Week 2 - Bogota, Suesca and Villa de Leyva
Updated: Feb 23
We spent a little longer than anticipated in Bogota due to the parcel issue, however in the end I managed to get it without getting too grumpy with the DHL man...6 taxi rides later and it was sorted. Phew!
With our additional time we went on a 'free walking tour' of Bogota, which was excellent. They do ask for a donation, but it was well worth it. Logan, the American guy who was at Hostal Pintos also joined us on the tour which was nice. It was really interesting and it taught us about some of the history of how Colombia came to be and the issues that it has had including the two left-wing guerrilla armies - the FARC and the ELN, who apparently over the last decade or two have fought more about drugs than politics and the re-distribution of wealth. There has now been a peace deal signed by the FARC and they are slowly disarming (apparently), however there's about a thousand of them who have not signed.
One thing that we didn't realise is that Colombia is by far the largest source of emeralds in the world, and there's a lot of emerald dealing that goes on in one of the squares we stopped at (not recommended for novices though).
We got to taste 'chicha', which is a type of indigenous drink made with fermented maize. There's a lot of things made with maize and corn in Colombia. Kelvin especially liked it. We tried some really huge 'Arepas' filled with queso (cheese) and Kelvin had a large chorizo. He was a happy boy!
The other thing we got to do just before we left Bogota was to meet with Rory (friend of my step-sister Meg) and have a couple of cervezas in a local 'Tienda'. We met outside Starbucks as it was easy to find however there was no way any of us were going to come to Colombia to drink coffee in Starbucks! There are always some Colombian tiendas about and they are much cheaper than the chain places, plus we think it's good to support the local shops where possible. This one had an excellent selection of drinks. The one odd thing in the tienda was that there was a lady asleep in a sleeping bag behind the counter. We hadn't seen that before. Rory gave us some really good tips and advice on places to visit around Colombia. He was a really sound guy, with a good appreciation of life experience. A pleasure to meet.
It was a really nice afternoon on Parque 93 (quite an upmarket part of Bogota) but the tienda was very Colombian and we managed to get some Empanadas there as well rather than have to go to one of the restaurants.
Luckily, compared to the UK taxi's were quite cheap so it didn't break the bank, and Uber is really good there...or at least in the major cities. There's also another app called 'Tappsi' that can be used in South America and I think Spain to.
The day we left Hostal Pintos there was a thunder storm and it bucketed it down with rain...we were so thankful for our Rukka and Klim suits; they did their job well. The one really frustrating thing was all of the roadworks on the way to Suesca. It took us three and a bit hours to do about forty-something miles. However we got there and it was well worth it. I didn't like the little gravel/rocky road down to the hostal on my over-laden bike as there was a downward 100 degree bend with lots of stones and the hostal entrance was on a slope (anyone who knows what I'm like will know going downhill on rocks and gravel is my most hated thing). Anyway, we got there and we were welcomed by Carolina. She gave us a tour of the Hostal (Hostal Casa Andina) and there was loads of photos of climbers and mountains everywhere. Apparently Suesca is one of the premier places in Colombia and South America for climbing, and the lady who owns the Hostal (Diana) is one of the best climbers in Colombia. Unfortunately she was in Bogota so we didn't get to meet her. I took my gloves off and my hands were black...maybe not such a good idea to wear cheap summer gloves in the rain! Lesson learned.
The hostal was lovely, with a cool common area complete with hammock and large lounging cushions. By the time we unpacked it was getting a little late on so we decided not to go for a wander as we were both shattered anyway. Carolina was really helpful and ordered a pizza for us and some 'jugo fresca' (fresh juice). Both were amazing! The pizza was the biggest I have ever seen and the juice tasted so fresh I could almost feel the vitamin C making it's way through my body! Ok maybe a slight exaggeration but it was sooooo tasty, especially the passion fruit or 'maracuya' one.
We slept well and the next day, after lunch and faffing around with stuff headed off to the thermal hot springs with Carolina and a chap from Finland called Becka. We took two buses to get there...how they know which bus is which I don't know but there's some sort of indication in the front window. We had to get the second bus on the side of the dual carriageway. As you couldn't see what the sign said on each bus until it was up close you had to start frantically waving if you realised it was the one you needed...it then may stop for you. On most of them a young lad would hang out the side of the bus door as it drove up and shout to ask where you wanted to go and then everyone would quickly clamber on. They took payment on route.
