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Published: June 30th 2016
Flying from Medellín to Bogotá took 31 minutes, as opposed to 9 hours by bus. The next morning I took a 3 hour minibus (it should have only been 2; we drove a round Bogotá for an hour trying to find more passengers) to Tunja (which looked like an interesting small city with hiking options in the hills), and then another hour to Villa de Leyva, touted as one of the prettiest towns in Colombia.
It certainly is attractive- the well preserved buildings in the town center are so meticulously maintained that I passed several men throughout the day repairing and painting walls that already looked perfectly fine to me.
The enormous town square is nice to walk around, though the cobblestone there and throughout the city gets to be a pain to walk on.
This is all for the tourists, but the town felt more authentic than I'd expected. While the periphery is where all the locals hang out at night, the city center was at least charming without being overly cliché or hokey. There are dozens of probably tasty and definitely pricey restaurants (by Colombian standards- 12-15 dollars a plate), including a Guiness-record-worthy number of pizzerias
that match the Tuscan-resembling hills surrounding the valley.
Upon arrival I hiked to the mirador (a statue of Jesus and in memory of some saint, complete with an altar and all), which is visible from the square when looking east, maybe 2/3 of the way up the mountain. The 40 minute hike to the top is pretty steep, especially near the top, where you have to scramble up some slippery rocks (which wasn't fun to cone back down, and I'd avoid this hike if it's been raining), but the view is worth it.
The next morning I woke up early to do the
Iguaque day hike. I got all the information at the beautiful Renacer Hostel (which is about 1.5 km from town, just past the military base that can be found at various states of unnecessary alert, with many soldiers in the camo bunkers or in the guard tower with a very big gun, but who were friendly and always talked to me when I passed, #omnipresentmilitar) but worth the walk.
I took a 7AM collectivo toward Arcabuco and got off at the stone house. There were four other backpackers in the van, but I barely
According to Muisca legend, this is the birthplace of mankind, where the goddess Bachué emerged with a baby boy. When he grew up, they had children that populated the earth, and they then turned into serpents and returned to the lake. No fishing, swimming, or rock throwing allowed.
saw them along the way to the lake.
The entrance to Parque Nacional Santuario de Flora y Fauna Iguaque is 3km up the hill from the road and the park rangers there do a nice job introducing the park, but are more interested in telling about the birds and plants than about hike essentials. The entrance was pricey for foreigners ($14! / 42,000 pesos), and my teacher id failed to procure the student rate, which was 1/4 the price).
Once on the trail, I tried to move quickly to get ahead of everyone else so I'd have some time alone by the lake. The first half was all rocky jungle- uphill in shorts and a t-shirt. At around 3,200 meters it opens up and transitions into the paramo, and by that point I needed long pants, a long sleeved shirt, and even gloves, due especially to the high winds. The trail here was very muddy- I wished that they used that 42000 to build some rock steps.
It levels off at 3,600 meters, allowing for a view of the lake in the distance. While it isn't the most beautiful lake, it's pristine and tranquil, despite the inhospitable
environment, with the mist pumping through ahead of the winds, thickly rippling the dark water and bracing the vegetation with its gusts. Even with wearing a down jacket and gloves, I could only handle sitting there for 40 minutes to eat lunch and relax, before heading back down.
Tot: 3.018s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 18; qc: 72; dbt: 0.0328s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb