Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Villa de Leyva Colombia; Thermals under the Stars

Most people know when they are leaving a place so they can promptly meet their bus. I however just show up after I lazily pack and assume there will be a bus waiting for me. What?! The world doesn’t revolve around me?! Ridiculous!

In the past this has worked especially in places like Nicaragua where you arrive to chaos but organized chaos where there are several people yelling the names of destinations, “Masaya! Masaya! Masaya! Managua! Manauga! Managua! They grab your bag, throw it onto an old yellow school bus while others are grabbing your arms in each direction and all of a sudden you are crammed in on the bus on your way to your destination, easy.

I was hesitant to leave the hot sunny city of San Gil with waterfalls, swimming holes and adventure sports so when the brothers who owned my hostel asked me to stay for lunch I agreed even though I left way too late for the bus and almost missed my connection to Villa de Leyva which would have forced me to stay in the dive called Tunja. I figured though would have been a bus waiting especially for me. The woman sitting beside me on the bus kept on telling me how dangerous it was in Tunja, great just what I wanted to hear. Fortunately I found a mini bus to the town of Villa de Leyva the unfortunate part is that I arrived at night in the pouring rain and couldn’t find the hostel they guys at El Dorado recommended to me. The city was dark, wet and empty and the locals were doing the usual Latino thing, they make up some random directions instead of telling you they really don't know where something is. I got wetter and wetter with more and more wrong directions, eventually I found the hostel on my own and was greeted by the nicest friendliest most welcoming Colombian man with a very thick lovely Londoner accent. I am not sure if other people have been almost brought to tears by a person's hospitality or I was just tired, hungry and emotional but when Luis from La Rana hostel welcomed me into his hostel out of the rain feeling absolutely devastated that he didn’t have room for me I felt my eyes watering up. I wasn’t upset that he didn’t have room but strangely overcome by emotion by how genuine he was. Ok yes I admit I was very tired and emotional.

Luis arranged a hotel up the road with a good Price and my own room but lacked in atmosphere. I spent the night there then moved the next day to his hostel which he owns with his English wife.

Villa de Leyva is a gorgeous enchanting Colombian village. You could almost see the characters of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels walking down the streets. The only problem was it had been a particularly raining winter in Colombia and it didn’t seem to be letting up. I thought of renting a bike to see the sites surrounding the city but then the rain came. During a brief halt in the miserable weather I decided I needed to see something so walked to the pozos azules ( fresh water blue ponds) but got completely soaked when the rain came again. I gave up and hung out in the hostel until the hot thermal trip that I booked. I almost decided against going but was grateful I did and because of it grateful I came to rainy cold Villa de Leyva.

An hour and a half after our pickup time a young Colombian guy covered waist down in mud arrived at the hostel in a jeep. An Irish guy, a Czech girl, a Polish guy and I all packed in the back of the jeep. I had been to hot thermals before including commercially developed ones like on my trek to the Colca canyon in Peru or the thermals on my Inca jungle trek to Machu Picchu with indoor and outdoor pools and beautiful waterfalls, but I have never been to a hot puddle in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. That was literally what it was. The Colombian covered in mud named Andres drove us off road to a place out of the city that is actually private property and walked us through a forest in the dark guided by his flash light. At times I was thinking hmmm... its moments like these that my mom worries about although Andres didn’t steer us wrong. We sat in a beautiful hot thermal bath under the stars drinking beer. It was so unknown and out of the way, a place a traveler like me dreams of. Most people in the area do not even know this thermal bath exist. I believe there may be others in the area with development around them but this was private property. I don’t know what type of arrangement Andres had made to be able to bring people there but I didn’t ask questions and just enjoyed. The journey to Villa de Leyva and the awful weather vanished under the clear starry night.

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