We got to the spring and it was lush. The location was gorgeous, but there would be no way you would know it was there if someone didn't tell you. The entrance looked like a large gravel car park (well it was actually) but you then had to walk through the foundations af a building to find the path down. It was a super long staircase that did a few back and forths before you actually reached the pools. Not so bad on the way down, but going up and at altitude was a challenge.
We got to wear some really trendy hats in the pool, but it was well worth it. It rained a little but that was nice as the water was so warm. They also had a huge steam room and after a few hours lounging about, drinking juice, water and beer, we went for a walk up the hill on the opposite side of the pool. It was gorgeous, and it's interesting what you can see from the path up above...one particular couple in the pool seemed to be having a good time!!!
We headed back on the bus, Kelvin and Becka headed to the hostal while Carolina took me into Suesca for a manicure and pedicure; it was the second manicure of my life and my first pedicure...all for about £5.50. Not that nice nails goes well with motorcycle adventure touring, but it made a change to having short crappy nails. Being a physio, nail varnish is never allowed but now I'm off for a year I can wear as much as I like, so I did, just for the hell of it! Carolina was really happy to have taken me and she went to another place to get hers done as well as her hair. I have to say, my nails were done by 9.30pm and I don't think Carolina even had her stuff started until about 9.45pm. She got in about midnight. It's amazing how they work differently here, I couldn't imagine doing someone's hair and nails bordering on midnight. Kindly, when Carolina realised she would be a lot later she ordered me a taxi and made sure I was totally happy before leaving me. Also, one of the ladies in the salon sent her husband home quickly to get some flip flops...she didn't want me to smudge my toe nails! How nice is that!? They were returned of course.
The next day, after re-packing and re-sorting my stuff, we left Hostal Casa Andina. Carolina had made us a lovely breakfast and gave us a big hug. Unfortunately, on the way out of the hostal I managed to drop my bike as the weight made it really hard to turn, then the back wheel kicked out and that was that. I was fine, but the embarrasing thing was that everyone came out of the hostal to check I was ok and pick up the bike. Me, the bike and Cyril survived well. Second best purchase of the trip...engine case protectors. Where the bike had fallen over, the gear changer had hit the engine case. If the protector hadn't have been there it could have made a nasty hole in my engine case and caused a big problem. Well done Kelvin for sorting those out! Kelvin rode both bikes to the top, but even he really struggled. We have too much stuff and it's too heavy...surprise, surprise. Somehow we really need to whittle it down...the question is how. The other great buy is our Sena headsets - when I dropped my bike I could summon Kelvin's help!
The ride to our next destination was a lot nicer and sunny to. The route took us through some amazing scenery in the Boyaca region and all of the Peajes (toll booths) have a little slip road down the righthand side for motorbikes. Excellent! Some are a little on the narrow side, but neither of us have had an embarrasing moment yet...watch this space! The only issue on this trip was that our bikes kept getting starved of fuel, and both of them cut out at least once on route, probably because of the altitude. We got to the hostal in Villa de Leyva (hostal Campestre el Pozzo) by about 4pm and were shown to our room which even had an en-suite bathroom. Not bad for about £23 a night. The main thing was secure parking. We went for a wander into the town and it was so beautiful with a huge main square.
In the background a huge storm was coming in and we found a little Italian restaurant to sit in. Kelvin had the best spaghetti bolognese he's ever had in his life, and it was only about £6.50! The next morning we headed into Villa de Leyva again after a breakfast of scrambled egg, Arepas, cheese and ham (all included in the room price - bargain). Oh, we also got fresh juice, a hot chocolate, a roll and some very fresh (no added shit) jam. Yum.
The weather was beautiful so we put on our SPF50 suncream (UV is high here) and headed off for about an hour and a half. The town really was lovely, a little touristy in some areas but out of the main plaza it was very quiet and the buildings really unique and pretty. We found a little cafe to get some more fresh juice (one mango and one guanabana) and some croissants for lunch, then we headed back to do some work on the bikes and some blogging in the sun with a cerveza.
Luckily, because accommodation is so cheap, we've managed to stay in hostals well within our budget. I think once past Ecuador we'll start wild camping and there's lots of campsites on the North coast of Colombia, which should be good and super cheap.
We will head for San Gil tomorrow, which is very popular for outdoor sports like rafting and kayaking, plus even warmer. That does mean more mosquitos and we have now started taking our Doxycycline in preparation for our northward travels. So far, so good.