Thursday, November 19, 2009

Interior Excursion

Location: San Gil and Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Rundown: While the fiesta of Novembrinas was raging in Cartagena, we headed out to the interior of Colombia where the vibe was a little more tranquilo.

The mountain rivers, caves, and waterfalls of San Gil provided a little excitement, and the cobble stone streets and quiet colonial architecture of Villa de Leyva provided the relaxation.

Here's a little clip of the excursion to start it up!

video




San Gil

Flew into Bucaramanga from Cartagena to shave a little time off of the 17 hour bus ride that we would have had the pleasure of taking! Landing in Bucaramanga involves flying between nearby mountain peaks and landing in the only flat spot in the area. Sweet.



Took a bus into San Gil, a quiet little town perched in the Colombian mountains. Coffee came down from the hills daily on mule and by old trucks and were dried in the sun before being loaded into burlap sacks to send to be roasted!



Fresh fruit cut up on the street gave us a little fuel for our excursions... Looks at those mangoes!



El Parque Gallineral, nestled on an island between three intersecting rivers in San Gil, is full of local plants and trees. Spanish moss grows heavy from the impossibly old trees.



Useful for changing up your style to look more like a hippie traveler!



Made some colorful friends... who liked us because of their obvious lack of discerning taste...



These are colorful flowers grew like icicles from tall plants. Try growing these babies in Michigan! Yikes!!!



Took a little rafting trip on one of the rivers that runs into San Gil. Fun class 3 rapids in a 3-person raft. Good haystacks, which we obviously steered ourselves into. Only flipped the boat once! No caimanes, no worries.






Cascadas de Juan Curi

Hiked up to the Juan Curi waterfalls outside of San Gil, which rise 180 meters, way above the surrounding trees. It was quite a hike up, including some river crossings and scaling slippery cliffs on rotting ropes tied to tree roots above...



We expected at any second to be eaten by dinosaurs...



But the great thing about hiking to a waterfall is that you can't ever get lost! Just hike in the river! Note in the background how the river just drops off! You see that in movies and wonder where that ever happens! Colombia!



Eventually made it to the lower Juan Curi waterfall, which of course had to be swam in! Whew!






Barichara, Colombia

The next day we took a bus to the sleepy little town of Barichara. Cobblestone streets, and too many churches for the handful of people who lived in the town.



Everything was time-worn, but carefully preserved, with no modern architecture. Like the town that time forgot...



Barichara could be one of those places I'll go to write a book... disappear for a year or two... look me up.






Caving in Cueva de Vacas

After the relaxing calm of Barichara we felt the need to fire up our blood! Hit the Cueva de Vacas outside of San Gil. Just the two of us and a guide, we plunged in the the aquatic cave. Yep, every step of the way was in the water!



At one point you even have to submerge completely to get into the next cave! The water was a cool change from the hot of the equatorial climate in San Gil, so we didn't mind too much. Helmets were a must!



Even made some furry friends in the cave! Now, I don't speak squeaky-bat language, so I'm not sure if they were welcoming us to their underground home, or asking us politely to leave, but we didn't stay too long!



At one point there was a 40 foot stretch of cave that was too tight to crawl through so we had to roll in the water! It was wide open, so no claustrophobias problems! (Don't look Mom!)



Although difficult to photograph in a black cave, the rock formations were amazing, including curtains, stalactites, and stalagmites. Go geology!






Hiking to Cascadas Milagrosas

Before we headed out of San Gil we hiked to yet another waterfall called Cascadas Milagrosas. We hiked up the river, of course, which was beautiful to be in the jungle again after the lack of green in Cartagena.



At the top of the falls the water is flat and placid, just like in the movies before the boat goes over a big waterfall! Always wondered where that really happens!



Also was able to get in the cave behind the falls to get some great shots!






Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Took a bus six hours south to Villa de Leyva, another sleepy little town in the rolling hills. More cobblestone streets, white washed facades, and friendly people. Spanish is easy in the interior where people actually enunciate all the letters that are supposed to be in a word! Had breakfasts in a quiet cafe on the huge, empty plaza every day.



Walked around the quiet streets. High walls erupted with bougainvillea and other colorful flowers. Dogs outnumbered people.



We stayed at a little 'hotel' which was really just someone's home. Our room was right across from the owner's son's room! They were very sweet people, and when we weren't out exploring we soaked up the attention from the dogs, cats, and birds of the house. It's been a while since I've had pets! We spent an hour watching this little bird evade these two fat cats!



Little did he know who his real predator was!!!!



Took horses out to the wide open country outside of Villa de Leyva. We put our cowpoke on, complete with leather chaps! These two feisty Colombian horses were ready to run, and run we did! Yeehaw!



The valley that Villa de Leyva is in used to be part of an old sea bed, so fossils are abundant! We rode out to this partially extracted dinosaur! It was a Kronosaurus fossil, basically a 30 foot crocodile that lived in the seas in the cretaceous period and closely related to the Liopleurodon. (Charlie the Unicorn, there you go Marquette physics crew... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7VjUYGpsWM)



Rode off into the sunset in true cowpoke style...maybe a little more saddle sore than John Wayne usually was at the end of the day. Haven't developed any callouses yet...



Chow in Villa de Leyva was great, and a little wine really cut the dust of the day.



Could have spent a couple more days in Villa de Leyva, but as always, had to hit the road.



More to come...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Taganga Trip

Location: Taganga, Colombia

Rundown: Headed up to Taganga, a small fishing village near Santa Marta, Colombia on a long weekend for some diving and sun!



Taganga is nestled in a little bay too shallow for big boats to come in, and has remained pretty quiet, mostly visited by backpackers, Colombians, and a few yahoo expats! Fishing boats tied up to the shore bob quietly, people bathe in the blue water, dogs run in the streets...



Boats in various stages of use, abuse, and disrepair are littered about Taganga. People salvaging old hulks of work-worn boats to make them take to the sea again.



Taganga is in a drier, cooler climate than humid, tropical Cartagena. It's packed with prickly cacti and iguanas.



Took a lancha out into the sea to do some diving! The rugged coastline was beautiful and the bottom topography made for great wall diving! Great fish and corals, along with a wicked current!





Between scuba dives we grabbed some lunch in a thatched roof hut built into the cliff of an island. We ate fresh fruit and sandwiches, threw the stick for the dive shop dog who came in the boat with us, and relaxed in the shade.



Note the resident dive shop dog who rode in the boat with us, swam on the surface while we dove, and jumped off cliffs to retrieve thrown driftwood!






Steep cliffs and deep water makes for great cliff diving! There isn't anything high to jump off of in Cartagena, so I 'aprovechared'!





Look Gramma! No hands!



Had some siesta time at our 'hotel' in net hammocks while we waited out the hot afternoon sun in the shade of the mango trees.





Hiked the dirt trails through the rocky, cacti-encrusted hills and found our own little beach. Swam until the sun set.





Twilight over Bahia Taganga.



On the way home realized the warning signs on the road were for anteaters! Watch out now!



More to come.