Instead of heading straight to the capital of Colombia I stopped off at a small colonial town halfway in between San Gil and Bogota called Villa de Leyva.
With over 14,000 square meters of cobbled stone, Villa de Leyva’s Plaza Mayor is the biggest in Colombia. This is interesting because with a population of 9,600 the town is relatively small in comparison to most Colombian cities.
Villa de Leyva is set in the midst of some low rolling hills away from the hustle and bustle of Bogota, making it a popular weekend getaway for capital city residesnts.
The hostel that I walked into in Villa de Leyva turned out to have the four Brits that I had met in San Gil, two of which were victim to lost wagers (they called them “forfeits”) and consequential cross-dressing. I would end up hanging with the cheeky lads and lady for the next week.
Villa de Leyva was exactly what I needed after five straight days of extreme sports in San Gil. Instead of extreme sports I would be greeted in Villa de Leyva by cute puppies looking over balconies.
The town is sunny and relaxed, a place where you never see anyone in a hurry.
It has all the things a proper colonial town should have.
Whitewashed houses in every direction.
A simple church.
A small park.
A plaza central.
Several smaller periphery plazas.
A old house, Casa de Juan de Castellanos, built by the spanish priest in the laste 1500s, now turned cafe.
And of course, a statute of Christ overlooking the town.
Getting to the Christ statue required a bit of steep hiking.
But I met a grad student from Canada to give me some company for the hike, after I had convinced her that the views would be worth it.
On the way up there was lots of writing to provide encouragement.
The wind was much stronger up by the statue.
The great view made up for the chilly seat.
After the hike I headed back to the hostal to meet the Brits for a wine tour.
We rode in the back of a pickup truck to the Marqués de Villa de Leyva, a winery about 10km away.
The small winery produces around 100,00 bottles of wine a year.
It is a smaller family run shop and feels a bit like being on a farm.
Despite the rural setting the winery has stepped into the modern green age and uses solar panels to provide energy to the winery.
The production room is small, with only a handful of fermentation tanks.
Each tank has the name of the wine that they are making.
The wine cellar below holds several hundred barrels where the wine ages along with finished bottles, most of which will be shipped for consumption in Colombia.
The Brits and I spent all of our nights in Villa de Leyva doing what everyone does, hanging out in the large Plaza Major. Proper procedure involves buying a bottle of Aguardiente or wine to share with your friends, plopping yourselves down on the steps, and enjoying some music from one of the many musicians that flock to the square.
Because Matt Turnbowl of Leeds (aka “Badger” or usually just “Badge”) made friends with some of the local musicians we were able to hear a variety of music on the square all three of the nights we were there. The first night Badge ended up befriending a dreadlocked rapper from Bogota who was currently living in Villa de Leyva.
The rapper let us listen in on him and his buddy doing some freestyle sessions. They were legitimately good – in one of their best freestyle sessions they were rapping to the beat of Dr. Dre and Eminem’s “Forgot About Dre.”
Have a listen to the freestyle session below – the best rapper, in my opinion, comes in at the very end.
The next night Badge made friends with a couple guitarists who had great voices and great harmony. Requesting only a few donations in the hat, they gave us a private concert on the square for almost 90 minutes. Definitely worth the 15,000 pesos we dropped on them.
The last night we were able to convince the main rapper and the guitarist to join forces though in hindsight I think they should have just stuck to their respective genres….
Badge made such good friends with these guys that after the concert they invited us back to an after-party at one of the rappers’ houses. In hindsight it may have been a bit dodgy but it was a great time – the rapper guys even had an albino rat!
The after party concluded with a rousing rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. This video may not provide the same inspiration as the scene from Wayne’s World….
….but our effort was certainly not lacking in enthusiasm. The Aguardiente may have played a role in that.
After three good nights in Villa de Leyva we all boarded a bus for Bogota. Before we left I snapped a quick picture of a very interesting pornographic book, blending a child’s connect-the-dots exercise with a much less wholesome subject.
I didn’t bother connecting the dots – I was never really into connecting the dots.