Bogotá, nicer than expected huge city

Trip Start Jan 11, 2013
Trip End Feb 17, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Population: 7.4 million
Altitude: 2625 meters
Temperature when I was there: about 20-25 degrees Celsius in daytime, 5 degrees at night

Tuesday 15th January (continued)

First of all: I am soooo happy with my new 'backpack with wheels'! I should have gotten one ages ago. It saves me so much sweating and lugging weight on my back. For example at JFK airport I had to walk for about 20 minutes around buildings, through little tunnels, up an elevator and down another etc... Yay for my Osprey!

Why my blog is elaborate
And for those who find my travel tales long... It's also my diary so I want to remember nice little details. And it's intended to help future travellers to Colombia.
The blogging app is working fantastically and there is wifi everywhere so... Yes, it'll be elaborate!
Take your time reading, or simply scroll down to the photos. :-)

Bogotá by night
My flight landed almost an hour early. I was happy to see that my airport pick-up taxi was already there.
Bogotá by night looked very dodgy from the taxi window. Drunk and homeless people wandering the otherwise deserted streets.

My room is in a hostel in an old building, that also has two private rooms (one of which is mine): Casa Bellavista in the historical centre called Candelaria. By comparison to other hotels in Bogotá this is a great deal, at €35 per night including (small) breakfast. I have a seating area and bathroom at ground level and a big bed and closets on an overhang.

It's in a lively area full of bars and restaurants and the hostel itself also has occasional parties.

I slept like a baby in the comfy bed.


Wednesday 16th January

Cold feet on first morning
I have to admit that in the morning I was still a bit intimidated and felt a little nervous to go out into this huge Latin American city. They can be so overwhelming.
But at the same time I was looking forward to it.

Money money money, it's so funny
After the small breakfast and a short chat with an English guy, I went out. First mission: find an ATM, because I forgot to get cash at the airport.
I found a few alright, but had a struggle with one that kept giving errors and the bank employees didn't know what to do either.
I started to think about how many cash US$ I have (not enough for 5 weeks of course) and how to manage without being able to withdraw money.

But the second bank I tried had a machine that was willing to give me money, but not the amount I wanted... Had to do three transactions for that, paying fees every time. :-(

Monserrate mountain
Anyway, mission completed!
Mission two was to take the cable car up Monserrate mountain, where they have a nice church and amazing views over Bogotá.
Walking to the start gave me a nice impression of busy Bogotá. It didn't feel unsafe at all but I was still careful with my camera.
I asked for directions a few times and everyone was nice and helpful.

For about €7 you can take the cable car up, which was fun! There's also a steep train but that wasn't running now.

On top of the mountain the views and buildings were indeed very pretty.

I took my time and watched people, walked up and down all the paths to different restaurants and the artisan market, had some mais cookie.

Apparently a whole group of sports people had run up to the top!

I still feel a bit dizzy from acclimatizing to the altitude (Bogotá 2625m, Monserrate mountain 3200m!), so even after *walking* up some stairs I'm panting like an old lady. I can't imagine running up that steep mountain!

Friendly Bogotá people
After coming down I took a taxi to the bus terminal because it wasn't very clear at what time the buses leave to San Gil, where I want to go tomorrow.

Afterwards I wanted to go back by bus but after waiting 30 minutes it still had not come. Several people ensured me that it should have long been there. I ended up sharing a taxi back to the center with a nice chatty lady, who also told the driver off for his crazy driving and scaring the tourist and herself. He listened and stopped passing cars with a 1 cm margin and at 80km/h from then on. She refused my wanting to share the costs! And gave me her e-mail address in case I need help in Colombia.

I must have about 5 e-mail addresses by now of Colombians who spoke to me, Fedra or people we know, and who offered their help. If everyone is going to be this friendly I know I'm going to love Colombians as much as New Yorkers!

Speaking Spanish
It's taking some effort to get the hang of Spanish again, people here talk quite clearly but very fast, and then when they use words I don't know and we're in a noisy taxi, it's still a bit of a stuggle, but I manage to get everything done that I want.

Roald Dahl in Spanish
It was still only about 3pm so I wandered around and stumbled upon a big book store where I bought a Spanish translation of a Roald Dahl classic: 'James y el melocotón gigante'. Again, the people in the shop were very friendly and patient and brought me book after book.

I also stumbled upon the Museo Botero, connected to the Casa de Moneda, both free. Botero was an artist and the museum also featured works by Picasso and others.
The Casa de Moneda is about money and shares the history of colonization, slavery, and how money came into effect.

In the evening I had a lovely €10 meal: ceviche (marinated raw fish), a combination of vegetables, and a mojito. :-)


Thursday 17th January

Up north
I was awake at 6.30am and it was raining, so I might as well pack up and go take a bus to San Gil. That way it would also be more likely that I'd arrive before nightfall (it's a 7 hour bus ride).

I managed to make it for the 8am bus, a minibus, and I was able to negociate the price down (which is customary here). The ride was long and hot.
At the bu terminal they had ensured me: 5, no longer than 6 hours. But I knew better. It turned out to take 7.5 hours.

In Bogotá after driving in the city for half an hour, we spent another half hour in one area trying to pick up more passengers. The advantage was that we could buy snacks from vendors who came to the minibus.
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Leuk verslag en mooie eerste indruk van Colombia. Je foto's geven een goed beeld.

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