Some travellers we met along the way raved about this place and since it meant a nice break in the 9 hour bus ride from San Agustin to Bogota, we decided to check it out and we LOVED it. Located in the valley between the Cordillera Oriental & the Cordillera Central, it gets relatively little rain and being situated only 441 meters above sea level, means it is warm, really warm. What a nice change after the rather chilly evenings in San Agustin, Tierradentro and Salento.
The sleep town of Villavieja sits on the edge of in the desert, which by the way is not a real desert but rather a semi-arid area full of shrubs and cactuses. Immediately when we jumped off the bus on the huge plaza full of trees, Chopo, a young enterprising man approached us. He had invested in a small vehicle, a motorbike attached to a small cart sitting four people. For 60.000 pesos he offered a four hour long trip to the main attractions of the desert and also had advice on accommodation.
While Gilles negotiated the trip, Heidi checked out the home of Dona Pasqua, her daughters and great children. The super friendly family rents out two rooms, looking into a courtyard full of plants. So within ten minutes after arrival, we were set to start our excursion to Desierto de La Tatacoa. An experience we would not want to miss for anything!
There is a small observatory 4 kilometers from town, next to a makeshift restaurant and a campsite. A week before we arrived, 800 people had gathered there celebrating the annual Fiesta de Estrellas, a three night party every July at the full moon. Unfortunately, the observatory was closed when we visited.
A short walk down takes you into amidst incredible rock formation of different reddish colours, the “Laberintos de Cusco” (Cusco Labyrinths), dotted with different cactuses. The little towers, cliff and ravines were sculptured by the wind and infrequent rain. This place definitely runs under “a highlight” of our whole trip so far. Continuing down a dirt road in our moto-taxi, brought us to the highest point of the desert called “Ventanas” (windows), which we found of little interest.
Also the natural swimming pool at Los Hoyos did not take our breath away. What makes this place very special are the bizarre rock formations that leave little room for interpretation: these are ghosts or “Fantasmas”. We just got back to the observatory in time to watch a spectacular sunset and chat with some of the over 40 school kids from Bogota. They truly were enjoying their school trip, sleeping in tents and munching cake and French fries for dinner. Shortly we had contemplated sleeping in the desert, but were afraid it would be too cold and too boring to spend the time between sunset and falling asleep. How wrong we were, it never got really cold at night and at least at the conservatory a generator provides electricity until 10:00 at night.
Back in “town” we enjoyed a beer on the plaza. Just to be able to sit outside in the evening made us so ecstatic that we even considered staying another day. But the high temperatures already in the morning made us continue our trip straight away to Bogota.