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[Listen to an audio version of this blog entry here.]
It used to surprise me somewhat how even the most insignificant and sleepy of Colombian towns had at least one hotel to host the occasional passer-by.
I’d often wonder how the owners made money from the business. For one, for many of these small-town hoteliers, from my observations, renting rooms is simply a bit on the side or a hobby for retirees.
Sleepless in Saboyá
If they’re lucky, a couple or so times a year they get the chance to cash in during festivals and holiday high seasons.
Whatever the case, after over ten years of visiting such small urban settings, particularly in the Andean region, I’ve now come to expect every one of them to have a hotel or some sort of tourist lodgings.
So, rocking up to the Boyacá town of Saboyá and discovering it is inn-less was quite the shock.
Having walked practically every street in a vain search, I called into the police station, figuring they’d know of some accommodation options.
‘It had all the hallmarks of being a very quiet, peaceful night’s sleep in the countryside. A number of mosquitoes ruined all that.’
The first thing one officer said to me was that there were plenty of hotels in nearby Chiquinquirá, 11 kilometres to the south. Eh, excellent. But not exactly what I was looking for. My plan was to stay in the tranquil town, not to go back from whence I came. (My exploring of the far bigger Chiquinquirá with its many hotels and churches — it’s dubbed the religious capital of Colombia — would come 24 hours later, but I had to pass through there to get to Saboyá.)
Thankfully, there was a solution. The police officer told me of a house about three kilometres outside the town that had rooms for nightly rent.
Wrong Way glamping
In fact, the main business of Alojamiento Rural Prados de Piedra Pintada is glamping. A couple can hire a dome for a, um, mere 275,000 pesos per night, breakfast and three hours of jacuzzi use included.
It was, as much as it might surprise the regular reader, a tad outside my budget for this particular mini-escape from Bogotá. I settled for a spacious ensuite room for 35,000 pesos, about 10,000 pesos more than I’m used to paying on such trips.
For one night, I felt it was worth it. It had, after all, the hallmarks of being a very quiet, peaceful night’s sleep in the countryside, a chief reason I’d left Bogotá in the first instance.
That was until a number of mosquitoes at various intervals came buzzing around my ear, thus ensuring broken sleep. At just over 2,600 metres above sea level, it’s surely close to the limit of the range for these winged warriors. Close but unfortunately not quite outside their combat zone. Oh well.
The hotel room I had in Chiquinquirá the following night was free of such pests. It was also, unfortunately, free of any natural light brightening up its four walls. Trade-offs, eh?
Back to Saboyá, while it might be hotel-less, it’s not without its friendly folk. (Incidentally and curiously enough, the names of two of the locals I befriended had an Arabic flavour to them; the affable yet unobtrusive tienda owner, Omar, and the farmer, Samir.)
Omar, on hearing my surprise at the dearth of accommodation in the town, is now thinking about making a few rooms available at his establishment for peso-pinching peripatetics like me. So he said anyway, although not quite in those words.
Thus, I’ll have to return in a few months to see if he has come good on that idea. If so, I’ll be in line for my cut of the profits.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.