Get to airport for our first of 2 flights today to Bogota. At this point we leave the truck and AJ. Am a bit nervous for him as he is driving through to the west border to meet us in a week or so but am also a bit jealous of all the things he will see that we wont. He is getting a car to drive in front of him to check things out and someone in the cab with him too so fingers crossed will be safe.
We then get our small prop plane to Puerto somewhere and then onto Bogota
. Scenery is very green and not sure if its coffee or drugs. Met by Luis at Bogota airport who welcomes us and tells us how brave we are to come here (he is joking) he is our local guide and a bus to be taken to the north of the city and our hotel. City is pretty huge but quite quiet on a Sunday. Our hotel is very nice and in a safe area with a lot of red brick houses. It reminds me of Bedford Park in Chiswick if you know it. Not what I was expecting at all! We also meet up with 2 others of our group who arrived here a few days ago to spend more time here. Dont have long here so head out in the afternoon to get the cable car up the hill to Montserrate. Manage to arrive 5 mins after it shuts which is v annoying. So we (Dave, Abi - girl from UK and I) walk into the old town. Streets are very busy and we find Plaza Bolivar which is the huge main square here. It is cobbled and has massive buildings around it all in different architectural styles but very colonial. It reminds me more of Madrid or Prague than I would ever imagine. We head back home in twilight and then head out for a meal in the Zona Rosa. So far feel pretty safe and havent had any probs at all (fingers crossed).
We go to La Bonga del Sinu which is a meat restaurant and is recommended by Luis. It is fantastic and Dave reckons its the best steak he has ever had (and he has had a few). Praise indeed!
We then go to a local salsa bar for a drink and Dave and I pretend to salsa much to everyones amusement. I am sure all the locals must practice daily from birth. Luis drives us home in the minibus and just goes through red lights. Apparently the police recommended this about 15 years ago to avoid carjacking and everyone still ignores the red lights now!
Next morning we all go out for a half day tour around the city. We start at a market in the south of the city (we are told to mainly try and avoid the south as can be unsafe) which is very typical full of usual stuff plus lots of pets kept very cruelly. We are then taken to a stall offering crab juice. We all stared as we saw live crabs put in a juicer followed by oysters, milk and fortified wine. The crabs were still swimming around at this point. There was NO way I was going to drink this. However after they had put in some pink powder in and vitamins in it it almost looked appetising. I will try anything once so did and it tasted ok but was a bit crunchy! Allegedly is an aphrodisiac but surprisingly enough it was the last thing on any of our minds!
We then drive across town to the old town through the cobbled streets and past lovely colonial well-preserved buildings to the Plaza Bolivar again . It is all very pretty. Then onto the National park to see a 3D map of Columbia and up to a viewpoint of N Bogota. It is a massive city and is bordered by mountains all across the north. Then we go to Usaquen which is an old village which has been subsumed into the city. We go around a market there and Dave and I decide to stay rather than go back to the hotel. We find a restaurant full of locals and have a great lunch of soup full of beans and chicken milanese with the usual rice, chips and salad plus mango juice
. Is less than a pound each! We walk down to one of the Avenues to get a bus home and ask one of the many military men (who actually make you feel quite secure here) which bus we should be getting. He tells us which one so we get on. 30 mins later we are nowhere near our hotel and heading very south! We are both a bit nervous but also intrigued (I am desperate to see some really dodgy bits of Bogota). We eventually ask the bus driver who obviously tells us we are miles away so we get off. Streets are full of people and kids playing in any open space. Dont feel threatened at all and get a bus back north and then the Transmilenia (their overland bus service which is virtually the same as an underground. Hope that makes sense!) We get that to the old town and run uphill to get the cable car to Montserrate (realising we could just miss it again). We arrive 5 mins before the last funicular up so go up the very steep hill to the top and have a wander around to see the monastery and the view before a quick descent down again. Manage to get home fine on public transport and in the dark. Few locals have said welcome to us today. It is nice that people acknowledge you and also they recognise how few people want to come here due to the media etc hype. So far have felt safer here than Quito though.
Sunday morning went for a wander around Ipiales and feel more confident in daylight. The main square has a nice church and small stalls are being set up with religious displays. After a wander around and some breakfast we notice a lot of shops are opening which we werent expecting on a Sunday so stock up a bit.