Some country life

Boyaca Travel Blog

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We spent five or six days with Janneth´s grandmother in Boyaca.  She lives on a farm in a valley between two villages, Turmeque and Nuevo Colon.  This was quite a different experience again from living in the middle of such a huge city as Bogota.  Janneth´s grandmother is the widow of a judge and accordingly has a reasonable pension.  Her house is very spacious and comfortable (but still very typical with tiled floors and bars over all the windows and doors) and she has electric hot water.   This is not as good as you would think as if the flow of water is too much the little heater can´t keep up and you have a cold shower.  She gets up every morning around 4am to start making breakfast and begin work.  While we were there she had men on the farm harvesting potatoes to sell at the local market.
The trip to Boyaca was my first experience of highway driving in Colombia and was quite worrying.  People in the front seats of the car wear seatblets but there seems to be no requirement for seatbelts in the back.  There were six of us piled into a small five-seater car with Janneth´s youngest sister alternating between sitting between Janneth´s legs with her own legs sticking into the front seat or sitting on the lap of Janneth´s mother who was in the front passenger seat!
The lines painted on the road in Colombia are a joke - I think they merely indicate that you are on a road rather than showing where different lanes are.  Everybody overtakes at random and at will, ignoring oncoming traffic (if they´re smaller than you they´ll get out of the way) and double-yellow lines or the fact that you are going around a corner.  Having now experienced driving on the highway, you wouldn´t catch me driving here ever.  Drivers seem to require a sixth sense as to whether the person in front of you indicating left is actually changing lanes, cutting you off or whether they have simply forgotten they turned their indicator on.  There´s also the tooting.  Everybody uses horns here not just to indicate their irritation with other drivers but as a means of communicating quite complex messages: "hello I´m behind you" , "don´t change lanes I´m coming through" "hey you kids on teh side of teh road, there´s a car coming" "I´m coming round the corner now, look out" "get out of my way!" "what the hell are you doing" " Don´t stop there you´re holding up traffic!"  Crazy.
The other thing to mention about driving to another town or city is that accurate road maps appear to be a myth.  It oculd take you ten minutes to get to the next town indicated, it could take two hours.  You have to keep stopping to ask directions as you progress through various townships.  Plus, roads in between non-major towns or cities are not sealed and the potholes are enormous!  So it might only be 8 kilometres to the next town but if the road isn´t sealed, this could take quite some time as the surface is so rutted and potholed you can drive only in first gear at about 20 kilometres per hour.
Notwithstanding the painful car experiences, Boyaca is beautiful - higher in altitude than Bogota and very green as it rains more often.  8 kilometres from Janneth´s grandmother´s farm is an old spanish hacienda called Baza.  I think it still belongs to the original spanish-descent family that owned it (although it is now very upmarket and exclusive accommodation) and it´s about 400 years old.  Much of the hacienda is original with enormous in-built fireplaces in each room.  The grounds are very large and everywhere is like a postcard picture.  Unfortunately the road to get there is unsealed ... you guessed it ... it took us at least a good half hour to get there by car, tooting as we rounded corners in case of other traffic and cautiously negotiating the HUGE potholes on the way.  Willy was devastated to see the state of his car when we returned it and Scott got to experience off-road driving as never before.  Not to worry, we only lost one indicator on that trip.
Turmeque is a very small town with the usual main square in the centre but with an interesting history.  We got a personal tour of the local haunted hotel just by knocking on the door.  Janneth tells me this is the home town of the mysterious and very odd game Tejo.  It seems to involve frogs in some way (I can´t recall exactly how) and throwing stones at explosives sunk in putty from a reasonable distance.  They actually have an arena at Turmeque dedicated to this game and its popularity has apparently spread throughout Colombia.
We took a day trip to the famous site of the Battle of Boyaca where there is a series of huge monuments dedicated to Simon Bolivar and the battle.  Then we took a "shortcut" (more backcountry roads) to the tiny town of Raquira which is a tourist mecca.  The whole main street is dedicated to arts and crafts of all kinds.  If you can manage to find the town (it took quite a while) you can spend all day wandering up and down the main street, in and out of shops that sell many of the same things but all very impressive.  There are huge hammocks hanging out over the front doors of the shops in zillions of colours and everywhere seems to sell little replicas of "chivas", the quintessential Colombian bus which is jampacked with people, animals and fresh produce.
At night you can actually see fireflies and the countryside is very quiet (apart from the very defensive dogs in every farm that set up a racket as you walk past) and so so dark.  A lifetime in a city or a town makes you forget that without streetlights or a moon, walking in the countryside is hazardous to your ankles (especially on the local roads!).  Quiet until approximately 3am when (if you have a confused rooster on hand) you are woken by the squawking of a very persistent bird.  Plus if you have a few puppies around the house they might start squabbling in the middle of the night or howling because they´ve bitten each other harder than was comfortable.  Okay maybe not so quiet.
By the time we left I was looking forward to getting back to the city.  Janneth´s grandmother I can see has to work very hard but is very lucky to have the house and money that she does.
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