Horsing Around in Villa de Leyva
Oscar Gilede knows about all the great places to visit. He runs a tour company in town, and is also the owner of the Hostal Renacer, where we are staying.
About a 15-minute walk from the center of town, past the military base and some small farms. The place is quiet and comfortable, although there is a group of 35 university students camping out on the grounds for the next four days.
On Monday, the rain kept falling off and on all day, so we didn’t stray far. In fact, we spent most of the afternoon napping in the hammocks in front of our room off the main courtyard.
But Tuesday, the sun made an appearance that lasted the entire day. It was a wonderful birthday present and complemented horseback riding nicely (we’ve had to delay our plan to rappel down a waterfall until Wednesday).
Andariego, my horse, prefers to be in the lead, while Chris and our guide, Raul, follow close behind. I have no idea where to go, but Andariego knows the routine. Cars and motorcycles don’t bother him at all, but when we pass barking dogs, he takes off at full speed. It’s not fun for him to be chased, but I quite enjoy bouncing along at full gallop. Faster, faster, I tell him. Dressed in chaps and a cowboy hat, I look like a natural on horseback, but I’m sure Raul thinks otherwise.
We head into a colorful valley that was once at the bottom of a sea that covered Colombia and Venezuela. The rocks that dot the landscape are gigantic chunks of ancient coral. That’s not all that can be found around here.
Thirty three years ago, a man walking in the countryside surrounding Villa de Leyva discovered the fossilized remains of a gigantic reptile. The creature, which looks like a modern-day crocodile, is one of the best-preserved plesiosaurs in the world, and the second largest (one in Australia is larger).
A museum was built over the exact spot where it was found and that was one of the stops on our ride. We also rode to the “Stonehenge” of Colombia, a pile of rocks that do not resemble Stonehenge in the least, but served a similar purpose for the pre-Colombian cultures that lived here.
On our way back into town, we passed many beautiful homes, some of which are very unique. One was built to resemble a grand piano. The woman who lives there is a pianist. There’s also the Terracotta House, a large ceramic structure that has taken 12 years to construct.
At the end of the ride, we had lunch and then celebrated my birthday with a piece of chocolate cake called the Milky Way at a local cake shop. It’s been the best chocolate I’ve had in this country yet.
Walking back to our hostal, we stopped in a small store to buy water. The woman behind the counter asked about our day, and I told her how great my birthday had been so far. She reached behind her and grabbed some Cheetohs and handed them to me.
“Happy Birthday,” she said. “It’s my gift to you.”
This entire trip has been a wonderful present, but Villa de Leyva has definitely been the best place to celebrate.