Don’t Go “Braking” My Heart
Leaving Villa de Leyva was a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, we were leaving such a relaxed town and the beautiful Hostel Renacer but on the other hand, we were in for more adventure. Browsing the map, we spotted a little town on Laguna Guatavita which would make a good stop for a night or two before heading through Bogota.
Unfortunately, we went out on the town that evening sin camera so we do not have any pictures. However, I will tell you that Guatavita is an unusual surprise. Hidden from the main street, the town opens up into an upscale village of white houses with red roofs perched on the side of the lake. The cobblestone streets are packed with delicious looking restaurants, artesian gift shops and playing children. It was a very safe and very relaxed town to spend the night.
Since the both of us hate driving in cities, we opted to spend another night before departing to Bogota. We have a famous phrase of “Ok, maybe just one more night” usually followed with a big evil grin. This phrase has a tendency to come up in conversation very frequently, especially when we find a relaxing place to camp. This time we actually decided to move up the road slightly to a lake just north of Zipaquira.
We crawled up the windy mountain road to Embalse de Nuesa only to find out that the camping was closed during the week. The security guard said that if we follow the dirt road to the other side of the lake we should be able to find some camping. Skeptical about the guard’s suggestion, we followed the road anyway. This turned out to be a dream come true! We paid up at the ranger station and pulled down into the campground. Cresting the hill we could see the lake and the campsites. We had the entire place to ourselves! Not a soul in sight!
As we parked the truck and hopped out, a fox-like dog came bounding at us, full speed, down the lake front. She greeted us with whimpers and wiggles. In fact, she was so full of wiggles and noises that we first thought there might be something wrong with her. We instantly fell in love with her and we’d like to think she fell in love with us back. Eventually we were greeted by four other stray dogs as well. These dogs were not your typical strays, however. They were all well mannered, healthy looking and respectful.
As the sun went down we said goodbye to our dog pack…all but one. The fox-like dog, eventually dubbed the name Winnie by Sarah, never left. She didn’t leave our side for the four days we were there. If we went to the bathroom, she went to the bathroom. If we went to bed, she went to bed under the truck. If we walked to the ranger station, she walked to the ranger station.
After the first 24 hours more and more of the pack stuck around. Eventually we couldn’t go anywhere without five dogs in tow. One by one each dog received a fitting name by us. There was Titties, who must have had puppies somewhere because she would periodically disappear. Dopey, who was by far the laziest of the bunch. Samantha, the German Shepard, given the name because we used to live next to a German Shepard named Samantha. Male Dog, Dopey’s brother and the alpha male of the group, who was always looking off into the distance. And Winnie, the one-eyed dog with a striking resemblance to a red fox who decided to be our guardian at Embalse de Neusa
Over the next several days…yup we got stuck again:)…we lazed around the truck reading, relaxing, eating, poking and prodding the truck, enjoying the clouds as they rolled in over the mountains across the lake and hanging out with our new dog pack.
This may sound strange but I even enjoyed the sound of the chainsaws as the loggers worked on the other side of the lake. During my childhood, the fall meant I would be listening to the sounds of the chainsaw as my step-father, Andy, would be cutting the wood for the coming winter’s heat. The smell of leaves would be filling the outside and the smell of food would be filling the inside as my mother slaved away canning and jarring the late summer’s harvest. The cool mountain air, chainsaws and smells of wood stoves in the distance brought us home for a few days.
On day three I made a bit of a mistake. As always I was crawling around the truck, greasing steering/suspension, checking fluids, and doing a once-over of all systems. The back passenger brake line was looking awfully corroded so I went in for a better look. With just my fingernail I scratched at a bit of the corrosion when it began to drip. Yup, that’s right! The only thing holding that line together was a bit of dirt and rust. Thinking back it’s probably good that things unfolded the way they did because we could have lost that brake line in city traffic or on a steep mountain pass causing a repeat of Costa Rica. Slightly panicked since we were a good distance from civilization, we walked to the ranger station guided by our five dogs. We asked if there was a bus to Zipaquira in the morning. He assured us that we could catch a bus to town at 7am the following morning.
We got up bright and early, packed a bag for the day and headed up the hill to catch a bus. As it turns out, there’s no bus. Flustered, we asked the ranger’s opinion of what we should do. At one point, a ranger walked out into the street and flagged down a guy on a motorcycle. Sarah and I thought it must have been his friend or something. Just as we prepared to start walking the 10 miles to the highway the motorcycle pulled up to the ranger station, the guard handed me a helmet and said “Get on!
Sarah and I looked at each other with concern, shrugged our shoulders and I strapped on the helmet. The man, whom I still never caught his name, decided it was best to take me on the motorcycle ride of my life. Now, I’m no stranger to motorcycles (having had my license since I was 19) or the term “ride it like you stole it”, but he took it to the extreme. Two grown men on a 250cc motorcycle should not be leaning so hard into corners that we are almost dragging pegs or hitting speed bumps and catching air. We bombed down that mountain pass like we were running from the cops, passing dump trucks, weaving in between cows, and dodging every pothole with precision. He must have been riding that road everyday for his entire life because he knew where every pothole was long before we got there.
At one point we were headed for a 90 degree turn down a steep section of road. That little 250 motor was screaming. I looked over the man’s shoulder to see the speedometer reading 100 kph. There’s no way we are making this turn, I thought to myself. I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but as we barreled toward that turn with no guardrail protecting us against a massive drop-off, I closed my eyes. I had no choice but put my full trust in this man’s riding abilities. As we leaned into that turn I’m pretty sure I could have put my knee down on that pavement. As we came out of the turn I opened my eyes….we made it it to live another day! Phew!
We got some crazy looks as we barreled down the streets. I’m not sure if it was because we were riding like mad men, or if it was because this guy was riding two-up with a gringo on the back with his flannel shirt flapping in the wind. That guy turned out to be our savior. He brought me to the brake shop, told them exactly what I needed, had the line made, and brought me to go buy some brake fluid. I didn’t do anything. I encouraged him to go run his errands in town while I did the shopping but it turned out he didn’t have anything to do. He was just bringing me on the 40 mile trip to and from town to help out.
After cashing out at the store we hopped on the bike and bombed back up the mountain. This time with a 4’ piece of brake line in my hand, we leaned back and forth all the way back to the campground. I still do not know your name crazy motorcycle madman, but I owe you big time! Thank You!
That night we enjoyed a delicious dinner next to a raging fire with our dogs. We began to have feelings of sadness thinking about leaving this place and our pups. With the chilly night, bed time came early and we had a big day ahead of us. I tossed another log on the fire for Winnie as she hunkered in uncomfortably close the the fire. She stayed there the entire night. Periodically we would peek out the window to see her fluffy red fur all curled up next to the coals. She didn’t move an inch until we woke up the following morning.
After breakfast I could see the look on Sarah’s face. She wasn’t ready to leave her dog but we needed to move on. We talked about taking her with us but for one, we have a dog who is waiting patiently at home and two, that was her home and she was better off with her pack.