To celebrate a 3-day weekend, we took a bus to Villa de Leyva. We’d been there before, in August, and loved it. Aaron did some hiking up to Iguaque with some friends and I walked around the lovely town, spending most of my time filling up on Vitamin C (fresh-squeezed orange juice) and Vitamin D (sun!) in this plaza.
The reason for the holiday was a tribute to a saint, so at one point, this wee parade sauntered by, with the children singing hymns.
What was I up to while Katie was taking in the city? Well, Caminates del Retorno had agreed to take myself, Anne, and Mary Catherine (possibly my two favorite people in Bogota) out to Iguaque, a preserve located about a hour outside of Villa de Leyva. I had been trying to get there for awhile because I had seen an article on it in El Tiempo and really wanted to check it out. Early in the morning we woke in Villa to get some breakfast and pick up some lunch from an open air restaurant called Van Gogh’s Patio. It would be a sweet spot to hang out on a sunny day, just couches on a lawn with paintings hanging from the fence that surrounds it. The biggest draw for us was a rabbit that hopped around begging for lettuce, I was scared of it, but Mary Catherine and Anne got it to pose for pictures with them (until they saw a flea).
We had spent too much time with the rabbit because we got back to the hotel for the pickup late and got withering looks from all the Bogotanos, oops (awkward that the Protestant, Germanic, Capitalists, would be late, no?). The trip to the park was quick and bumpy in an open air jeep that screeched with disapproval at every turn.
The hike started with a walk through a creepy looking forest, lots of moss and crumply looking trees. I pushed on the early part because it felt good to be sweaty and out of breath. As the forest broke the rain started and I got to try out my rain gear I had purchased for the Amazon, perfect. We also had reached the Paramo.
The Paramo means several things, we had reached about 10,000 feet and there would no longer be trees to help support me if you needed a hand hold. Also, there would be lots of wind to push the rain horizontally in to my face. Those are the negatives. The positives are that the vistas would be amazing, whole mountain ranges, granite walls, and the interesting quilt work of the Colombian country side. There is little space in Colombia that doesn’t belong to someone and in the country side there are large squares of property, usually for cows, surrounded by a thin line of trees to mark property lines. When you are on a mountain you can see 50 latifundias (big farms) spread over several miles, each one a light green square bordered by dark green trees, the biggest quilt in the world.
The trail immediately went up, straight up for a 1000 foot climb to the first lake, a lake that the Muisca believe was the birthplace of civilization. Because we had been late, the guides were pushing, there was a second lake about a 3 hour trip away. Once we reached the lake, Iguaque, the guides said, “Who wants to go to the second lake, because Aaron really wants to.” Yikes, I kinda wanted to go, but looking at the stiff climb up from the lake I wasn’t so sure. Of course, no volunteers so it was just me and the guides, who have blood oxygen levels like Incan runners. They took off and I clambered after. Twice I asked them to just leave me, but like the champions that they are, they wouldn’t let me quit. At the end of it all, I made it to the second lake, Empedrada. A beautiful little oval that sat at the bottom of a 1500 foot wall of lush vegetation. Was it worth it? Like always, it was. It wasn’t fun, but who says it has to be fun, to have fun.