Music, history and fertility in Villa de Leyva
The beautiful whitewashed town of Villa de Leyva is a gorgeous place to spend a few days visiting its ancient fertility and calendar site, waterfalls and mountains and mixing with the locals.
A shortish walk from town is Little Hell (Parque Arqueológico de Monquirá El Infiernito) where you can see a giant stone “phallic forest” spread across a field and an astronomical site. We stopped there to enjoy the interesting 2200 year old Muisca archaeology and lunch.
The same walk takes you via the museum where an almost complete kronosaurus fossil (El Fosil) is on display; the quirky Casa Terracotta (clay house); and blue pools, Pozos Azules.
I also visited the La Periquera waterfalls, choosing to hitch a ride to travel the 15km from town rather than wait for a collectivo. Local music conductor Tomás offered us a ride and with music sheets sprawled across the back seat, we were soon talking music. Three years ago the national youth orchestraal foundation, Batuta, and Arpa América donated more than 70 instruments to Villa de Leyva. Tomás said that the children didn’t know what a cello was and few had heard classical music before attending their first class. Tomás invited us to join his rehearsal later that day.
We enjoyed an afternoon walking the red earth tracks near the waterfall and fast flowing river, and had lunch on a hill top, providing a beautiful vista across the valley to the town.
We returned to the town in time for Tomás’ 5pm rehearsals, but could not find the music building, so we sat in the square (one of South America’s largest) and waited to spot students carrying cellos and violins. Soon a young man carrying a cello passed us and we quickly accosted him and in our terrible Spanish explained that Tomás had invited us to the rehearsal. His name was Iván and he guided us to a once stunning colonial courtyard home which had at some point been converted into a distillery and was now in semi ruin.
As we waited for Tomás, a torrential downpour broke out with massive claps of lighting striking the town. It was an impressive storm which kept the students trapped while they waited for Tomás who was struggling in the rain. While waiting, I practiced my terrible Spanish with Iván and surprisingly understood almost everything he said.
The class was soon underway and Beethoven Symphony Number 5 rang out from the rundown colonial structure. It was a fabulous hour or so listening to music and such a privilege to have been there.
Tomás would later tell me that Iván was previously struggling to find work and spent most of his days skateboarding around town, but three years ago he started playing the cello and had recently returned from performing at a festival in Brazil.
Hostel: Ranacer Hostel, a 1km walk from the square. Super clean and has an outdoor kitchen and log fire lounge area. They will pay for your arrival taxi. COP24,000-30,000.
Entrance to Little Hell archaeological site: COP6,000
Entrance to El Fósil: COP6,000
Entrance to the Casa Terracotta: COP8,000
Horse riding: COP40,000 and takes you to the above locations
Entrance to La Periquera waterfalls: COP6,000