Mar 24

Villa de Leyva, Colombia

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One of the most beautiful colonial towns in all of Colombia, is Villa de Leyva. With it’s cobblestone roads and whitewashed buildings, is a photographers dream.

Founded in 1572, it seems to be frozen in time, when it was originally a retreat for military officers, clergy, and nobility. The Tele-novela ( soap opera) Zorro: La Espalda y La Rosa was filmed here, bringing publicity to the city.

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After walking through the town we rented bikes to tour the countryside.


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Mar 14

Ciudad Perdida ( The Lost City)

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Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for “Lost City”) is the archaeological site of an ancient city in Colombia‘s Sierra Nevada. It is believed to have been founded about 800 CE, some 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu. This location is also known as Teyuna and Buritaca.



Ciudad Perdida was discovered in 1972, when a group of local treasure looters found a series of stone steps rising up the mountainside and followed them to an abandoned city which they named “Green Hell” or “Wide Set”. When gold figurines and ceramic urns from this city began to appear in the local black market, archaeologists headed by the director of the Instituto Colombiano de Antropologia reached the site in 1976 and completed reconstruction between 1976-1982.

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Members of local tribes—the Arhuaco, the Koguis and the Wiwas—have stated that they visited the site regularly before it was widely discovered, but had kept quiet about it. They call the city Teyuna and believe it was the heart of a network of villages inhabited by their forebears, the Tairona. Ciudad Perdida was probably the region’s political and manufacturing center on the Buritaca River and may have housed 2,000 to 8,000 people. It was apparently abandoned during the Spanish conquest.


Ciudad Perdida consists of a series of 169 terraces carved into the mountainside, a net of tiled roads and several small circular plazas. The entrance can only be accessed by a climb up some 1,200 stone steps through dense jungle.



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The area is now completely safe but was at one time affected by the Colombian armed conflict between the Colombian National Army, right-wing paramilitary groups and left-wing guerrilla groups like National Liberation Army (ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). On September 15, 2003, ELN kidnapped eight foreign tourists visiting Ciudad Perdida, demanding a government investigation into human rights abuses in exchange for their hostages. ELN released the last of the hostages three months later. The United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), the paramilitary right-wing groups in that country, continued attacking aborigines and non-aborigines in the zone for a while. For some time the zone has been free of incidents.

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In 2005, tourist hikes became operational again and there have been no problems since then. The Colombian army actively patrols the area, which is now deemed to be very safe for visitors and there have not been any more kidnappings. For a six day return hike to the lost city, the cost is approximately US$300. The hike is about 44 km of walking in total, and requires a good level of fitness. The hike includes a number of river crossings and steep climbs and descents. It is a moderately difficult hike.

Since 2009, non-profit organization Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has been working in Ciudad Perdida to preserve and protect the historic site against climate, vegetation, neglect, looting, and unsustainable tourism. GHF’s stated goals include the development and implementation of a regional Management Plan, documentation and conservation of the archaeological features at Ciudad Perdida and the engagement of the local indigenous communities as major stakeholders in the preservation and sustainable development of the site.

* excerpt from (Wikipedia)

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This hike was probably the hardest thing I ever did , but it sure is a once in a lifetime achievement. We had read all the literature about the site, and had been looking forward to completing this trek since we arrived in Colombia. Joined by Diane and Lloyd we showed the other members of our group, who were a lot younger, that if you’re determined, success will follow. The conditions on the trail were extreme, there had been quite a bit of rain lately in the mountains, which left the trail covered in 6 inches of muck. Travelling downhill would have been easier if we had a pair of ski’s.

Day 2, we got up at 5:30 am, putting back on our wet clothes from the day before to walk for almost, 12 1/2 hours, arriving at camp 2 in the dark, to a standing ovation.

The Wiwa and the Kogi, the indigenous group who call this area home do not want to be photographed so out of respect for their beliefs, I have no photo’s. I met one of them on the trail, and he said to me, “ A little hardship in life will be rewarded with a  once in a lifetime experience”  

We would like to thank them inviting us to their land, and showing us some of the history of the Sierra Nevadas. This land truly is sacred and we will remember our time spent here. Our party of four, 3 over the age of 60, asthma, arthritis, hip replacement, and a wonky knee did not hold us back. In the upcoming days as our toenails fall off, yah, I think we are going to …..remember.

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Sign warning of poisonous snakes

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Finish Line!!!

Mar 11

Bogota de Santa Fe, Colombia

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Even though this vibrant city is the capital, we didn’t think we would spend much time here. Known for it’s huge traffic jams which start early in the morning the city didn’t seem very inviting. We took a cab to the historic center , known as Candelaria  and walked around the preserved colonial buildings that house museums, restaurants, hotels, and bars amid the preserved 300 year old homes. Even though large urban centers is not our cup of tea, we are glad we took the time to spend some time , and  thoroughly enjoyed our time spent here.


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We took a bus from the north end of the city,  to the most popular day trip from Bogota to the small town of Zipaquira, 50 km. away. Here we found one of Colombia’s greatest architectural achievements, an underground cathedral carved out of salt, 180 meters below the surface, that can hold up to 10,000 people. Built by 147 workers,  it took 4 years to complete. The men were not paid for their work until the tours started generating income, they now earn a commission. Last year this attraction gave more than 5 million dollars to the town. who have used the funds to build universities.


Look closely…..those are people standing near the alter

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Underground salt river with traces of gold


A salt carving in the wall of the tunnel

Mar 04

San Agustin

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Getting to San Agustin was not easy, we travelled on a bumpy dirt road for approximatly 4 hours, the only road from Popayan, only 136 km. away. Large commercial trucks also use this same road so at times it becomes quite congested. We were glad when we arrived in town and were met at the small bus station by the town tour guide who directed us to the nearest grocery store, then arranged a special cab to take us to our hostel, high in the mountains where normal cabs don’t go. Most taxi’s are small compact cars that have a difficult time with 4 travellers with backpacks.

Our hostel, Pachamama, turned to be a picturesque location overlooking the valley below surrounded by coffee and fruit trees. I think the ducks and chickens in this country have insomnia, making noise all hours of the night but we had very comfortable rooms with a hearty breakfast each morning.

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We could easily walk to town, going down the mountain was OK, coming up we stopped only to be passed by the locals who smiled as they walked by. Horses are  the main way to get around and the best to explore the countryside, but walking is also enjoyable in the fresh mountain air.


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Five thousand years ago this area was inhabited by two indigenous groups that lived near San Agustin. Very little is known about them, they had no written language and had disappeared before the Europeans arrived.

They left behind more than 500 statues scattered in the hills around here, along with a number of tombs. This is the most important archeological site in Colombia, and the  government has done a fantastic job in preserving these locations, and takes pride in displaying them to the world.


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