A while ago we introduced you to our friend, Julian from Bogota. While we were in the city we spent quite a lot of time with Julian. (Click here for a reminder about meeting Julian from Bogota)So when it was nearing time to leave, he invited us to visit the properties that are in his family. We invited Julian to join us on the road and experience overlanding. So the following is the story of those two special opportunities.
First we drove to the family home in Tenza. This is a beautiful, traditional house on the main street in the small village of Tenza. The road was rough and bumpy. We crossed a bridge over a beautiful, wide river set against jagged mountain peaks!
We also passed through a standard military checkpoint along the way. This was a simple document check, handshake and friendly discussion.
When we arrived in Tenza the town was bustling. It was a special festival for the area that included dance competitions and a street festival. We felt very lucky to be able to experience these events. As we walked around the square we sampled various grilled meats, saw basket weavers and watched children threshing stalks to remove the beans. The sounds, smells and activities were very real and very interesting.
We parked right on the main plaza, near the church. Our view was great and we were right in the middle of the action, but every one was too busy to notice us! The view from our window was the front of the church and the city street. We enjoyed the city park with Nica and even set out some trinkets on a park bench to watch them disappear.
But the real treasure of our visit was the opportunity to experience life inside a truly traditional Colombian home. This home has a special plaque commemorating a dance held there in 1821. The guest of honor was none other than the famous Simon Bolivar!!! The front of the home has three entry doors. One enters a large, old bedroom. The other enters a passageway to the courtyard. The third door enters a traditional parlor. This would be the sitting room to receive guests. Or the room where the daughters would sit with their suitors while mother or grandmother sat nearby with a watchful eye.
In the parlor I opened a few drawers and found treasures from the past tucked away and long-forgotten.
The passageway door leads down a corridor to the large open patio and garden. This area is now used as the sitting room. The family spent most of their time relaxing in this zone with the cool red tiles under their feet and the breeze though the garden.
Peeking out through the garden, it was possible to see across the rooftops of nearby homes.
The kitchen and dining area of the family home contained a blend of functional and traditional features. There is an outdoor brick oven for traditional baking. And also a newer gas oven and cooktop.
A local woman and family member teamed up to bake many delicious treats while we were visiting. The delicious smell of baking filled the kitchen and garden area!And in the corner of the garden is a traditional concrete wash sink and water well.
The bedrooms of this adobe home are located off of the open air corridor.
They are not interconnected, but all open to the courtyard. Each bedroom is a different size. Some include bathrooms (added later) and some don’t. Each room contains a mix of discarded furniture from various eras.
One room feels as though it is filled with the people from the past 200 years. The walls of this large bedroom display family portraits through the years.
After the festival ended and the town was sleepy again, we hiked up to the lookout point over the village. The steeples you see are where we are parked. We even posed for a picture at the base of the statue.
Then we walked down the hill through a neighborhood to visit a local friend of the family. He is the foreman of a crew that is building a traditional adobe house. He wasn’t working, but we had the opportunity to observe adobe construction closely.
The time we spent with Julian and his family at this special home in this wonderful village will be in our memory forever. We are grateful that they invited us to experience Tenza with them.
When we prepared to leave, we loaded our new passenger, Julian!! Nica was thrilled to have someone in the back seat with her. Julian selected a route that went around a lake and passed through many tunnels. We arrived in a new, small town and parked on the central park for the night. Julian experienced is first night of overlanding in a small village We promised him that the experience would get better, but he was just happy to be along for the ride! That night we taught him how to play Yahtzee.
The next day we had scouted some hot springs along the route. Way down a dirt road we found the “Agua Termales” and it was an amazing place. It included a concrete swimming pool filled with hot water and a path through the jungle to a beautiful waterfall.
The waterfall was cold mountain water, but the pool below had hot mineral water bubbling up through the sand and rocks. It was a very enjoyable experience. Along the pathway they had several interesting signs including these two about conservation and this sign, which tells about the legend of the Colombian Bigfoot, which is reported to live in this cave.
We had a wonderful day in the water, and it was late when we left. Fortunately we had seen a great spot to camp for the night back down the road a short distance. We arrived and leveled out the truck just in time, as we were setting up… the cows came home!
Julian was very excited to be camped there overlooking the beautiful valley. He climbed up on the roof to watch the sunset. And a few hours later he stood at the back of the camper in awe at the array of stars above us. He woke up again in the early morning hours and gazed in wonder at the stars. He was learning the joys of our style of travel.
We rolled into the bustling city of Villavicencio in the afternoon. This hot city is on the edge of an area known as Los Llanos (the plains) It is the lowlands of Colombia, and beyond here lays the Amazon jungle of Colombia. This time we were visiting a very different style of family home. We stayed in a modern, bright apartment on the eighth floor of a high rise with a beautiful view of the city.
Apparently our truck camper made the neighboring business a little suspicious. The nearby dog groomer called the police, thinking that a mobile dog grooming service was trying to attract his customers. The police were amused, embarrassed and friendly. And they enjoyed looking inside the camper. Villavicencio has a unique shopping mall that has a huge outdoor feature. It includes garden walks, ponds with fish, streams and bridges. One edge of the mall is open and overlooks this amazing green space. We enjoyed good meals, shopping and laundry in Villavicencio. And then Julian was ready to show us another one of the homes he spent time in as a child.
We drove out of town towards the farm and saw fruit sellers along the highway. This area is known for delicious pineapples. Each fruit stand assigns their prettiest daughter to stand on the road and encourage motorists to stop! Then we arrived at the family farm. This property has also been in the family for several generations. Various family members have lived there and currently an uncle is living there. The farm has begun to be divided, but it is still a large, beautiful parcel of land. It even has a creek running through it. We parked just outside the driveway. Here are a few photos of this lovely place.
We had one more family property to look at with Julian. We went a little further out of town and up a hill to see the pig farm. A true, working pig farm! It was smelly and loud and very interesting to see the process for raising meat pigs. In addition to pigs this farm also included goats, chickens, ducks and a recent litter of puppies! It was very hard to leave the puppies.
We had a wonderful time learning about Julian’s family and teaching him about traveling in a truck camper. We continue to enjoy our relationship with Julian through WhatsApp and we have invited him to join us on the road anytime.
And speaking of puppies, watch for the next blog post. We have a puppy update to share with you. No, we didn’t get a new dog. But do you remember the puppies we delivered on the sidewalk? (click here to see that post) Well, we have some news!!