Villa de Leyva, Colombia.
Getting to Villa de Leyva from Zipaquirá took about 3.5 hours vi a 4 buses (if I remember correctly) with changes at Choconta and Tunja.
As you arrive at Villa de Leyva, you are greeted by a massive main square Plaza Mayor, lined with bars and restaurants and dotted with people and friendly dogs.
We stayed at Posada San Angel Miguel, which is run by Betty and her family and felt like a home stay. The road could be a little noisy at night and I had to lift the tank cover and manually stop the water from running every time we flushed the toilet, but Betty was a great host and the room was nicely decorated in an Indian/Hindu theme. Betty made a nice breakfast of juice, coffee, fruit with oats and eggs and bread too.
Villa de Leyve is a nice colonial town in the hills and was a good place to relax for four nights with the peaceful way of life and friendly locals a suitable antidote to sketchy Bogota. We spent most days walking around the cobbled streets, making friends with affable dogs as we went.
One day we walked up a steep hillside to a Jesus statue that overlooks the valley. The walk was tough but the views were excellent and we rewarded ourselves with empanadas that we’d bought from a small shop in town. Writing this a month later, they were still the best empanadas we’ve had! Crisp pastry with moist rice and minced beef and the kick of chili from the aji salsa.
Another memorable day in Villa de Leyva, was a caving activity booked with the tour office in the main square.
It was 85.000 COP each (which is about £20) but we had a private tour with two guides (one caving expert, one English speaker) leading Ashleigh and I. As soon as we walked into the cave I was secretly thinking ‘I hope Ashleigh will be okay with this’ as it was dark, humid and wet and the guides had told us to keep our fists clenched at all times, especially when touching rocks, so that creatures couldn’t nip our fingers.
Stalactites, made from mineral-rich water dripping through the rock, clung to the ceiling of the cave, streams flowed as headlights lit a path through the absolute darkness.
We looked around the first section of the cave which was quite open with a high ceilings. The guide, Oscar, had us lay flat over a deep cavern. He said that the cave there went on and on and on. He’d done lots of expeditions down there to places perhaps no human had been to before and he explained how as part of his training, he would spends days in the cave and practice orientating the darkness with no light. He’d seen snakes, scorpions and spiders down there.
Thankfully, we didn’t come across snakes or scorpions but we did come face to face with a bat that flew away as Ashleigh screamed in its face. There were moments where we had to crawl on our bellies through dirty sand and mud, to squeeze through tiny tunnels. I was pouring with sweat by the time I got to the other end and was proud of Ashleigh for getting stuck-in like a trooper!
It was a great experience but a bit of a relief to see sunlight after almost an hour underground!
We went for beers and arepas afterwards and the arepa restaurant owner seemed pleased with the messages and portrait of him we drew on the wall.
Onwards to San Gil!