Young, vibrant and stylish - this is Bogota!
Trip Start Dec 30, 2010
84Trip End Jul 06, 2011
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Where I stayed
Dropped off at hostel recommended by lonely planet, again no reservation but they have plenty of spaces. I'm not in the main building, but a casa 20 seconds up the street where a lovely old lady showed me my 8 bed dorm (with only one unsociable soul in it) and we had a sweet broken conversation. House had great security and once again, a pussy cat. This one, again was friendly, gold, black and white mix. I drop my gear and head out for lunch. I head to the Plaza Bolivar and spot a place doing a fixed menu. Some tasty soup to start, no idea what flavour but plenty of chic peas and veg, a mix plate of meat and then some random random sweet pastry type dessert after.
I leave the friendly cafe and walk around Plaza Bolivar. There is military everywhere, but it amazing to think just 5 years ago, the leftist FARC guerrillas were in the city, but intelligent investment by the government forced them out. Within an hour of being in Bogota, I already notice a young, vibrant feel to the city. Every young person is dressed up, they are stylish and confident and gringo is standing out in his jungle gear. With the military having very little to do, they pick on tourists taking pictures, don't stand there, don't do that, put that away!
I find Plaza Bolivar and it is packed full of pigeons. Worse than in Venice with the crazy pigeon lady, worse than in London, ok the picture doesn't show the true extent, but I had to duck a few times.
The Plaza is busy with people as well, snack sellers, pigeon food sellers and those taking a cigarette break, probably immune to the vastness of the Plaza and the grandeur of the buildings. I wander around some more, along back streets of La Candelaria, the streets are filled with students, high school children and very few people older than university age. The buildings are old, historic and have a rustic feel to them. I've never seen a place like this before, especially with the preconceptions one had a few years ago. One would never visit Bogota, but it's been on my list now since when I lived in New York City, of course, my pops first reaction would be, don't get kidnapped!! Luckily I saw no negative events or actions for the entire time I was in Colombia, well, except for being dragged out of buses frequently and the way the army handle my passport, constantly creasing and bending the pages, but when the dude has a machine gun, you tend to keep quiet and thank him for passing it back.
Seeing as I had such a big lunch, I was happy to pop back to the gorgeous hostel and relax for a while. The place has free wifi and I think England were playing Ghana and there were some other games on too. Guy who was sharing my 8 bed dorm, went to bed at 430pm, everytime I popped out and came back, he was trying to sleep still, maybe he was ill, but every so often would randomly get up and disappear just in his boxers. I tried to say hello a few times, but he didn't reply each time. Oh well. My evening consisted of a pizza place and I was done to my last few pesos so had enough for a pretty disgusting hot dog and a soda. I will have to find some more money tomorrow.
On this night I feel indifferent and party excited. Indifferent because tomorrow will be my last day in South America on this trip. Excited, because I had just sent out 15 requests to couch surf on my way through the USA. That part of my journey is going to be pretty crazy but I know I'm going to meet some characters and see more of the vast country that is the USA. Remember, they are not America, they are part of America but not America itself. People in South and Central America are very proud to consider themselves American too. I think on the whole, they are forgotten about when one considers the term American.
I know I will need to have a fulfilling day tomorrow for my last day in this wonderful continent. I know I'll be back, just not for a while.
I also forgot to mention, Bogota is 2600m above sea level. It is not a warm place. Mid afternoon a jacket is needed and going to sleep, I have a sheet, a duvet and a blanket. It only seems right that I started my journey in South America at high altitude in Quito and I finish the continent at high altitude.
Miles walked 3.5
Temp 22C 72F
Day 85 March 30 - I think the dude in the room was Spanish, well the unsociable git snored during the night. I also had the pleasure of being woken up by two unsociable French girls turning up at 530am and well, the TV downstairs was kept on a high volume till about 1am and I thought the guy lit a bonfire, as I had trouble breathing while trying to get to sleep, turns out there was actually a fire place downstairs. I wake to find the clothes that were left out of my back pack stink of smoke. There's a night worker who stays up all night letting people in and being on guard. But he spends the whole time on the telephone, plays loud music and makes fire! The previous night he wouldn't let me in the hostel till he rang the other place and made sure I was supposed to be staying there. So pretty good from a security point of view but not from a breathing in smoke point of view.
