Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another unexpected weekend - festival in Villa de Leyva
After lazy few days around San Gil and Barichara our next destination was the capital city of Boyaca district – Tunja. We’d already spoke with German, our host in Tunja and he told us that there is a Gastronomic Festival in Villa de Leyva next weekend and if we make it on time, we could go there together. We love festivals, (like all cyclists) we love food even more and Villa de Leyva is supposed to be one of the most beautiful towns in Colombia, so it couldn’t be a better plan for weekend. We had a glimpse at the elevation chart of the road ahead and there was a big hill before Tunja, but the first 100tish km was sort of rolling and pretty much staying at the same altitude. It looked doable in 3, maximum 4 days… we should have analysed the chart better. As we very quickly realized the hills were surely rolling but at a killing grade 9-11% (a small digression: someone one in Mexico told us that the national road must be built so that the hills aren’t steeper than 6%, because trucks cannot make it. Wrong! They should see Colombian trucks; I’m amazed with them! They can make any hill). These, plus temperatures 
'The Hill'
reaching 40C, caused that after 45-50 km we were not able to move any further. And there was still this ‘Hill’ ahead; the more closer we were getting to Tunja, the more often people were telling us stories: that this hill is one of the toughest in Colombia, that is part of national cycling race, because not only in 55km the road goes 1500m up, but there are some steep climbs, sharp turns and what’s the worst – it is on high altitude (the peak is over 3000 masl) where there is far less oxygen.
On Friday afternoon we arrived to the bottom of ‘The Hill’ and, after all those stories, we doubted if we could make it in one day. But it would be a pity to miss the festival, mmmmm…food! So we made a quick decision - we were just by the town called Moniquira, it was 4pm, 60km to Tunja; we decided we’ll be there the same evening - by bus, our bikes had to stay in Moniquira. We went to the bike shop to ask the guy if he could help us with storing the bikes over the weekend. He called someone who knew someone in the council and in less than an hour our bikes were safely locked in local sport centre. We very lucky to meet this super helpful people over there. We grabbed what was necessary and at 5:30 we were on the bus to Tunja. Why we didn’t take our bikes on the bus rather than coming back on Monday morning to cycle ‘The Hill’? We believe that if you take another transport once, it’ll be easier to do it second time and even easier to find a pretext for the third time etc. There is always an excuse – wind, rain, hills, heavy traffic, dangerous area… and there are some cyclists who travel this way, but for us there is always a manner to cycle whatever is ahead. That’s the part of the adventure and the more you sweat, the more you appreciate it.
We arrived to German’s flat and Raul excited about the festival started asking:
‘So how this is going to look like? We could have some food there? There’ll be some stands?...’
German answered: ‘Well, surely we can have some food there and we can look at the stars…’
‘Look at the stars?’
‘Well, I guess so, it is an Astronomic Festival.’
‘Aaaaa….astronomic! I understood (g)astronomic when we were talking on the phone’:)
I was equally happy; I love star-gazing as much as I love food! And however it wasn't what we expected and even the star-gazing wasn't successful, because it got cloudy in the evening we had fun and interesting weekend. German showed us little treasures of Boyacá, that otherwise we'd never visit. Like all those tiny and pretty colonial towns hidden somewhere up in the mountains or down long and bumpy dirt roads; by far my favourite was sleepy Iza, where one side of the market square is lined with cakes and puddings stands.
Delicious! I had a sample of every single one and that was a mistake, because I couldn't decide which one I want! We strolled down streets of Raquira and Nobsa, lined with local hand made products – pottery and woollen goods; in that places I'm glad I travel by bike, otherwise I'd buy too much; but if I think about Colombian hills, I buy nothing. The next day we went for a ride along the biggest lake in Colombia (and lake at the highest altitude I've ever been to – 3015 masl) – Lago Tota. Beautiful, scenic ride and beautiful lake. This area is also 'the kingdom of onion'; wherever we looked around there were onion fields stretching until the horizon. :) And actually, the weekend turned to be gastronomic, maybe not festival, but definitely, feast. In Villa de Leyva German invited us for lunch to a restaurant specialized in contemporary local cuisine, them the deserts in Iza, hand-made ice-cream and a taste of local chorizo and meat cooked in typical for this region way – very slowly over a bonfire.
And on Monday morning we jumped on the bus back to Moniquira, we picked our bikes and we faced ‘The Hill’. And it turned out to be much more pleasant ride than the previous 100km of ‘rolling hills’. Long, but steady climb and very beautiful views.
So since midday on Tuesday we are officially ;) – by bike – in Tunja.

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