San Gil – a quiet mountain village
We said goodbye to the shore and jumped on a night bus going south, to the mountains. We were going to a small village called San Gil. It is Colombia's extreme sports capital offering everything from abseiling down a 100 meter high waterfall to paragliding, rafting in degree 5 rapids, mountain biking and canyoning.
We found the best hostel we have ever stayed in. It had a porch looking across the main plaza in San Gil in addition to having a pool, sauna, blueray player with HD TV, massage and a restaurant with the most succulent filet steak I have ever had. Filet steak with mushroom sauce, mashed potatoes and vegetables for 50 Norwegian kroner(14$) " (including a glass of beer) is pretty unbeatable.
Our plan of one night quickly turned into 3 nights. One advantage with travelling long-term is that one can always stay longer in the places that one likes..
San Gil is a nice little town with narrow streets, old churches and good food-traditions. One of the things they eat there, that for us Europeans do not seem like food, is ants. They are very fond of a particular type of ant with a huge backend that they like to fry and eat as a snack. Unfortunately it was outside of the ant season when we were there so we did not find them no matter how much we were looking.
One day we took a bus that went further up the mountain to an even smaller village where the locals are doing their own thing, and tourists are scarce. From there we walked a trail that went through a dry mountain terrain with breathtaking views of the area. At the end of the trail we found an even smaller mountain village that looked like it had not developed for the past 200 years. It was very nice, and quiet there.
We strolled through the unpaved streets without meeting anyone other than the occasional goat or cow.
Our plan in San Gil was to try rafting as we had never done it before. The rafting company meant that it would be fine rafting in rapids grade 5 (maximum strength) even though we had never been rafting before.
We waited for 2 days,
the first day there were not enough people, and on the second day there were 10 people that all wanted to come. We drove out to the rapids, and when we got there they said that we were not allowed to go rafting that day because the river was too high. It was quite disappointing as we had spent most of the day to get ready and to drive out to the river. The rest of the day we were drinking beer in the pool along with 1 dutch guy, 1 american and 2 Swiss that we had met.
In the evening we went outside the city to a bar that also had a TEJO hall. Tejo is the national sport in Colombia. It consists of throwing a heavy lump of lead about 20 meters to hit a small box of clay. In the middle of the clay there is a small packet of gun powder. The point is to get closest to the gun powder with the lump of lead. If the lump of lead hits the powder then it explodes with lots of sparks and loud bangs. This is why they put Tejo courts far from the city center.
After we had drunk some beer and observed the local pros for half an hour we ventured down to the field to see if they let us play a little. The fat middle-aged tipsy Colombians were happy when we came down to the pitch. Not so much because of me, but more because of the 4 girls who were with me. The girls quickly gave up on the Tejo game as it is simply a mans game. To throw a piece of lead on gunpowder while throwing down lots of beer is a perfect sport for Male bonding.
Eventually a bunch of other tourists arrivd, so I played Tejo with them for 2 hours while Torunn and the other girls sat on the side and were drinking wiht the locals. One beer after another appeared in front of the girls, and occasionally also small shots of Aguardiente, which is the local spirit. The poor Swiss girls we were with could not say no to beer to be polite, but gradually they began to take beer with them to the bathroom so they could pour it out.
Tejo is an amazingly primitive sport, but curiously enough, very addictive. I was obsessed by hitting the gunpowder, but in most of my throws I could not even hit the clay box!
We were 10 people that went on for 2 hours, and only 2 times someone managed to hit the powder. It's harder than it looks like!
Villa De Leyva- The finest city in Colombia
After 3 days there we moved on to a village called Villa De Leyva. It was definitely the nicest town we visited throughout Colombia. It is the only original colonial city in the country. Being colonial ultimately means that the original architecture of the Spanish who built the city is kept. There are no tall buildings there, and all the streets are made of cobblestone. Villa de Leyva also has the largest plaza in the country; a giant cobbled space with a small wishing well in the middle.
Villa de Leyva is only 3 hours from the capital Bogota, which means that the city has become a favorite place to go on weekends for many of the rich people from Bogota. That in itself has made the prices in the town quite high, especially on weekends. We went out one night and ate something that I can only describe as the worst meal I've had on the entire trip (perhaps even my entire life) for a relatively high price. I paid 80 kroner for a dry, burnt, chewy and relatively unedible beef of unknown origin. It was sickening. Their cat got 80% of my meal, so he was satisfied.
High on a mountain above the town stands a Jesus statue, like the one in Rio De Janeiro, just not quite as big. It was worth a small climb for a spectacular view of the Villa De Leyva Valley. We were pretty much 3000 meters high when we got up there. We took some pictures together with dear Jesus, and went down again just as it started to pour down with rain.
Safely back in town we met the American Nick again by coincidence, the same guy we had met in San Gil a few days before… very random.
We went to a pub with Nick and got to hear all about his trip and life. Nick worked as campaign manager for one of the many Barack Obama campaign offices, so after Obama won the election there was not much to do there anymore. He then decided to rather travel around South America, which to us seems like the most logical thing to do.
The second day of our holiday in Villa de Leyva we rented bikes and rode around half the valley. It was a nice area, but very hot and dry. Almost like desert-landscape. We went to a penis-park.
There were lots of penises, of all sizes. Torunn was ecstatic !.
The native built all the large penis-statues for more than 2000 years ago in the name of fertility. When Christians arrived to the area, obviously there was trouble. They broke some of these statues, and ironically, they built a monastery with the same stone.
Luckily they had not demolished all of the statues, so there was still plenty of cock there when we visited the place.. It seemed to be a couple of hundred statues there, some were probably over 5 meters tall, while others were very thick. All sizes and thicknesses in one place. There were no balls there, but they would probably be more challenging to build.
We also visited the fossil museum in the middle of nowhere. It is located there because the house was built around a giant dinosaur fossil that was not moved since it was excavated. The dinosaur was very cool, and was more than 10 meters long. It is the best preserved fossil of the dinosaur-kind Chronosaurus- in the world. The Chronosaur was a sea creature that resembled a giant shark, only with huge fins resembling limbs. When we stood right at its head and looked at the giant 30-40 cm long canines it was very easy to imagine that this monster terrorized the prehistoric oceans. It was about 200 million years old. Very cool.
The rest of the museum had various other fossils, mostly ammonites, but also an occasional prehistoric fish. It is impossible to imagine that anyone can believe that the earth is 5000 years old when there is such concrete evidence like these amazing fossils. I guess people just believe what they have been told by others, even if it is demonstrably wrong.
The next stop on the trip was the capital of Colombia - Bogota.