From Finca Haven to Bogota Megalopolis

After our visit to Parque del Cafe outside Montenegro, we make our way to our Finca hotel, a 150 year old house on a coffee plantation. After taking a wrong turn, down a single lane track for 3 kms, a kindly couple accept to call the owner of the finca for us to give us directions. The couple offer to take us there and the owner came towards us – all so helpful!!! Once again, the kindness of people, who we will never be able to repay in any way, touches us deeply.

We are the only guests at the finca. Neither the owner Jo nor the caretaker Suzy speak a word of English. But it doesn’t stop them chatting away. I manage to get the jist of what they say but it is a struggle for me. I really should have taken some Spanish lessons…. Jo tells me of the things we should do in the area and visit. I think she is shocked and horrified that we could spend 2 nights here and not go anywhere when I tell her we just want to stay at the finca and relax.

El Laurel Finca hotel, Montenegro, Colombia

El Laurel Finca hotel, Montenegro, Colombia

Over our time at the finca, Suzy would come to us with freshly squeezed fruit juices and then chat away. We spend a wonderful time sitting on the porch, watching the birds, the amazing hummingbirds darting from one flower to another, stopping in mid flight and darting off again. The garden is gorgeous. So peaceful. We walk a few kms to the closest roadside restaurant and have a great grilled trout for lunch. The clouds build up during day, culminating in an almighty storm. The noise of the rain on the big tropical tree leaves near our room and the roof is deafening. We enjoying nature unfolding from our porch rocking chairs. After a game of scrabble on the porch, our 3 course dinner is served by Suzy in the large empty dining room.

Just relaxing at our Finca Hotel El Laurel, Colombia

Just relaxing at our Finca Hotel El Laurel, Colombia

Loving sitting on the porch watching and listening to the rain pelting down

Loving sitting on the porch watching and listening to the rain pelting down

We have a long day ahead to get to Bogota as we have a few mountain passes to get over so we get up at 5.30am and we are on our way just after 7am. Yet again, what a ride. I keep Streak’s fuel tank above half full and thankfully don’t have any problem. Our first 3 hours are sssslllloooowww. 3 hours to do 70kms. Why so slow?! Slow trucks up mountain passes on a very windy road with limited overtaking opportunity.

Slow and windy Ruta 40 heading east towards Bogota

Slow and windy Ruta 40 heading east towards Bogota

Green Willy, Colombia

Green Willy, Colombia

There are grand plans for Ruta 40

There are grand plans for Ruta 40

Following local riders past a long line of stopped traffic down the mountain

Following local riders past a long line of stopped traffic down the mountain

The cause of the traffic hold up

The cause of the traffic hold up

Easy ride up the mountain for cyclists!!

Easy ride up the mountain for cyclists!!

Heading into the clouds on Ruta 40, Colombia

Heading into the clouds on Ruta 40, Colombia

Colombia is colourful in so many ways - fruit, foliage, road signs

Colombia is colourful in so many ways – fruit, foliage, road signs

But once again, what stunning scenery. And lots and lots of heavily armed military. Always giving us the thumbs up sign. I notice the car behind me at one time kept hooting as we passed each soldier. We arrive at our hotel in Bogota by 4pm after a nine hour day. Before we can drive our bikes into the car park, we have to wait for the explosive inspection!

One of 2 explosive sniffer dogs at our hotel, Bogota, Colombia

One of 2 explosive sniffer dogs at our hotel, Bogota, Colombia

Our first day in Bogota and we opt against taking 3 buses plus a longish walk to get to our first sightseeing destination and choose the luxury of a cab to be driven there. When we get to a large city, we don’t use the bikes but walk, or take public transport or taxis. We ride enough as it is without visiting sites in our riding gear!! Not riding means we can look around, observe local life, see what business are selling – riding in these parts of the world, our concentration is pretty intense, on the road, traffic and all sorts of sudden unexpected hazards.

As we drive towards Zipaquira, each soldier gives every car passing by the thumbs up and our taxi driver hoots at each soldier along the road. Like the car behind me yesterday. I think it might be a sign of appreciation to the military providing the average Colombian peace and safety. The threat is obviously real and still current.

