Exploring Bogota

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

After our mammoth sleep we felt much better. Breakfast was provided by the hostel and consisted of eggs scrambled with some spring onions and tomato and herbs, with a bread roll and coffee.  It was all pretty mediocre but we ate it because it was included in the price and we didn't have a better offer.  The coffee in each new country always takes some getting used to.  It was thick with grounds/coffee dust.  The milk had been heated up and left to sit, so now had a thick scum on the top, which floated on the top of my coffee.  It didn’t look to appealing, but once you had spooned the scum of the top it was drinkable.  The nice thing about the breakfast was that it was on a school dinner style table, so we got chatting a little bit to a Brazilian couple and a German lady.  Along with the French speaking Quebec brothers we chatted to at the airport, we still hadn’t met anyone who spoke English as a first language.  This seemed unusual to us compared to our previous travels. 

We spent the day exploring the Candelaria area of Bogota.  It’s only a few blocks away from the hostel and is the part of town full of old colonial buildings and museums.  As we walked down to the main Plaza de Bolivar we could hear some commotion, and arrived to see that a couple of hundred people were there protesting with banners and loud speakers.  We, of course, had no idea what they were protesting about.  There were also a hundred or so police there with riot shields and guns, which seemed quite disproportional to the number and the mood of the protestors.  We presumed that the protest had only just started up and that more people would flood in at any time.  During the few days that we spent in Bogota we saw a few demonstrations like these and occasionally the traffic would be stopped for a protest march.  We also noticed that the police were always in force in the plaza, as we learnt these were the buildings of the Supreme Court and congress.  The buildings around the plaza had been destroyed two or three times each from rioting over the past century.

We stopped at a little café for a snack.  Kory tried pollo pastel, which is a chicken filled triangle shaped pastry.  I opted for a milo con leche (milky hot chocolate).  We managed to say what we would like and the number and to pay, so we were pretty happy that although it was only a small interaction, we were still able to speak more of the local language than we had ever opted to on previous travels. 

We walked around the area and took in some of the sights.  It started to rain and it seemed to make the city feel quite depressing.  It felt quite grey and claustrophobic.  This feeling may have been increased by our expectations of sunshine, the perceived segregation created by the language barrier or just by my concerns of the upcoming cycle touring in the rain.

We wondered into a café and tried to ask for the menu.  Following the success from our snack stop I thought we would be fine.  The woman seemed to not understand my interpretation of the word menu, even though it is spelt exactly the same and pronounced very similarly.  Instead she just asked us if we wanted soup or crepe, and chicken or beef.  Ok, so we are getting chicken soup then.  Well, it was a very nice chicken soup and I was beginning to feel full, when she brought out the main course of fried chicken breast, with rice and vegetables, along with a glass of lemonade.  It eventually dawned on us that this was the meal of the day and therefore there wasn’t a menu as such.  When it came to paying we had no idea how much it would cost, but we were happy to see that la cuenta was only 11,000 (6-7 dollars). 

After this extremely filling meal we went back to the hostel to hang out for a bit.  There seemed to be quite a few travellers from South America, or at least everyone else could speak Spanish what appeared to be fluently.  The rain was still coming down so lots of people were also hiding in the hostel.   There was quite a nice feel to the place and Kory spent some time lying in the hammock until he started to get wet from the guttering above him.

We thought we would check out the hostel bar in the evening, but it was pretty quiet.  The bartender took great delight in our slow going attempt to order two beers and replied with a lengthy, animated Spanish response.  We thought we would move on but struggled to find a chilled out hang out bar, most of them seemed loud and full of locals or expensive.  We grabbed some street food that some local young boys were eating.  It was called Arepas con queso a corn patty with cheese, I thought it tasted like mashed potato and Kory thought it was a bread, so we clearly don’t have very refined palates.  It was only later when we could look it up in the dictionary that we learned what it actually was.

We spent the rest of the evening back at the hostel, with Leanne, the German lady and three Argentinians who were in a band.  They were playing a guitar and a small drum/bongo kind of object.  They had a gig in Bogota at the weekend and told us to come along but we are hoping to be gone by then.  It was nice to chill out with them though for the evening and have a couple of beers whilst listening to them practicing for their gig.  Kory of course needed a small snack before bed so we went to a greasy spoon/take away and he had a taco ranchero, which looked pretty horrible.  It was like a deep fried sausage taco, but he insists it was nice. 

I’m not convinced Bogota will go down as a top pick travel destination as I feel it lacks much charm or character.  This review may be impinged upon by the rain and the low grey clouds that have hovered all day.  However, the locals have been friendly, welcoming and patient with our lack of language ability.  All in all, not a bad first day back on the travelling scene.
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