We have stayed in Villa de Leyva a little longer than expected. No complaints as it is such a lovely little town. We were able to park our truck on a campsite called Hostal Renacer Colombian Highlands, a super place to park for a few nights while enjoying the ambiance of the town. It is only 1.5 km walk so not too far to get to the many restaurants it has to offer. The Hostal is top notch with the best facilities as in toilets and showers we have seen in the whole of Latin America so far. Our parking patch was excellent so peaceful at night and more importantly very safe.
We left for a few days and went to Bogota. Bogota is the capital of Colombia and has 9 million people living in the city. So so much traffic I really wonder how anybody gets to work on time or get anything done in a day. The climate is crisp and cool with daily temperatures on average between 14 and 19 degrees. We used the Transmilenio to go in and out of the city – a massive public bus transportation system which is fast and efficient. Really its the only way to travel in Bogota unless you like driving on congested streets and choked freeways. Bogota is still quite dangerous. Even the locals told us to take a taxi once we got off the train which we did as our motto is always ‘listen to the locals’. We traveled in Jurgen and Ruth’s truck as it made sense to just bring one and stay in a hotel. It was weird to spend 2 nights out of our beloved mog!
There is a handy 24H secure parking spot behind Portal 80 Mall, Bogota (N4 42.725 W74 06.533). Fine for a large truck, you can sleep there or leave the truck. its behind the hospital, behind the mall.
We visited Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) which has over 34,000 pieces of gold from Colombia’s pre-Hispanic cultures. It is one of the most important collections of its type worldwide. It’s one of the best things to do in Bogota, and is based in the old part of the City which is nice to wander about during the day.
We also took a funicular/cable-car to see Cerro de Monserrate. This dominant mountain peak shapes Bogota’s cityscape and has a church built on its summit which is about 3,200 m.a.s.l. Here you can see some of the best panoramic views of Bogota and lucky for us we were there before the smog came down. When you look down you really see the chaos of the city. Mind you its not a patch on Monserrate outside Barcelona.
Our last visit was to La Candelaria Bogota’s old historic quarter. Pretty cobbled streets with shops, craft stalls and galleries can be found here. Many colonial buildings with magnificent bright colours can be seen and once you reach the Plaza de Bolivar you are in the thick of it all with musicians, food vendors and of course thousands of pigeons.
That was pretty much all to see in Bogota and really none of the above are a must see. Our main reason for going was that we had to collect our GPS there, while Ruth and Jurgen had to extend their TIP, Temporary Import Permit for their truck as they were almost 3 months in Colombia. When Merv and I traveled to Medellin we left our GPS in for repair to the main Garmin dealer there and were told that we could collect it in Bogota which suited our travel plans. We use a Garmin Montana 600 which has a nice touch screen. It seems it’s spent too much time in the Sun, and the screen protector for the screen started pressing the touch screen when it gets hot. Visually it looked like someone kept pressing the centre of the screen, with the effect that it was as useful as half a scissors. It has a new screen installed, and €180 later we are back in business. Nice to know where we are 🙂
On our way back to Villa de Leyva we stopped at a place called Zipaquira, about 50 km North of Bogota. The salt mines are the main employers in this area. The town’s Salt Cathedral is the attraction here and is 75m long and 18m high. Quite a unique place in its own way. It’s an old mine that has been made into a Cathedral, but I’m afraid its as much of a tourist attraction as a place of worship.
Back in Villa de Layva, we said goodbye to a lovely couple who had been camping there with us. They are on their way South, and we may well be on our way North so we swapped a lot of tips and tales of the routes we each had ahead of us. You can see what they have been up to here: Cross America.
We then were back to Villa de Layva for a couple of days, Merv had a small repair to do on the passenger door window to convince it to wind up and down when we wanted, not when the mog decided it was a good idea. Once that was done, we were ready for adventures new!