The female owner of the campsite was so friendly and talked for ages with us on both nights. She also did our laundry on the first day, with the promise of returning it later that afternoon. We were so tired that we went to bed for an hour or so mid afternoon and were just dropping off to sleep when we heard her outside the rooftent whispering " Senor Gavin...Senor Gavin". Gav poked his head out of the tent and asked her to pop the clean laundry on the chair outside. He then decided to quickly pop down and put it in the landy, as it had the tendency to rain a bit late afternoon. He neglected, however, to put his trousers on. Picture the scene. Gav in his pants, with his farmer`s tan and little belly. You can guess what happened next. The lovely lady returned with some more laundry whilst Gavin was at the bottom of the ladder! I started to giggle and so did she whilst Gav just took it all in his stride. I am sure she took a shine to him however, as she kept making coffee for Senor Gavin for the rest of our stay!
We left San Gill for the short drive into the hills to Barichara, one of the best preserved and most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia, with white buildings, red roofs and cobble stone streets. Many Spanish speaking films have been shot here and we could see why, it was so picturesque. We wild camped for 2 nights on some red clay cliffs overlooking the valley-it was stunning. On both nights, we had torrential rain, thunder and lightning storms, resulting in us sitting inside Ruby, quaking with each clap of thunder and bolt of lightning! We got covered in the wet red clay when we got out to put up the roof tent and we are still finding it in our stuff! It was completely worth it, however, when the sun rose each morning and we were treated to the most amazing views across the valley. We spent some time soaking up the atmosphere in Barichara`s main square, and we walked the historic el Camino Real to the tiny hamlet of Guane. This ancient stone-paved road was built by the indigenous Guane people and was rebuilt continuously over the centuries. It was declared a national monument in 1988. From Barichara, the 9km hike took about two hours to complete. We began the hike by climbing down the rim of a canyon and then traversing a valley filled with cacti and trees. Guane was a tiny little hamlet, with a small square and very pretty buildings. Here we met Pat and Rick from Florida and we chatted to them whilst we waited for the bus back to Barichara. They were so interesting and had travelled a lot. This trip they were travelling around Latin America and they had many more ideas and plans. We ended up being treated to lunch by them in Barichara and spent a lovely few hours chatting away about travels etc.
We wanted to leave Barichara early on the Sunday morning as we had a long drive ahead to Sogamosa, including a drive across the mountains. We were thwarted however, as the road out was closed for a few hours because of a local cycle race (cycling is huge in Colombia). We relaxed for a couple of hours back on our cliff. A lovely young Colombian couple came tearing up on a quad bike and stopped to take a look at the views and Ruby! We were delighted when the young man called Ruby a " bad ass car". I am sure that Ruby shook her little landy tush with pride at hearing this! By the time the roads had opened, it was not worth us attempting the drive we had planned so we camped up again at another spot in San Gill.
We really loved camping here and stayed for 4 nights. We met some lovely people and felt really relaxed. This was my birthday and our first wedding anniversary spot and we had a great day. The owner of the finca bought a cake with a candle to breakfast and I got a rendition of happy birthday in English and Danish! I loved it! This was after a great skype call with my Mum and Dad, who had a couple of great congratulations signs! I gave them a skype tour of the finca gardens, animals included!
We had a lovely drive to Mongui and Nobsa-spending some time in each. Both were picture postcard villages with a super village square. Ruby continued to get photographed by various local people on their mobile phones. One even broke out of a funeral procession in Nobsa to get a few pics!
We went out for our tea and the restaurant had decorated our table with "Feliz Cumpleanos" balloons, a rose, and table decorations. We were really touched and a little giddy! The food was great and very cheap.
After saying goodbye to the lovely people at the Finca, we headed towards Lago de Tota, Colombia's highest and largest natural lake, at an altitude of 3,015 m. We drove around it and planned to camp on the shores of Play Blanca, and an out-of-the-blue white-sand Andean beach on the shore of the lake! However, it rained all afternoon so we returned to our lovely Finca San Pedro! Poor guys, they thought they had seen the last of us!
We met so many lovely and interesting people-one man had driven the Dakar rally 5 times and one man worked for national geographic and was about to drive a landrover from Mexico to Antartica.
The following day-all of the 200 or so land rovers in attendance drove in convoy through the streets of Villa De Leyva and then we all went off road and ended up on the top of a big hill! It was quite a spectacle and a lot of them had flags attached. It was a little chaotic at times-and people kept getting lost, there were a few breakdowns and a few doors and windows fell out, but it was so much fun!
There was a huge party in the evening, with a local band. This show was one of our highlights so far in Colombia, in particular because of the people and we feel really lucky to have been part of it.
Next-we head to the Capital City-Bogota!