For our second day in Villa de Leyva, we set out to do a bike tour of the region. The countryside outside of town is known for its archaeological sites and it’s possible to cab, walk, bike or bus to them; we decided biking was the best way to see the most places in the quickest fashion. Also, I was excited by the prospect of getting some exercise and stretching my legs.
First, we had breakfast at Pasteleria Francesca, an excellent French bakery recommended by Lonely Planet. We rented our bikes and got a map of the region at a place on Calle 9, near where the bus had dropped us off the day before. Despite the language barrier, we were able to communicate with the owner of the bike rental shop by pointing at pictures of attractions on his computer, and he would point them out on the map.
The first part of the bike trip involved a lot of uphill, and our bikes weren’t of the highest quality, but we pushed through. The map wasn’t entirely accurate, and it didn’t show elevation, and there wasn’t much signage on the roads, so we didn’t have a good sense of how long we would be biking, but we managed to fit in most of what we wanted to see. About half the roads we traveled along were unpaved, so that made it tough, too. Overall, I was happy to get in a good workout and to see the sites and enjoy the ride.
Museo El Fosil is home to a 120-million-year-old fossil of a kronosaurus, a prehistoric marine reptile whose fossil was found in these fields by a farmer in 1977. Apparently this is the exact spot that the fossil was found in, and the small museum was built around it. It was tough to get a good picture of the whole thing, but it was a pretty amazing sight, and astonishing to think about what it must have felt like to be the farmer who came upon this in the fields one day. The museum also housed many other smaller fossils, and in much of the stone steps and building materials in the town of Villa de Leyva, you can see many bits and fragments of fossils; the landscape is rife with these mementos of prehistoric times.
Next, we stopped at Marques de Villa de Leyva, a vineyard hidden down a long dirt road. The landscape was beautiful with views of the mountains, and we enjoyed a glass of vino and some time to rest off the bikes in the picnic tables there.
Another stop was El Infiernito, an ancient archaeological astronomical observatory, similar to Stonehenge. Many, many phallic structures and other rock formations:
And finally, we biked through an area that seemed to popular for new second-home development, for wealthy city-dwellers looking for a rural escape. The roads were unpaved and rocky, but there was lots of new construction, attractive terra cotta residences built far apart from one another. Villa de Leyva’s answer to McMansion sprawl?
The coolest house we saw was this one:
Casa de Barro is said to be the largest terra cotta structure in the world. Locally, it is known as the Flintstone house!
We rolled back into town, tired and sore from our journey. I learned a handful of things about myself on this trip, and one of them was that I need to workout regularly, even on vacation. My body doesn’t feel right if it doesn’t get a chance to sweat, to get sore, to breath hard, to feel challenged and to get that sense of accomplishment.
We capped off the ride with ice cream from this heladeria. It’s not really vacation without ice cream.
Up next: Cartagena, the mysterious, romantic city on the Caribbean.