From Villa de Leyva to Tunja through heated canyons, thunderstorms and the capital of Boyacá
How much can happen within ONE day? We were definitely not disappointed by the variety that we got offered on the 8th of March. The day started with waking up and taking a cold shower. Yes, since we left hot Santander, the climate has changed and in the mornings it is rather cold and with it the water running in the houses, thus showers. But we already got used to this unavoidable matinee refreshment. And what one cannot change, one should better enjoy, right?;) And the compensation afterwards in form of fresh avocado with breadrolls and salt as our usual breakfast lets the freezing water memories fade like smoke in a gust of wind.
After, we went to pick up the horses – at the local police station. In Villa de Leyva the police has horses and an extra station for them called the “carabineros”. They had offered us to leave the horses with them, we just had to bring them food. Very nice of them, thank you, in particular to Nelson who even got up at night as the mule of course managed to escape…but he got her back safe and sound.
Once saddled the horses, the last trip with police company (so far) started: just out of Villa de Leyva until a tiny, stony path started, leading us into the canyon. The police only left us saying that this was now at our own risk. And the path could not be more beautiful! Well, at the beginning… soon it steepened drastically so that we got off our horses and led them down to the river at the bottom of the canyon. So, back to hiking! We already missed it….especially as Kira had been sick the day before and was still recovering from most probably a sun stroke (who would have thought?;)) and Marja’s ankle is still not perfect (but that’s no news,right). On the other side the path led up the canyon wall again and the sun began to penetrate us with its rays without any pity. We slipped over rocks and made the horses climb. The monster with Poseidon lead the way. The mule had to be led by itself because of her stubbornness. Thankfully we had encountered an elderly lady at the beginning of the canyon who had left us with very useful descriptions of the path. That way, we knew that after the climb up and then down again, we could expect a flatter area. And yes, it was exactly the case! We could get up our horses again and rode along a fairytale river inside one of the most beautiful valleys we had encountered so far. Everything was green and the river was bordered with white and pink flowers, while cows and occasionally horses were grazing on both borders….dreamland!
…and we could not have imagined what came next:
While we were leaving the canyon, the sky started to get darker and darker. The temperatures dropped. But luckily we still made it to the next little town, San Pedro de Iguaque, and found a cute little place to have lunch just before the rain started. So while our horses enjoyed the refreshment outside, we enjoyed the last lunch that was available and waited that the rain passed. About an hour later, we could continue our route with beautiful sunshine. But not for long… Only another hour later we observed that the sky darkened again. This time the clouds seemed to be even thicker and darker than before…. We tried to find a place to stay – but without success, for the very first time. We were in a rather remote region with only here and there a little farm house. We stopped and asked people close to the road if they had an idea where we could find a place to stay, urgently as the thunderstorm was arriving – but nobody could or would help. Maybe we were in a really unfriendly region, maybe we just gave up too fast. Our decision after a couple of ‘rejections’ was: We try to reach the finca of our friend in Tunja. Asking takes too much time, as people even if they can’t help don’t say so at once but ask you a bunch of questions about the trip.
And then the thunderstorm started with all its power. One detail that we did not mention yet is: since midday Marja was riding Poseidon without saddle as his back inflammation had worsened again. So we had fixed one of our sleeping bags on his back to make it a tiny bit more comfortable. But of course it was not the best possible condition to gallop through rain, lightning and thunder, trying to reach Tunja in time. Because the other little detail that we did not mention is: time had advanced. The canyon crossing in the morning had taken us more than expected and the extended break at lunch, trying to avoid riding under the rain, had cost us additional hours. So right then, we were racing through a full on thunderstorm, Marja without saddle (of course our big, strong, beautiful mule was carrying it) and against the time… We knew we would not make it. But we also didn’t expect the night falling so quickly. Again, we are unsure if it was really the night or the darkness of the clouds – or the time passing simply more quickly when one wishes it would not. Our Petzl headlights allowed us to advance also in between the lightnings. But the rain was heavy. And temperatures dropped more. Completely soaked and frozen, we went to check on our luggage under a roof of an arbitrary finca. Nobody was home. Our GPS showed that Tunja was still far and the highway to it, too. We fixed a cape around our luggage, called our friend Nelson from Tunja. He said he would meet us on the highway leading to the capital of Boyaca and he would help us find the way to his place. No rain where he was, he assured us. So, we got back on our horses and continued.
Two dogs kept following us already since hours. And made it until the highway. No signs of Nelson. But the rain seemed to stop, while the thunder and lightning were replaced by fluorescent bright lights and rushing tires from the lorries flying by. One of our headlights died. We decided to point the other towards the back so the passing traffic would see us. Given that there was still no sign on Nelson, we started the ride towards Tunja along the highway. Twice a lorry almost hit the mule because it tried to avoid hitting one of the dogs which was running in front of our little herd. After another while which seemed like an infinity, a pickup appeared and in it: Nelson. What a great moment! We stopped, threw all our luggage in the back of the pickup and started to follow him as fast as possible to leave the highway behind – again not knowing that we had to cross the entirety of Tunja, the capital of the department Boyaca, before arriving at Nelson’s finca. But from that moment, we were just so happy to not ride through the night on our own and the thought of a finca waiting for us and our horses created a warm fuzzy feeling inside. And of course Nelson! He kept motivating us all the way, left us a dry warm jacket and partied inside the car next to us. Finally, after another two or more hours we arrived at his place which was marvelous! Fresh water and food for the horses in their very own paddock and a room with two beds and a bathroom for us. What a day! Sometime after midnight, we fell into our beds, after way too many hours in the saddle (or on the sleeping bag without saddle on the horse)….and so happy! Thank you Nelson!