of it but couldn't really speak English. When we finally got going again, the construction went on for a long time and I realized that it would have been folly for me to try to walk it. I knew that I was taking a chance hitch hiking, as I'd done in the past in Colombia, but it had always worked out well. The people who stopped were always gracious and glad to help, sometimes even acting as impromptu tour guides. I wouldn't dream of it at home. Santa Sofia wasn't much of a place, a nice location and an unusual modern Catholic Church.
I wandered around taking some photos then got a bowl of soup and went to wait for the bus back. Back at the hostal I made some dinner, read for a while and went to bed. There followed a bad night which in spent most of on the toilet. This hadn't happened in a long time. That took care of the next day which I spent most of in bed. At least the view out the window was nice.
In the morning I felt better but quite wrung out. I thought I'd just follow the road up the hill as far as I felt like. The day was nice and I walked slowly and the longer I walked the better I felt.
A trail branched off the road following a nice stream upwards. As it separated from the stream, it got steeper and steeper and became much like a rocky stream bed itself.
Up and up it went and so did I, to my surprise, slowly, stopping occasionally but continuing on. The views got better and better but finally I hit the wall and had to turn around.
I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishment when down the trail came a guy accompanied by a little old indigenous woman. They stopped to chat and he informed me that the woman was 84 and did this walk every day, except she went the whole way.
Gave me some perspective on my "accomplishment". Whatever, that was it for the day for me.
Downtown VDL done up for the holidays