For this round of our explorations we spent time in a wide variety of interesting places. But of course, before starting a rigorous round of exploring, we had to stop and visit this cool cat at a hot springs soaking area.
Then we were ready to climb into the hills and look at the amazing scenery. We passed a gorgeous rock that looked very much like the famous “Coffee Pot Rock” in Sedona. (well, except for the color of the rock, and the color of the sky, and the blatant over-development of the area)
Then we arrived in the soccer ball capital of Colombia, Mongui. This town has been hand-sewing soccer balls for generations. And the practice continues today. We saw the memorial in the park, the shapes, forms and models and the soccer-ball museum. It was interesting to learn about the process and the history.
And of course, at the center of this adorable, mountain village is a beautiful, old church. Nica and I posed on the front steps! Then in a nearby village we learned about the tragedy of the indigenous people of that area when threatened by the invading Spaniards. The entire clan chose to gather together and dive off the edge of a sheer cliff. This startling sculpture pays homage to the lost people. We drove around the lovely Lago Tota and stopped at the famous dessert town. Of course after all the exhausting lake views, we had to sample desserts!
Then it was time to leave the pavement and head towards Cocuy National Park. We chose a route of rough roads and long drives (of course). That meant one night tucked into a dusty roadside camp space. And some interesting roadside spider workmanship. But as we climbed to higher elevations the weather changed, the plants around us changed and the landscape became more dramatic. We were now at about 11,000 feet elevation, and it was time for a jacket!
We parked for the night at a cute little lodge in the mountains and then the next morning we drove just inside the gates of Cocuy National Park at 14,000 feet elevation. The park was established to protect the land of this area, including a huge glacier. But the glacier is rapidly receding and the park is showing signs of overuse. We feel fortunate to have seen the beauty of this landscape before management and climate change it forever. This was our breakfast view on Thanksgiving morning. Much to be thankful for.
From the Cocuy region we took another strange and winding road through small towns and villages. We passed through a paramo, a terrain of unique plants and ecosystems. In this area we saw this interesting decaying adobe house.
And of course, some beautiful churches in the center of the small villages. Each one made with huge stones, elaborate arches and an architecture designed to stand the test of time as they remain the village icon through the generations.
Of course, Nica is not allowed in the churches. So we have been working with her on sitting patiently outside waiting for us. This photo sums up her patience…….. Of course all these small villages mean rough, rocky roads. And of course, that meant that we had another flat tire. (not to worry, we now have new tires) And campsites are a rare thing in the small towns. So sometimes we set up camp on the side of a dirt road. And other times our campsite is just finding a flat area along the central plaza. But always, this big rig stands out and becomes quite a spectacle in these little villages!
In one small town we met the woman whose image was painted on town hall. She coordinates local events and is very involved in activities. She grew up in this tiny community, then moved to San Diego, California. But when she found out her elderly mother was ill, she returned to her home village in Colombia to care for her aging mom. She invited us inside her family home for a tour (of course it was amazing and I forgot to take photos) The friendliness and warmth of the people of Colombia continues to amaze us around every corner. Here is the street view of her family estate.
After a couple of days of driving we arrived in one of our target towns, Barichara. This is an OLD village with cobblestone streets and small town charm. Of course, it also has an incredible church in the center of town. We parked at a beautiful campsite which had a grassy field and a young, male dog that became Nica’s new friend. The rolled for hours on the grass and the outdoor mat, biting and wrestling and kissing each other!
We also got a lot of laundry washed and then dried in the warm sun. And then we got really motivated and decided to walk the famed indigenous trail known as the El Camino Real a Barichara Guane. This is a stone-lined trail which covers about 9 kilometers. The stones contain fossils for examining and the trail winds through beautiful hills and over creeks.
The village of Guane is set up to serve walkers food, drink, a beautiful little church and an awesome little fossil museum. We enjoyed the village for a while, then hopped on a local bus and got a ride back to our campsite.
Back at our campsite we enjoyed the views from our parking spot. And we also hiked up some of the hills nearby for some breathtaking panoramas. It is photos like these that help illustrate the beauty and diversity of Colombia.
After this we are driving to Villa de Leyva. This is a Spanish colonial village that is recognized for fossils, history and good food! We hope you have decided to follow along and receive these updates in your email box.
Adios and remember, it’s not a slow car, it’s a fast house!