I shower and at long last it's a hot shower!! I must have stood there for ten minutes, motionless apart from constantly increasing the temperature. I really can't remember the last time I had a hot shower. I've had the odd warm one, but that just means you don't tense up as much before you put your head under. Breakfast was provided by the hostel, some fresh juice (blended by the guy at 6am which everyone could hear!!) then chunks of melon, dry dry bread, coffee or tea. I spent ages trying to chew through this dry bread without being sick and while keeping an eye on a cricket semi final.
Today is going to be a busy day, I want to make the most of this brilliant city and enjoy my last day on this continent. I walk past Parque de los Periodistas, after grabbing some more Colombian thousands of Peso, while on the way to the Funicular to the top of Cerro de Monserrate.
The Funicular takes us to a peak overlooking the entire city of Bogota. Similar to my start in Quito, but I love seeing skylines like this, on this trip alone there has been Quito, Guayaquil, Santiago, Rio, Sao Paulo, Caracas and now Bogota. When I arrive to the top, there are tens of Koreans again. Not the ones who followed me for a while, but I'm annoyed at them, maybe it's old age, but every picture they take, and they take a lot, they make stupid poses. Pretending to be James Bond, lying on the floor, screaming, shouting, I just want to slap them, they have no consideration for others who are up on this religious memorial that maybe want to hear silence and not crazy Koreans. Ok, moan over.
Finding myself a place to sit on a broken pay as you use telescope, I sit for an hour. I pop in my headphones, a bit of Elbow Cast of Thousand and some of the Kings of Leon's recent album. It's my time to drift and relax. Again, it's a moment I can enjoy without having to worry if someone with me is bored. I love these moments, I'm sat viewing the stretched out Bogota and I smile and chuckle to myself about how far I have come. I think again of the places I have been, through my mind I map out each place I went to, maybe something that stuck out from those places, I think of the people I've met and the fun times I have had. My drifting is interupted by a cute couple from Peru, who I said hello to on the funicular, they wanted me to take a picture, of course no problem. I also think about Central America, what it will have in store, I feel lately that I've been conserving energy and not pushing myself like I was at the beginning ie crazy hikes, activities etc. I'm also very excited about the USA and I hope the couchsurfing works out, I know I'm planning it pretty early but I don't want to be in the USA and constantly spending my time checking emails than getting to know my host and being dragged (hopefully) around a new city. I could have sat there all day, but I need to press on.
There is a large church on top of this hill, but I don't feel comfortable walking in and taking pictures. There are lots of little statues dedicated to the crucifixion of Jesus. I take one picture that has a nice back drop.
Back in the city, I head to the World Famous Museo del Oro, a large Gold Museum. Yes, I'm sorry if you just coughed on your cornflakes or fell out your chair while reading this, but yes I went to a museum. Those that don't know me so well, I am not a museum fan. I can't tolerate them. My best behaviour at a museum has been on dates, Natural History museum with my friend Katie and MOMA with a really great girl called Jackie, we even had a drink in the bar up top and saw some planes create a beer logo in the sky, anyway that was all in 2008. But, no, I don't like Museums. I try my best but unless it's something to do with statistics, football, sport etc then I'm sorry but boredom sets in, similar to going into females clothes stores, ahem, not by myself of course.
Anyway, the reason for checking out the Gold museum was Bente talked about Gold being pretty important to Colombia and South American history and I thought my sister in law Toni might appreciate a few pictures as well, plus it was pretty cheap to get in!
I won't bore you with the detailed account of how I ran around in 5 minutes and took some pictures, but here you go Toni, picked a few things out for you.
Right that's enough of museums!
Now it was lunchtime, I saw a British place was recommended in the lonely planey, tasty juices, cocktails, thai curry nights and tasty baguettes. It was a decent part of town close by so I went and checked it out. It was pretty empty when I got in and the Thai curry was on Monday and Wednesday 6 till 10pm. Didn't say 6pm so my taste buds were hoping for 6am, sadly, 6pm! I went for a sweet chicken chilli baguette. So good, came with salad and chips/crisps. I also went for a lemony juice, no alcohol.
I left, wandered around the city centre some more. It's a productive place, I notice one place called Crepes and muffins or something like that, could be a dessert place for later. The temperature drops and my body is feeling the altitude, I don't know what I'll do if I get a job again, will they allow an afternoon nap after my lunch. I hit the hostel and relax on my bunk bed, enjoying the taste of the sweet chilli still.
