Big news dear readers.. It doesn’t entirely excuse my long absence but great news all the same.. After during a myriad of things during the last two years (like everyone else during this pandemic), I have finally received my Colombian visa. This allows me to stay in country for longer stretches. I am currently still back and forth quite a bit, while I supplement my income working in the USA, until my company can one day be self-supporting (if ever!) Right now, it’s still basically on pause – but hopefully that will change soon.
The pandemic has turned our lives upside down, but it’s also reminded us of what’s important. To me, it’s important for me to be here – and to continue to build my life here. Part of that is enjoying all the wonderful and beautiful things here – animals, flowers, nature, history.. and of course, FOOD. I’m not sophisticated enough to be a ‘foodie’ but I sure do like to try new flavors, tastes, fruits and vegetables.
I’d been feeling a bit hemmed in, with all the changes due to the pandemic, previous restrictions and missing my Sunday routine. So, I went on the internet and called a friend. Within a few minutes, we had booked a one day tour through several towns in Boyaca.
The tour we chose was through a group called Travel Experience VIP. Our tour guides were Nathalia and Alexandra and they were delightful and sweet. The trip cost 65,000 COP and included transport, snacks and a full day tour through several sites in the neighboring Colombian state of Boyaca. We had to pay for our lunch, a 5 mil trip insurance (for accidents etc.) and an optional nature hike (12 mil each). It was still a great deal – bus transport to Boyaca alone when we first looked at going on a trip to Villa de Leiva was 40,000 each way.
After we stopped for breakfast (included), we continued on to a dairy company. Boyaca is the home to the majority of Colombia’s dairy industry, so there were numerous dairy companies selling cheese, ice cream, milk and other dairy products. We stopped at this large well-known factory, to get some of the well-known cheese filled arapas. They were warm, and golden colored, and SO delicious that I was unable to get any pictures.
But I do have some more pictures of some of the cheeses and other products they sell. My favorite is a corn husk wrapped tamale style cheese filled delight called, “envueltos chavitos.” I like it because it’s not some greasy melted cheese mess. It’s made with a very dry crumbly style cheese that is so well mixed into the corn muffin tasting roll that you don’t see the cheese but it adds just a touch of sweet to what would otherwise be a plain corn muffin.
After we stopped to enjoy a delicious treat – back to the bus.. Now Colombian roads outside of major cities are really just rural lanes. Which is a nightmare if it’s a heavily travelled road – or a delight, if it’s a relaxing and sunny Sunday cruising in lovely rural farmland like our trip in Boyaca.. Green grass, farms, a small town here and there..
Then we were at our next stop, which was a sizable town, known mainly for it’s church.. Chiquinquira, I believe.. I am not a particularly churchy person, so I was happy to wander thru the small town square, and then get back on the bus. I later read about the poisoned bread incident back in the 1960’s, and well, that adds a bit more mystery to an otherwise kind of boring looking town..
The next stops were more fun..
As a middle-aged woman who likes to sew, crochet and take pictures, Raquira was definitely up my alley. (Did I mention that I have a cat, too?) Raquira is a totally cheesy tourist town, with cutesy little boutique hotels, coffee shops and romantic restaurants..
Now none of that particularly excites me.. But Raquira is also famous for artesanal crafts, particularly ceramics. And that does excite the craft loving part of me – the part that really really appreciates the effort involved in handmade goods – and Hecho en Colombia.. It’s also the me that is still trying to decorate my home – and doesn’t like that whole Ikea/ 2001 spaceship / antiseptic look. Ah, but limited space on the bus, so I mostly did take pictures, even though a lovely vase did follow me home.
The streets were lined with shops, so there was plenty of different things to look at, admire or buy. We passed the ceramics factory, where large stacks of unpainted ceramic items just waited to be decorated.
Unlike many tourist places, the prices were very reasonable – and much less than what you would pay for the same items in Bogota. Maybe I’ll go back one day – with folks with a car.. so I can pick up a couple more pieces.. maybe one of the handmade pieces of furniture I saw… Or a planter for my growing garden. My friend had the same dilemma.
After the shopping excursion, it was time for lunch – and it turns out that Sutamarchan, Boyaca is also famous for a specific type of chorizo-type sausage called Longaniza. Now long time readers know that I just love, love, love picada – or that delicious mix of potatoes, sausages and other meats. (It has the morcilla or blood sausage that I love!). I wasn’t a big sausage eater before I came to Colombia, but it’s definitely something that I enjoy now.
That huge plate is a portion for one – but it was more than plenty for my friend and I. After our bellies were stuffed – it was time to go for the nature hike.. and believe me, I was ready for a nice long walk about after all that food.
The next big stop was the historical city of Villa de Leiva (Leyva). It’s famous for being a preserved Colonial town, with cobbled streets etc. and stringent building codes against modern construction.
The main plaza in the town is the largest cobbled plaza in Colombia. The city is full of restaurants and charming boutique hotels. For a tourist town, the locals remained surprisingly friendly and welcoming. (Which is pretty amazing when you think about all the tourists that pass thru Villa de Leiva, especially in December, which is peak tourist season.)
Then it was time to start the drive home. On the way – now that night had fallen, we drove by an amazing holiday lights display that just went on and on.. It was charming.
Then we stopped at one last place so we could stock up on arapas with cheese so they would be fresh for breakfast (which they were). On the way back, the bus stopped close to our place, so we wouldn’t have to travel very far to get home. I’ve even posted the link for the coupon we used for our trip with Travel Experience VIP. Now enjoy!
I added lots of links to make it easy to find more information about the places and things mentioned in my post.
**I have a whole series of posts on my Sundays here:
Sundays in Cartagena
Sundays at Parque Arvi
Sundays in la Candaleria
Sundays in Antioquia
Sundays in Usaquen
Sundays for your health
Sundays in Bogota
Readers may notice that this blog has changed over the years – to be more culture and life and less surgery. I still love surgery and I am still committed to everything I’ve always talked about here; patient safety, quality, and excellent care – I’ve just decided not to talk about it here anymore. It’s at a different site., dedicated to all things medical so I am changing the name – but slowly, so people will have time to get used to the idea..