Miraflores – Vale la Pena (Worth the Effort)

An exciting trip and unique old town in Colombia that you will not find in other travel writings.

Danger signOriginally published in Fenton Patch newspaper January 2013.

“We’re leaving tomorrow for Miraflores,” my engineer friend told me.

The company he owns gets contracts all around Colombia. It is not his style to ask me if I wish to help him out with these jobs. He knows I never miss an opportunity to discover more of the country.

“Ok, I’ll be ready.”

“Do you even know where Miraflores is?” he asked.

“No idea.”

He knows I do not ask too many questions, just enjoy what comes.

Now I got the little smile that tells me the trip will be an adventure. Indeed what followed explained why my researched revealed no previous English language travel writings about our destination.

It is not an excursion for the pampered tourist or travel writer. For me these places are a journey, a journey of unique discovery. Most travel articles about Colombia are disappointing. In fact a writer for Lonely Plant even admitted to not visiting places in Colombia he wrote about. Most others hit only tourist areas though they try to convince the reader they are off the beaten path or in a really unique place.

It is my pleasure to bring to  readers my Colombia from a perspective that most writers who just visit can never attain.

Six hours to travel the 100 miles to Miraflores is a hint of why the trip slips in the realm of adventure. The way traverses mountains in which twice we climb to almost 10,000 feet above sea level only to descend again. Signs announcing the area to be geologically unstable heighten our vigilance to the road. Indeed many times when coming around a curve a part of the roadway drops three feet, or is even non existent. Its remains rest in scattered pieces down the mountainside. My companion frequently commented he was glad we were in a Ford SUV because a regular car would take a beating.

But all is worth it. I experienced the most spectacular and impressive mountain views in my eight years traveling the country. Mountain tops occasionally peaked through stringy white clouds that leisurely floated above the valleys. When we descended and dripped through them it provided an almost surreal feeling. Though, it also made finding the side of the road more difficult. Green patchwork blankets the low lands that stretch through pollution free skies from one mountain to another. The tall towers of churches signal the presence of small towns long before we arrive. There we often found beautiful central parks in such places as Jenesano and Zetaquira.

Miraflores means watch flowers. Indeed it is appropriately named as flowers of many different colors grow wild along the sides of the road leading the way to the town.

One of the many beautiful flowers that give the city it's name.

One of the many beautiful flowers that give the city it’s name.

Legend states that long before the Spanish arrived three different Indian tribes settled in the fertile valley they then called Lengupà. They had found the higher altitudes harsh. But the Miraflores area, at a much lower elevation and with fertile land, proved excellent. Each tribe had its own language and culture, yet they lived together in peace. Today Lengupà is the name of the providence in the Department (equivalent to a state in the USA) of Boyacà.

In their continual search for the city of gold the Spanish arrived in 1537. Then in 1639 they started the colonization of Miraflores.

My friend and I arrived just as the sun sat behind the mountains. For fifteen minutes before the sprouting of lights below told us we were getting closer. As always when arriving in a new town we first visited the church which almost always anchors one side of the main square. Thanks was given for a safe journey.

Miraflores is a colonial town with 100 to 200 year-old buildings. The outside adobe walls on many of the buildings show that. But many of the insides have been updated. Its population is equivalent to Fenton. Streets are narrow with buildings separated by extremely narrow stone sidewalks or just pushing against the road itself. Some streets are asphalt but many still have the one and two foot thick stones worn from many years of traffic. The weather is mild all year round because of the lower elevation. However the town is still in the mountains so except for those roads around the parque principal they are at an incline. It is a real Colombian working town. It is not a tourist place so you will not find stores selling handicrafts and souvenirs.

After a tinto (black coffee) and a few phone calls we met our contacts a couple blocks away at a small tienda (store) that sells beer and snacks. The place is about eight feet wide and 12 feet deep like so many of the stores. The six of us sat in chairs in a circle on the stone street. Our new friends were a fountain of information. Though nine o’clock in the evening many people walked the streets. Couples sat on park benches in the main square while others walked around hand-in-hand.

One of the many open small restaurants provided our evening meal before the search for a hotel room. I believe in the idea that things happen for a reason. The hotel we stopped at in town had no vacancies. However they pointed us to a place more outside on a gravel road. It turned out to be an impressive place. It has the look of an old farm structure now converted to a hotel. Owned by a lady who runs it along with her two teenage daughters, the hotel provides a quaintness and hospitality that places in town cannot match. Flowers guarded the stairs to an open air restaurant and check-in.  Casa Loma SignFor the cost of about $20 USD Casa Loma gave us a place to sleep that is better than many other places in Colombia at even higher prices. The restaurant, the next day, provided very tasty home cooked style food.

For the more adventuresome tourist I highly recommend the journey from Bogotá to Miraflores. You will experience fantastic scenery, visit lovely towns and enjoy a unique adventure.