As it happened, our stay in Villa de Leyva turned into an unexpected 5 days of washing clothes, drinking coffee and going around town trying hard to avoid not to sprain an ankle on the quaint cobbled streets. It’s a bit touristy for my taste but only during weekends when throngs of tourists from Bogota brandishing their selfie sticks come to unwind and destress from city life. Come weekdays, the town yields a small town vibe complete with friendly locals.
Anyhow, we want to make quick work of the distance between Villa De Leyva and Libano, the base of the actual Los Nevados climb. That’s the shortest route I could possibly come out with minimal riding along the main highway. There’s a challenging paved climb option, Alto de Letras, that parallels our route. It’s one of the fabled long climbs, 80 kilometers, in Colombian cycling circuit. Maybe next time. Balancing the scale between moving southward, avoiding the carretera principal, riding as much dirt and beating the 3 months we’re only allowed to stay in the country are all part of the challenge.
We set our sights on Libano, the start of the climb to Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados. Between Villa de Leyva and Libano lies some 450 kilometer stretch of pavement. The hot weather seems tough to overcome especially in hilly Colombia. So slow and steady it is. Some parts are mind numbing or just plain boring but that’s the reality of bike touring. I found a dirt route that skirts away from the paved roads but once I checked and see the low elevation, I decided away from it. The thought of hot weather and dirt road don’t seem too appealing to me.
I’ve read a few accounts of dirt road fun in Lo Nevados National park . I’m curious how it stack up on our Boyaca route. Armed with fresh-smelling clothes(a treat to us), we left one of the most visited cities of Colombia and resumed dancing in our pedals.
Under an hour after we left their house, we made a detour to the Armero ruins. My map shows a ruinas, perhaps a Pre-Columbian one pretty close from the hacienda and I thought we’d explore it. We found out after talking to Edilson that it’s actually a town buried from the avalanche/lahar 30 years ago. The eruption of Nevada del Ruiz melted the volcano’s glacier and brought mud down to low lying areas. Unfortunately, Armero is one of those town, the entire population nearly wiped out.
It’s one weird, eery ghost town. A big billboard on the left of the highway shows a picture of the town before and after the tragedy. The before photos was of a small vibrant community, full of life typical of small-town Colombia. The post-tragedy image, I kinda block it out from my memory. Just so sad.
We rode around the once former small town and proceeded to Libano.
Here’s our route: Villa de Leyva – Zipaquira – Chiquinquira – Caldas – Simijaca – Susa – Guatancuy – Tausa – La Ruidosa – Zipaquira – Pacho – Supata – La Campina – Nocaima – Villeta – Guaduas – Chaguani – Cambao – Armero – Libano – Murillo – Los Nevados – Manizales
If you’re a more visual hombre, you can view the GPS track here.