Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Time Travel

Is time travel possible? It might make for a good movie plot but scientists will tell you  no, there are too many paradox’s and closed loops for true time travel to ever be discovered.

To quote a line from a television commercial; “these people are who we like to call, wrong.” I’m here to tell you that time travel - or at the very least, time standing still - is not only possible, but readily accessible high in the mountains of the Colombian highlands.

We left Bogota at 2:30 on Monday and traveled by bus for four hours high into the mountains, until we arrived at the colonial town of Villa de Leyva where time is truly standing still. It’s a large colonial town, established in the 1500’s by the Conquistadores and it was designated a heritage site in the 50’s. Since then there has been little in the way of development in the downtown core. Cobblestone streets and alley’s all lead to the main town square which is the largest stone square in the Americas (so they claim anyway) and if you close your eyes it’s not hard to imagine you’re back in the time of the fabled El Dorrado. The pace is slow, the people friendly and the low whitewashed colonial buildings inviting. A welcome respite after the hustle and bustle of Bogota.

The journey here though - Aye Carumba! The twists and turns of the Devils Backbone have nothing on the road to Villa de Leyva! High passes, narrow roads, no shoulder and tight switchbacks - all you heard from me was a low mutter and my new mantra - don’t look down, don’t look down.

Arriving was also a bit of a surprise. It was dark when we pulled into the small bus station and the lights in the station were off. And I’m not talking dark, it was full on black - like the inside of a cave black - like I’ll trip and kill myself in an unmarked manhole, black. It only took a minute to realize it wasn’t just the terminal though, the power was out everywhere because just then the power came back on and all you heard was a joyful Ahhhhhh from everyone there - and it immediately changed from scary and intimidating to funny and inviting. But just as we got our bearings, click, the power went out again - accompanied by a group Ohhhhhhhhhh . Then Ahhhhhhhh as the power came on the second time, this time to stay.

We made our way by taxi - a short three block trip but slow because of the large cobblestones (aka rocks) to a small hotel right out of the time of Zorro. A colonial building at least 200 years old with 18” thick walls, low doors and all built around a welcoming interior courtyard. By 7:30 we had dumped our bags and were drinking a beer in a sidewalk café overlooking the main square.

Yesterday we wondered the town in the morning and took in a huge lunch as part of the Colombian custom of eating the largest meal mid-day. There are a lot of sidewalk cafes and restaurants close to the square catering to tourists - and their prices reflect this - but one block away we found an absolutely spotless restaurant catering more to the local crowd. A “Comida del Dia” (Meal of the Day) consisted of a large bowl of delicious soup, a large fresh salad, a main dish of rice and a large filet of trout in mango sauce, a class of fresh mango juice and a small desert. All for less than $15.00 for both of us. Muy Bueno! We then took in the other popular Colombian tradition of an afternoon siesta!

And to give you an idea of the way we’re being treated, apparently the town is REALLY busy on weekends with day trippers from Bogota but during the week it’s Muy Traquillo. Rosi and I are the only people here in the hotel. They serve breakfast after 7:30 but we like a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Yesterday I hunted down a couple of cups myself but this morning - right at 7:00, the time I asked for coffee yesterday - a young girl delivered a tray of coffee to our door.

But don’t be fooled, Villa de Leyva isn’t like Bogota at all. It’s a threatening place and you have to keep your wits about you. The town and the people living here have threatened to capture our hearts and the danger is we may never want to leave. I guess Colombia is a threatening place after all.

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