On Arty Pueblos and Ignorant Residents

I had been wanting to go to Ráquira ever since I saw it featured on one of Colombia‘s local tourism shows – and it didn’t disappoint. It’s a delightful town (I seem to be unable to avoid the use of corny words when I go to pueblos) bursting with colors and handicrafts and old Boyaco farmers decked out in mud-splattered boots and traditional ruanas.

Boyaca

traditional campesino from Boyaca

There’s not a whole lot to do in town, except for the standard wandering, or “dando vueltas,” and serious handicraft shopping. Giant hammocks, funky jewelry, and arty pots and vases are just some of the souvenirs vying for your pesos here.

Raquira Colombia

Raquira's main street

Shopping and Eating

If you plan to go shopping in Ráquira, remember – negotiation is the norm in Colombia. Always ask for a discount, especially if you’re buying more than one of an item.

Along with the traditional standard fare, there’s a pizzeria called Bambino’s located on the central park directly in front of the church. The owners are young, one of which studied as a chef in Buenos Aires. Aside from pizzas, you can order crepes, lasagna, and burritos. The vegetarian wraps are surprisingly good.

For breakfast, we headed to a bakery called Delicias pa Sumercé, packed full of tempting desserts and cookies, as well as fresh bread and almojabanas.

If you’re there on a Sunday, head to the farmer’s market just over the footbridge to snap photos of the biggest pumpkins I’ve ever seen.

Boyaca

the biggest pumpkin ever

How To Get There
There are a couple of ways to reach Ráquira. From Tunja, take a buseta outside of the terminal that will drop you off at Cuatro Esquinas for 5500 pesos. Next, wait for a taxi to pass and drive you the four kilometers into town.

You can also arrive via Chiquinquira, which will cost you 5000 pesos in taxi. From Chiquinquira back to Bogotá, the drive is about 2.5 hours and costs 15000 pesos.

Around Ráquira
Boyacá is home to some of my favorite pueblos in Colombia. Villa de Leyva is a short bus ride away, a town firmly rooted on the beaten path and much more touristy, though beautiful and worth the visit.

There’s also Mongui, my idea of perfection which I once described as the pueblo of my dreams.

The capital of Boyacá, Tunja, is almost city-sized, but also worth a couple of days if you have the time.

Raquira

Raquira's central plaza

My trip was almost perfect until… the confrontation.

“Sir, sir! Please return my towels.”

We had just checked out of our hotel in Ráquira and had been souvenir shopping for Giovanny’s parents when the hotel’s administrator came running up to us, demanding that we return her stolen property.

Our initial reaction was one of confusion. Towels? What towels? Then the accusations started flying out of her mouth like the vomit from Linda Blair’s in the Exorcist.

As neither of us had ever been accused of stealing before, the situation took an ugly turn quickly. It ended with us dumping out our belongings on the floor to prove we hadn’t stolen the towels and a nasty exchange between the three of us.

As we walked away, I was shaking with rage. My body was overloaded from the toxicity that comes from such extreme amounts of anger, and I had to sit down to recuperate.

While I do my best to live by spiritual principles, I’m certainly not immune to getting caught up in the moment. I reflected on the encounter for a while and, after I had calmed down, decided two things.

1)      I won’t let this woman tarnish my thoughts about the town, its residents, nor my trip overall.

2)      During my next confrontation, I will try to practice more self-control and not lose my temper so quickly.

Have you experienced a confrontation in your travels? What would you have done differently?

  • I’ve been there for sure. I was pulled off a bus by paramilitary in Venezuela. They had huge guns and dang it was scary. After sorting it all out (also having all of my stuff dumped out and searched) I made it a point to not hate Venezuela as a whole for that awful experience.

    It’s hard because the rest of my time there was not so great. Oh well, I’d give it a try again.

  • Thanks for sharing, David. I think it takes practice to learn to isolate an incident from the rest of your stay or trip.

  • Frank

    On a bus back from Haiti coming into the D.R. an unarmed “customs” agent was snooping on our bus and ripped my bag open (I assume he was looking for drugs) and dumped my stuff out. Then when he was done simply tossed the bag on the floor and scoffed at me. It took a minute to let that one go.

  • Yikes – you guys are talking about an involuntary search and I willing dumped my stuff out. I’d have a hard time letting that go too Frank!

  • Lots of good exploring suggestions.

    Can’t think of a real travel confrontation that stands out, but I’ve been scolded for taking photos in certain places before…

  • Cerulean

    There’s not much you can do when you get roughed up by armed/uniformed thugs… even protesting will get you beaten or thrown in jail. That’s common in fascist regimes like Haiti, Venezuela, and the United States of America.

    There’s a difference between maintaining self-control and allowing jerks to violate your boundaries. When I passively allow someone to get away with disrespecting me, I find that I remain furious (mostly at myself) for a very long time. When I stand my ground and issue a firm ‘correction’ to the offender, I feel 1000% better. And being hammered down is good for the other person, too- it might be the lesson they need to teach them not to be abusive to others.

  • Thanks for sharing your perspective. I have very little tolerance for disrespect in general, so I’d be on the “firm correction issuance” team too.