Recently my mother, sister and two friends visited Colombia from Northwest Florida- and, pretty much on the spur of the moment, I got married/partnered. As my Gringas had only few days left in their trip, and hadn’t yet been out of the city limits, it would have been rude to dump them and fly off to Aruba for a romantic honeymoon. So, we decided to make it a honeymoon for six (plus a dog), which, of course, had always been my dream. But the dilemma: where to go?
For years, my partner Vio and I had raved about Barichara to my sister Becky. As she had already visited Villa de Leyva and had done Cartagena, this was supposed to be her chance to finally check out the colonial charm of Barichara. In fact she had become obsessed by it, and had hyped it up so much among the others that it had become the only topic of conversation.
But sometimes things don’t work out as planned. With time running short and knowing that we would be getting a late Saturday afternoon start on any possible travel due to the unexpected yet happy occasion, it became clear that a six-plus hour drive to Santander wasn’t happening. So we needed a plan B: a dog friendly, not outrageously expensive, interesting, warm and close to Bogotá alternative. We decided on the Llanos.
It was an excellent choice. Our goal – our Meta – was the Lagos de Menegua hotel between Puerto López and Puerto Gaitán, around four hours from Bogotá. The drive going was pleasant- once you got outside of the city. One minute you are driving through Ciudad Bolívar, the next you are enveloped with mountain mist, then meandering between mountains alongside a river far below. You come out the last of a series of tunnels and then everything is dramatically and suddenly flat. Plains as far as the eye can see. That’s the Llanos.
At first there was some grumbling in our crew about the lack of colonial villages and especially tacky artesanías shops to peruse. But that subsided as we found plenty of things to do during our brief stay. There are nature walks through jungles, over streams and across fields. They offer guided tours (in Spanish) of the ranch and the fish ponds (they raise tilapia and other fish that they serve at the restaurant). Horseback riding, paddle boating and fishing are other options. For those who prefer relaxation to activity, there is the pool, which was the center of activity for the guests, a mix of sun-seeking Bogotanos and foreigners. There’s nothing like dozing off – after drinking a cold beer – to the sound of palm branches rustling in the breeze.
By Sunday afternoon the place had really cleared out. We drove behind the hotel to a bluff (it’s not completely flat in the Llanos) which we all climbed to take in the show: sunset. That evening the extremely accomodating staff ordered a birthday cake from the only bakery in Puerto López and let us put on some Frank Sinatra on the sound system for our poolside birthday dinner (my mother was celebrating her 84th).
With good roads and light traffic, we made it back to the city in no time on Monday morning. Although we didn’t see artesanías, we did pick up a few delicious pineapples for under a dollar at a roadside stand just past the monument commemorating the geographic center of Colombia – who knew?
The Llanos ended up getting high marks from all of the honeymooners, even from our dog, who protected us from fierce horses and cows. Next time we promise we’ll take the folks to Barichara- although I’ve heard Honda is very nice. Then there’s also Anapoima…