What are we doing in Zipaquira? Salt deposits in Zipaquirá were formed 250 million years ago, and were raised above sea level during the late Tertiary period, when the Andes were formed. Halite, the natural form of salt, has been mined since the 5th century BC and the pre-Columbian Muisca culture traded salt, emeralds and coal for raw cotton. Miners had carved a sanctuary, as a place for their daily prayers asking for protection to the saints before starting to work. The first Salt Cathedral was inaugurated in 1954 and dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary, Patron saint of miners but as the church but structural problems, the authorities to shut it in 1990 for safety concerns. A new Cathedral was inaugurated in 1995. Its various corridors and sanctuaries were achieved by making small but significant additions to the caves left behind by previous mining operations. This is what we have come to see. But I hadn’t realised the extent of the underground tunnels open to visitors and the number of chapels!! It was truly stunning. Being claustrophobic, it was a bit of a challenge but worth it!!!

 

Catedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Catedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Catedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

Catedral del Sal, Zipaquira, Colombia

I didn’t know this: very crudely, halide deposits are mined by drilling wells into the salt layer, bringing hot water which dissolves the salt into a brine, the brine is saturated with dissolved salt, pumped out, evaporated and the remainder salt crystalises and is harvested. This is what we call “rock salt”!

I had read that Bogota had a substantial network for cyclists and on the way to the Salt Cathedral yesterday, we saw cycling corridors along the main arterials. Proper corridors, separated from the main road by a low concrete wall. Not like the painted bicycle lanes we have in Australia which suddenly disappear or gradually get squeezed down to a ridiculously narrow lane that wouldn’t give cyclists any protection from passing cars or busses. Sunday morning, half the street outside our hotel is blocked off for cyclists, runners, walkers. Vendors have set up little stalls selling water, freshly squeezed fruit juices, snacks. There is even a tyre repair stand.

View of the closed off road for cyclists and walkers, Bogota, Colombia

View of the closed off road for cyclists and walkers, Bogota, Colombia

Good use of a bus stop for bicycle tyre repair on Sunday, Bogota, Colombia

Good use of a bus stop for bicycle tyre repair on Sunday, Bogota, Colombia

Our Sunday afternoon in Bogota:

Enjoying fresh shredded mango, Bogota, Colombia

Enjoying fresh shredded mango, Bogota, Colombia

Plaza Bolivar, Bogota

Plaza Bolivar, Bogota

La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

Army security, La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

Army security, La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

Grower with her 10 year old bonzais, La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

Grower with her 10 year old bonzais, La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

Work in progress, La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

Work in progress, La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

La Candelaria graffiti, Bogota, Colombia

Even though I thought I would happily skip visiting Bogota, preferring to stay away from large cities, and the mad traffic riding through these entails, I am so glad we did!!  We have both loved every minute we’ve spent in Colombia.

Monday 4th May, we start making our slow way to Medellin where we intend airfreighting our bikes to Panama from.   We hope to get to Panama on Friday, so until then, hasta luego!!

– Anne

 

10 comments on “From Finca Haven to Bogota Megalopolis

  1. Finca sounds like heaven with the opportunity to get R&R in a tranquil nature spot. The salt mine looks fascinating and I get what you mean about the claustrophobia. Good on you for doing it anyway. Great photos of the graffiti or street art as some of those could be called. The security is very visible so does it feel safe or is there an underlying danger ever present? xx

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  2. What a wonderful R&R at the finca- the garden looks fabulous -those staghorn ferns – what a treat. Bogota looks well worth a visit – the graffitti is admirable. Great photos of an interesting stay. Happy travels – hope all goes well with the airfreighting. xxxx

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  3. Wonder who copied whom, Bogota or Paris where the cycle tracks are also protected by a 1.5″-high discourager for cars. What a gem you found in the finca at Montenegro. And another in the caves : worth overcoming the claustro for. Bravo! xx

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  4. Again you surprise with an expose of a country that is contrary to popular opinion. When one thinks of Columbia you think about drug cartels and violence, the level of security on the streets indicates that it exists and is very real. With your experiences you help scrape below the surface and uncover the generosity of the people and some amazing scenery, the graffiti was fantastic; well done and big thanks. Another bucket list destination!

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    • I think the threats are still very real, the military presence is not for show, but so long as you follow the local rules (avoid certain places, and don’t travel at night) and your gut, it is absolutely fine. The roads and scenery are simply superb! And the people wonderful. You would love it here.

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