Published: March 18th 2012March 6th 2012
Sunday 26th Feb - Bucaramanga to San Gil
In the morning before leaving I had a quick walk though town in search of some breakfast for us and was pleasantly surprised to see a nice, clean, orderly city. Something that wasn't a common occurence in central america. On the contrary to what I and I'm sure most people imagine of Colombia, the streets felt really safe and the place felt very civilised and not too disimilar to what you'd find in Spain. We got a taxi back to the bus terminal and 3 hours later after a minibus ride through the picturesque mountains which signal the start of the Andes and we were in San Gil, perched in a valley on the road to Bogota. We went with a lonely planet recommendation and were very pleased to book ourselves into the hotel Abril, something of a steal at $28 a night and it contained the 1st minibar we'd come acroos in latin america.
Monday 27th Feb - San Gil
We tried our best to book ourselves onto another white water rafting trip after our guide book proclaimed the town as being the adventure sport capital of Colombia but
it seemed that no one else knew this as we barely saw another gringo in town for 3 days to fill our boat. Instead we were more than content to amble our way around town for the next 2 days anjoying the relaxation and many cafe's in town, along with the fine town square where one can sit and watch the world pass by. San Gil was a town of 40,000 in comparison to the half million inhabitants of Bucaramanga and we were even more impressed at the atmosphere and quality of life we found here. The experience couldn't be further away than one I pictured of Colombian kidnappings, civil war, muggings and general lack of security.
Tuesday 28th Feb - San Gil
Another leisurely day followed the previous one. We decided to stretch ourselves by going in search of one of the natural pools a little out of town we'd seen listed. The views were nice perched up on the hill but Pozo Azul was no thing to write home about. A small waterfall flowed into a slightly dirty looking pool which attracted the young locals. After walking back down the hill a mile into town in
the searing heat we realised we'd been bitten to shreads by mosis up by the pool which would mean 3 or 4 nights of non-stop itching as you try to sleep. We found a lovely traditional fast food shop on about Calle 10 which served amazing salchipapa (sausage with potato) with a combo of sauces and we paid homage by making our 2nd and final visit.
Wednesday 29th Feb - San Gil to Tunja
What should have been a 4 hour ride down the road towards Bogota turned into a 6 hour one as once again the road was blocked. This time though it was a tanker that looked like it had a head on collision and overturned and it wasn't a pretty sight. This was our 3rd Colombian bus trip and our 3rd stoppage after the journey from Bucaramanga to San Gil had also been delayed by nearly an hour due to a motorcyclist fatality. As we drove past the accident, I saw what looked like a dead man being put into a body bag, not a pretty sight and probably the 1st time I'd ever seen a dead body. All drivers on Colombian roads overtake each
other incessantly and it seems only but not always, that they refrain from doing this on only the most dangerous stretches of road where visibility is less than 50 metres due to the many corners and hairpins where there are often 500 foot drops on the side of the road. We arrived in a grey Tunja, a large town of 150,000 people, to be greeted by proper English weather. A temperature of not much more than 10 degrees with a grey damp sky which is strange givenit's not much more than 4 degrees of latitude from the equator. The weather doesn't change much year round as they don't have proper seasons other than periods of wet and dry weather and the result of the 2000 metre plus altitude. The city looked pretty grim from the main road and bus terminal and Stacie's mood reflected this after I made us walk up the steep hill to get a to our hotel in the centre of town rather than get a taxi. However this was only a minor detraction as we found our hotel Casa Real to be excellent, the centre of town far more charming and with the cold temperature we
were able to enjoy our 1st proper nights sleep in weeks.
Thursday 1st March - Tunja to Villa de Leyva to Tunja
Having read great things in the guide about the nearby Villa de Leyva, we set off expectantly on the 1 hour bus ride through the mountains to what was declared a National Monument 50 years ago. The scenery on the journey was yet again stunning as the road weaved along back and forth and yet another Colombian bus driver seemed to be trying to audition for an F1 drive. Maybe it was because it was midweek and quiet that we were unfortunately disappointed with what we found to be a sterile and slightly eerie place perched in the mountains. Other than Cartagena it was the only other place in Colombia where we spotted more than 2 other tourists in the space of hours, who'd come to fill their boots in one of the many souvenir shops found here. Anyway, we wandered round town for a bit, sat in one of the parks until chased off by the school children finishing for the day who have a tendency to be a little unruly at times, had a
jugo con leche in a very nice cafe and then got out of dodge to enjoy another scenic and bumpy ride back to Tunja. On arriving back we got stuck into a bit of street food for one of the first times. On ordering 8 arepas (cheesy maise tortillas) in a busy cafe I got some strange looks from both the waitress and other patrons who normally just go for 1 with their coffee so I lightened it to just the 6 which was more than plenty for the both of us. Properly stuffed, we retired to the hotel.
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