That's because the main park/square of the somewhat popular tourist spot is named after Dublin-born James Rooke — well they've Hispanicised the name to Jaime Rook, but we won't castigate them for that. The park is also home to a bust in his honour, in need of a power wash and lick of paint as it is.
|The bust of James Rooke, aka Jaime Rook; we think!|
Coronel Rooke fought and died here in the wars of independence against the Spanish.
How 'Irish' he felt is open to debate. As the story goes, when he lost his arm in battle he shouted "Viva la patria" ("Live the homeland"). When asked if that was Ireland or England, he is alleged to have responded, "The country that will bury me." Now as far as we are aware, although we've been unable to get it confirmed, he's buried in Colombia.
That aside, considering Paipa is less than a three-hour drive from the north of Bogotá, it falls inside our 'short escape from the madness of the metropolis' category.
It's not quite the 'pueblito' we were expecting — it's a decent enough sized town. Yet it's still far more chilled-out than midweek Bogotá (OK, that's not too hard to achieve, in fairness).
Like other lake-side towns we've visited through the years — Queenstown in New Zealand and Chile's Pucón spring to mind — it seems to have a very pleasant vibe to it. The man-made Lake Sochagota's tranquility appears to exert a calming influence on the locals. (It might be slightly different at the weekend when more visitors are about, but the locals say it doesn't change that much.)
|Paipa from ahigh.|
If you're up for something a little more taxing, great views of the town, lake and surrounding countryside can be got by trekking up the hills to the north, behind the church on the main square.
Kayaking and other activities on the lake are also an option, but for our short stay on a tight budget we gave them a miss.
Hot springs are another popular attraction that we left out — we've experienced our fair share of them.
From a culinary perspective, Paipa is known for its dairy-related products, particularly cheese.
In this regard, the cazuela Paipana is worth a try to kick-start your day. It's basically a super-charged changua, packed with almojábanas (a rather delicious-when-just-baked type of cheesy bread made from corn flour, another favourite in these parts) and decent offerings of quality cheese.
|Hearty & wholesome-ish! Cazuela Paipa.|
The respectable Canada Hotel has single rooms from 20.000 pesos per night. It's not gold standard, but it more than adequately does the job.
All told, and not that we're making any connection with James Rooke, but if Paipa was to be our last Bogotá escape before we potentially have to leave the country (very much alive, though, we hope), it's not a bad one to go out on.
**Canada Hotel is on Carrera 20 #23-61, just a few blocks away from Parque Jaime Rook. The friendly owner Adelaida can be contacted on +573138314483.