Soccer balls

One of Mongui’s claim to fame is the manufacturing of soccer balls. They advertise hand sewn leather ones, but we’ve had to search hard to find one. Most are formed synthetic, or even foam. All are colorful and I’d guess there are at least a dozen shops selling them, and an unknown number of manufacturers. It’s said 80% of the population is somehow involved in the industry, producing 300k balls a year.

These look more like volleyballs…
One of many notable items seen in the Soccer ball Museum.
In the city plaza


After a not-too-long bus ride from Tunja, we arrived in the village of Mongui. Population 5000 or so, it’s nestled in a beautiful green valley where the small family farmer still rules.

View from the back deck of the home we’re staying in – Mongui.
Same deck, different view.

Everyone seems to have a cow or two in their yard, with horses & sheep rounding out the barnyards. Several times we’ve seen a cow being “escorted” through town.

Or a horse. Watch where you’re walking, my darling.

That’s different – pt. 3

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.

“Minutes” for sale!

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.

Snacks, beverages, and basics – eggs, bread, toiletries – are never far away.


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.

“Bomberos” translates firefighters

New recruits!
Friendly people!!

Buses & Beers

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.

Waiting for the bus.

That’s Different – pt. 2

Same as in Europe – eggs not refrigerated. If you want to buy smaller quantities, you put your selection in a plastic bag.

Handy – cooks hot dogs and toasts your buns. Translates to about US$ 37.

Lock on our hotel room in Tunja. We spent 2 nights there before going on to Mongui where we’ll spend 5 days.

Saturday Market

From what I can tell, Colombians grow everything, as is witnessed by the weekly farmers market in Villa de Leyva.

This is the Farmers Square any day but Saturday.
Market day. Farms dot all the valleys.
Seriously, the Colombians are a very open, generous and friendly population. Poker looks like their Budweiser.
Several food vendors with packed tables. The hearty soups looked the most popular.

Villa de Leyva – a cIty frozen in time

Every Colombian we talked to about our visit put this town at the top of the must see-list, so we did. It’s best described as a Levenworth WA or Mackinaw Island – on steroids. Here’s how the guidebook sells it:

“One of the most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia…was declared a national monument in 1954. This photogenic village has been preserved in its entirety with cobblestone roads (streets) and whitewashed buildings.”

And these aren’t small cobblestones – see below. No rollerblading or high heals.

Really, all of the streets – no relief. A slow go for vehicles.
This was a fluke to have no people in the shot. The town was packed for the weekend and the holiday. Popular getaway for Bogota dwellers. Small craft shops and countless restaurants line the 10 or so blocks of commercial area

Locals also note that the town is pursuing World Heritage Site designation, and prohibiting vehicles in the city core. Traffic was an issue with one wide lane being shared by 2-way traffic and pedestrians.

This is a side street, and there are steps between myself and the cars. Maybe it’s long term parking.


Dave and I have spent the last four days in Villa de Leyva, which is a 2.5 hour bus ride north of Bogota. So I have posting catch-up to do! Meanwhile, here are some scenes from New Year’s Eve.

Earlier in the month, the town had a competition between 3 companies to determine who would get the fireworks contract for New Year’s Eve. That’s how you get a free show for the town!! This night, two companies (not sure why) put on a great show.
Faces lit by the fireworks. About a quarter of the square was fenced off for the fireworks and the rest was packed. We stood right next to the fence, so the display was right overhead.

In the far right corner a band blared, and there was an awesome ballon release where individuals released large glowing balloons – surreal.

Another slice of the crowd. Open containers is not an issue, anytime, anywhere. Rowdiness or public intoxication doesn’t seem to be an issue.
There were more decorations here than in Bogota, where stores might hang a little garland, but homes, not so much.