Sunday, September 2, 2012

Wandering towards Bogotá

Random meanderings around Colombian carreteras continued on our way out of El Cocuy, particularly once we hit the landslide that closed down the main road from Guicán to Capitanejo.

Whoops, this road was closed on the way to Soata, Colombia
(there was no getting through this stretch)

The funny part is we were probably going down the wrong road anyways, since this was the way to Capitanejo, which we had passed through on the way in. We should have been on the other side of the valley to go through Guacamayas and on to Soatá. As we turned back we found a small house with a tiny turn off marked "a Boavita". Those signs had led us before, allowing us to arrive in Guicán originally (little did we know at the time that our sidetrack along that tiny little road helped us that much). The ride along the Boavita road turned out to be a highlight, once we got over the frustration of feeling trapped in the same valley as before. (It was also a highlight once we got past a couple of very rough and steep sections right after the turn off.)

On the way to Boavita, Colombia
(Everyone we passed was friendly, even if they were busy, and the views were incredible)

Boavita was a pleasant surprise. It's a small little town with a really warm feel. They get a few tourists through but not that many, which makes it a good blend of having infrastructure without obnoxiousness. We found a nice hostel for 20000 COP (just over USD 10) with a garage across the street. At that hostel, we met a lady who, along with her daughters, had been displaced by violence from Antioquia 3 years ago. Violence in Colombia is still currently affecting people's lives, even though there has been such improvement in many regions in the past few years.

Boavita, Colombia

Boavita, Colombia
(guess what 2 options this little restaurant did not have...)

Agua de Panela in Boavita, Colombia
(we found this little restaurant that made us cheese filled arepas. the ladies got a kick out of talking to us for awhile, too)

Tamales in the morning in Boavita, Colombia
(breakfast tamale in the plaza in Boavita)

The dogs loved the meat market in Boavita, Colombia
(dogs seemed to favor the meat section of the market)

Boavita, Colombia

Heading out towards Monguí provided more great riding, interesting sites and towns, some full of curious kids.

Talking to the kids in Soata, Colombia
(Mike being interrogated in Soatá)

On the way to Mongui, Colombia
(an elaborate shrine along the road)

On the way to Mongui, Colombia
(high altitude plains)

On the way to Mongui, Colombia
(Monguí sat at the base of this rainbow)

We had heard that Mongui was a highlight from the English guy we ran into at la Esperanza, so wanted to make it there. It's a well manicured, whitewashed colonial town with a tradition of hand making balls. (Sadly, a soccer ball souvenir would not fit very well in our luggage.)

Mongui, Colombia

Mongui, Colombia

Our hotel in Mongui, Colombia
(It was surprisingly difficult to find a hotel that was open and within our price range. In another example of Colombian hospitality, we were guided across town to one hotel by a woman walking with her 2 kids, but we ended up not staying due to cost. On the edge of town there was a little cottage with a few rooms for rent for around 30000 COP (less than USD 20).)

Villa de Leyva is also supposed to be a highlight of this area, but we didn't even put the kickstand down once. It looked similar to Mongui in that all buildings were well maintained and whitewashed, but the setting was not as beautiful and the feel of the town was as if they were trying real hard to make the place what it is. See below for a fly-by photo.

Valle de Leyva, Colombia

Arriving in Chiquinquirá late in the afternoon, we decided to find a place to stay. As we rolled through the old town a couple of cops on a moto pulled up beside us to ask us about our bike. they told us about a hotel with parking just one block over that turned out to be great. And the city was a really nice place to spend the day. It definitely had its share of tourism, but the town surrounding it continued on its daily routine.

Chiquinquira, Colombia
(Chiquinquirá plaza)

Chiquinquira, Colombia

Jill at the outside bar in Chiquinquira, Colombia shortly before being asked by a little girl if she was a man or a woman

Jill with the girl and her dog in Chiquinquira, Colombia
(we even made friends while we had a beer on the pedestrian street. After that, we found a Mexican food restaurant. Even though Colombian food is good, Mexican food was very much appreciated.)

On our way into Bogotá, we rejoined the masses of tourists at the salt cathedral in Zipaquirá. Jill had been doing some research in advance to find good sites to visit as we traveled through Colombia and this was on the list. Amidst that research, she had associated pictures of another church (which we hope to still see on our way south through Ipiales) with this place. It was very confusing to her that this salt cathedral was all underground. But since this cathedral was formed within an old salt mine, it is most definitely all underground.

Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, Colombia
(you are guided down the mine past a number of these smaller "salt cathedrals," which translates more accurately as "cavern with a cross in it," before reaching the big daddy cavern with a cross in it)

Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, Colombia

Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, Colombia
(supposedly the world's biggest salt cathedral (against what competition, I'm not sure...))

Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, Colombia

Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, Colombia

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