Mogotes, Colombia

For more about Colombia generally, hop on over to my main blog: Little Colombia Observationist

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Ariel leads us through his house into the ecological paradise that is his back garden – banana plants rising up against trees weighed heavy with tropical fruits, coffee plants boasting a fresh crop of beans. On the back wall, rust-red figures mimicking indigenous art are carved deeply into the faded yellow stucco wall. Not a great surprise for an anthropologist, especially one who married an artist.

I brushed aside a giant banana leaf, following Ariel through the greenery of his property. We stopped at his wife’s studio – oil-color canvasses hung crooked on the walls, paintbrushes and sculpting materials littered the tables – a secret gem, the sanctuary of a talented local artist.

Around the back, we find open spaces that Arial would love to open up for tourists to camp out – or they can stay in one of the many rooms of his three-bathroom house with an open courtyard at the middle and grand furniture that could blend in with the interior of an ancient castle. Of course there are a few small local hotels.

Mogotes is nearly untouched by tourism. I have been here for more than two months without laying my eyes on a single fellow foreigner. It’s not in any of the tourism books and unless you have a general idea of its location, good luck finding it on a map.

It’s nestled snugly in a valley of the Andes Mountains, a welcoming pueblo an hour drive from tourists’ favorite Colombian adventure capital, San Gil. And it’s a place that’s itching to be discovered.

So what’s there to do in a small little pueblo that makes it worth a visit? Discover how life really happens in Colombia.

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“Buenas!” a woman calls out from her doorstep, one hand resting on the brilliant blue wall of her home. Good afternoon. We wave. We’re walking down the old cobblestone street toward the tejo farm for Sunday night games.

If you’ve never played tejo, Colombia’s national sport, this is the perfect place to learn. It involves explosions, lots of beer and music. In the same complex, you can play bolo, watch as the atmosphere heats up when a hundred people get excited over chicken fights or simple sit back with an Aguila in hand and take it all in.

On Monday, people are back to work and you’ll be welcome to slip into a trapiche – a sugar cane factory – to see how it is processed into a favorite local product, panela. They’ll likely treat you to a hot drink of aguapanela – straight from the source.

Nearby, you’ll find other farmers working with fique which grows in abundance in this region. That’s another interesting process to observe and when you finish there, pay a visit to one of the shops selling beautiful bags and other goods made with the fibre from this plant.

If you’re looking for a bit of exercise, take a hike up into the mountains for stunning views of surrounding towns or, if you’d rather, relax in the central park and observe as life goes by.

On Sunday mornings, a market is set up with local crops – tropical fruits, vegetables, clothes and other knick-knacks. People who live in the mountains nearby ride in on their horses to pick up their groceries for the week.

If you’re looking for a little afternoon side trip, a bumpy dirt road drive will take you to the Cascada de Diablo (the Devil’s Waterfall) and El Hoyo de los Pajaros (The Hole of the Birds). The Devil’s Waterfall lies on the property of a friendly family who will lead you down a pathway to an area where you can climb down to the bottom of the cascade a look up as the water crashes through a hole in one of the rocks above.

When you visit The Hole, be sure to stick around until about 6:30 at night. It’s a tropical hole – its creation a mystery – full of nocturnal birds. When you stand at the edge, you can hear the roar of their song below. In the evening, they swirl their way out of the hole at the same time and head northwest before returning in the morning.

Back in Mogotes, enjoy a carne asada, soup and arepa for dinner with a cup of Colombia’s famous coffee or fresh lulo juice to wash it down. If you come in May or June, you’ll probably be lucky enough to eat a few of the giant ants that are famous in the region. Tastes like bacon. Mmmm.

The best experience will be had by mingling with the locals who love to take time out to chat and socialize. Ask for Arial the anthropologist and he may just take you on a little tour of the secret hideaway gallery in his backyard.

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3 Responses to “Mogotes, Colombia”

  1. Ellen Presley October 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    This is so amazing to me. I lived in Mogotes (toerra santa) 40 years ago and knew I had found paradise. How lucky you are to know this wonderful place. I hve never forgoten it.

    Elena
    (Cuerpo de Paz 1967 to 1969)

  2. Ellen Presley October 23, 2011 at 7:33 pm #

    How wonderful! I lived in Mogotes 40 years ago and never have really left it. It is tierra santa.

    Elena Cuerpo de Paz 1967 to1969

    • zoraida February 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

      Elena mil gracias por haber trabajado con el cuerpo de paz en mogotes soy de ese maravilloso pueblo pero hace mas de 20 anos no he vuelto,lo anoro y tengo familia adorada alla’, Dios te bendiga por el labor que pudiste hacer.

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