I have some jobs to sort on the web again and coincide finishing those jobs for the start of the thai curry time at Yumi Yumi. Once it's in my head, it won't go until I've satisfied the taste. When I arrive the place is packed, oh no, everyone is dressed up, the women look awesome, guys a bit cheesey and then there is me. Crap trousers, a tshirt I've worn for the last 4 days and a wind proof jacket. I should wear a tshirt saying sorry! I sit upstairs, say hi to the guy from Maryland, but the dude is busy as someone hasn't turned up for their shift. When he took my order, he said the Thai curry wasn't on till 6pm, I hated doing it, but I showed him my watch and it was dead on 6pm. He probably thought I was a cock for doing that, but to give him the benefit of the doubt I'm sure he lost track of time. I order the same drink as earlier. Food comes out quickly, but he needs to move me to a smaller seating area, yeah, I don't care. The thai curry is so so so good!
A little later, he moves me downstairs to the bar, but apologises and gives me a free beer. Sweet! I sit infront of the cocktail making area and I am in the splash zone. Again, I don't care. It's interesting to people watch, such young people out on a Wednesday night, enjoying two for one cocktails, some guys working hard on chatting up their date and interesting to watch the guys make the cocktails. Maybe Bogota would have been more fun with company, but seriously after just one beer, the walk back to the hostel was painful!
I have an early flight in the morning, 630am, and guess I'll need to be up at 3am or ish. I take another long hot shower, pack my crap, for what seems like the millionth time and try to get to sleep at 9pm. Some Australians arrived at 11pm I think, went straight to sleep but this is when dual snoring occured. One Aussie guy would snore, then the Spanish dude, then back to the Aussie guy and so on. So annoying. The French girls decided to sit around till 1am, but being the inconsiderate young people they are, had not got anything out ready for bed, even though they must have known it would be pretty dark by then. Maybe I'm too considerate, but they spent ages picking out things from their bags, plastic bags being crumpled and were under the assumption that no-one would be able to see them in the dark getting undressed, ahem, the guys who were snoring didn't! Anyway, a stop start sleep is how I ended my last full day in South America, 85 days, it seems longer but only feels like yesterday when I said goodbye to my brother at Heathrow!
Miles walked 2.63
Temp 20C 68F
Day 86 March 31 - Alarm went off at 3am, I got up, was ready by 310am, so thought I would just lie there for a few more minutes. Luckily, I wake again at 340am. Those few seconds of panic, please don't be later than 4am!! I was lucky! Guy downstairs found time to get off the phone to his friend and call me a taxi. Only took around 20 minutes to reach the airport, we passed a major section or roadworks, a major highway being built for 2016.
With this trip there always seems to be drama about my visiting another country. Ok, I'll put my hands up, when I booked my one way ticket from Bogota to Panama City, twice it wouldn't let me confirm the ticket before I advised that I had an ongoing ticket leaving Panama. Such silly rules for a backpacker. I tick the box and will worry about it later. I brought with me my proof of leaving Central America on May 4th, so in theory that should work. Well, it took ten minutes to get my boarding pass, trying to explain why I'm only in Panama for a day, then my route, I show them my itinerary, all the stamps in my passport, my flight on May 4th and even a picture of my nephew fell out the folder, they seemed to like that. I'll use that straight away next time. A supervisor clears me for the ticket and I don't have to pay the $33 exit tax. it's good news but means I'm stuck with Colombian Pesos. A cookie and a coffee while watching some of Lucky Number Slevin later and I'm boarding my flight heading to Panama to see Ed and Solange Anchor who I met at their sons wedding in Brisbane in 2009.
Colombia - a place you must visit. A friend emailed me recently saying she wished she had included it in her itinerary, I'm so glad I did. The most perfect scenic landscapes and countryside, lots of history, lots of being searched on a bus and friendly people. I've been wanting to go for a long time, there was even a time last year where I was going to squeeze in a week in Colombia. I seem to say this often, but even though I have visited this amazing country, I have only scratched the surface.
A big thank you to South America for keeping me safe and a thank you to lady luck for looking out for me. Also a big thank you to the people that I met and maybe shared a day or two with.
Right Central America, what have you in store for me!?