Viagra: the Colombian cure for travel sickness!

Trip Start Dec 08, 2004
Trip End Dec 07, 2005

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Oh the joys of bus travel, you never know exactly what you are going to get. The buses can be anything from a luxury class cruiser to a rickety old chicken bus with slinky spring suspension. We always take the precaution of buying some travel sickness pills before each long journey, just in case.

In Latin America, you don't buy the whole box of pills; you just buy what you need. So our usual plan of action is too find the pharmacy in the bus station and ask for a couple of travel sickness pills. Now, the Spanish word for travel is Viejo (pronounced Vee-eck-ar). So asking for medicina para viejar normally does the trick, although this time was different. The elderly couple sitting behind the counter at Cartegena bus station shop didn't seem to understand our attempt at Spanish at all. Maybe we were pronouncing it wrong? We tried pronouncing it a number of different ways and Keith added a very talented mime of bouncing up and down and being sick to help things along. This seemed to do the trick, smiling the lady reached under the counter and handed us a strip of small white tablets. Bingo we had communication! Phew, our bus was about to leave any minute. Hurriedly we were just about to pay when looking closer at the strip of pills for dosage instructions ect we realised that our break through in communication hadn't been quite so successful. Printed all over the back of the strip was the word VIAGRA. Heaven knows what the lady thought Keith's mime was about?
After a lot of giggling to the point of tears and the use of our dictionary we managed finally to get what we wanted. It is true what they say... ALWAYS READ THE LABLE. Especially before a 19 hour bus journey!

So after a harsh reintroduction to the horrors of air-con and long distance bus travel we arrived in Bogotá, bordering on frost bite but sexual organs and stomachs intact.

We spent a week in Bogotá jamming every day full of sight seeing, tamale eating (*Puerto False for the best tamales and handmade sweets in Colombia), getting high on the toxic pollution levels.

Our first port of call had to be the world famous Museo De Oro (Gold Museum)a collection of more than 10,000 pieces of Pre-Colombian golden jewellery and ornaments. WOW!!! The intricacy and beauty of some of the pieces was incredible. We never knew gold could be so interesting.

We had a day out on a steam train to visit the Catedral de Sal which is in Zipaquirá 50km outside the city. It took hours to reach the city limits passing fields of apartment blocks and construction sites; Bogotá is a very modern city and seems to be growing prolifically.

On the train we were accompanied by a Colombian brass band playing traditional music in each carriage throughout the journey. Everyone clapped and sang along, some got up in the isles to dance. Can you imagine this happening on British Rail? It was excellent fun. The Colombians certainly know how to enjoy themselves.
As Latin America is strongly Roman Catholic we have visited countless amounts of Cathedrals and as beautiful as they all are this one was certainly a change from the norm. The Catedral de Sal is a huge Cathedral built into the walls of a salt mine nearly 600 feet into a mountain. The whole place is carved out of the rock salt, it is immense. Winding tunnels descend into the Roman Catholic temple, passing 14 small chapels representing the stations of the cross, which illustrate the events of Jesus´s last journey each carved by a different artist. The entire Cathedral was illuminated in blues and greens giving it a real gothic atmosphere. It was li9ke being inside a scene from Lord of the Rings expecting gangs of Orks to attack at any moment.

That night we got back to Bogotá just in time for a quick ride in a cable car up to Monseratte, a huge hill overlooking the city. There is a restaurant at the top but $40 a head was a little out of our budget so we settled for hot chocolate and a breathtaking panorama of Bogotá at night.

Other days were spent visiting art galleries, gold gilded churches, wondering the historical parts of the city, drinking freshly-made Mora juice (blackberry), a cinema evening to watch Mr. and Mrs. (the opening scene is set in Bogotá so it got a big cheer from the audience) and a visit to Maloka, an incredible interactive science museum complex with a 3d cinema, hours of fun! Oh and recovering from a particularly bad attack of bed bugs but I wont go into detail.

Known by its narrow door, characteristic of the colonial architecture of the area of the Candlemas in Bogota, you enter one of the oldest and most traditional restaurants or "aguapanelerías" of the capital. With more of a century of existence, "the False Door" still includes in its menu, the memorable chocolate complete (hot chocolate, bread and cheese), the water of panela and its own tamales of the region. As he affirms the owner of the place, Carlos Sabogal, "the food that is sold is typical santafereña, although with some alterations due to the so diverse population of the city".

In 1816 Aguapanelería, as it was called then, in one of the streets near the Plaza Bolivar opened for business. "the people continue coming to the place, because she has already become for them a tradition"
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