Dave had read that a person can only make a cell phone call to phones with the same carrier. That explains the “Minutos” (minutes) vendors on the streets on Tunja, and in smaller neighbohood stores elsewhere. This fella will have 3-4 phones in his lap – 1 for each carrier-and you can use one for a fee to call someone you otherwise couldn’t reach with your phone.
Speaking of neighborhood stores, they’re everywhere! No more that a ground floor room that opens up to the street , they’re a bit of a gathering place. They’ll have a beverage cooler, a big snack selection ( chips, candy…), maybe a small selection of hot food, and a few chairs squeezed in. In smaller towns there is at least one, often several, in a block. Darn handy.
We spent 2 nights here as it was mid-point to our next destination – Mongui. Tunja is a good sized town – population just shy of 200k – and the capital of the Boyaca region. Just a few tourist sites to see and none that really interested us much. Our little hotel was only 2 blocks from the center plaza so we walked there our first evening. It was beautifully lit for Christmas. Good thing I took these photos, as the next day, Jan. 2, we saw workers dismantling the displays.
As we’re both volunteer firemen in our community, Dave was on a mission to visit whatever fire stations we could locate. He found Tunja’s not far from us. It was one of three of their stations, and they were more than generous in showing us all of their equipment and gear. No one spoke English but we had a few fire department related photos of ourselves, so they figured it out. It was a surprise that a city this size had a volunteer department, though it appeared they had some permanent staff. It does make sense when you note they have no wooden structures – only brick, block, or stone.
We’re off to Tunja on New Year’s Day, less than an hour bus ride from Villa de Leyva. The holiday changed the “departure every 15 minutes” to every 45 minutes, so we chatted as best we could with the others waiting. Dave and I agree that the feature that stands out most for us is the friendliness and openness of the Colombian people. For example, these two gentlemen (below) were also waiting for the bus to Tunja – they didn’t know each other. As they were helping us understand the change in schedule, the one on the right offered us beers!! We declined, so he offered us some clear liquid – liquor maybe? He also offered beer (Joker brand) to the 2nd guy – who accepted. Yup – strangers sharing beer at the bus station. When the bus arrived, they rode shotgun and their conversation got louder as the trip progressed and the beers ran out! Like I said, open containers – even in the front seat of a public bus. Maybe this story should have the “that’s different” headline. Either way open, friendly people.