Trip Start Jan 01, 2001
Trip End Dec 28, 2010

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Thursday, January 8, 2009

Set of fairly early after a reasonable nights sleep to get to Bogotá. Once again it was a case of getting to the bottom of one mountain range and then going up the next and so w did not arrive until lunchtime. Once here we then had to find our destination which was the Mercedes garage near the airport. This we thought would be fairly easy since airports are always signed, not so this one is not. That said after asking a few times we actually managed to get there with no real problem and drove in to get the service and repairs done. It was all painless since the reception man spoke some English and the workshop manager spoke excellent English. As usual we asked to stay with the vehicle and they agreed but we have to move next to the security hut for the night since this place is the main Mercedes garage in Colombia and is owned directly by Mercedes in Germany and they do not allow people to stay in the vehicles. Anyway they have started work and at 6.30 pm we moved outside (N W
9th - This morning we got ready for 7 to go back into the garage and they then got busy with the work once more.
10th - Still working on vehicle, today we found out it is another public holiday on Monday so another couple of days waiting.
11th - This morning we got the bus into the centre of town, about 8 kms away, makes it easy to get there for the cost of about 30 pence. Luckily it was fairly easy to get our destination since it was a 48 storey tower block, so you just press the button when you want to get of. We decided to visit the National Museum first; this is located in on old city prison dating from the 1850's. The museum covers the complete range of items from prehistoric up to the present day, although there was no English it was all interesting and in fact we spent longer than we expected going around. There were lots of portraits of the various revolutionary figures, but most of these names we did not recognize. At one point they have retained one of the cells as it was originally and this contains lots of original fittings like the bars and locks and shackles. They also showed copies of some of the prison graffiti that had been discovered when they were renovating and presumably why they choose this cell was because it had an original drawing of a group of ships still on the wall behind a Perspex sheet. The items that are supposed to be the highlight are a group of three mummies that are displayed in a reproduced setting similar to where they were found. There is a small model that shows about 20 mummies altogether sitting in different niches in a cliff face. They were quite scary as they still had teeth showing, these are not like the Egyptians, they are hunched in a sitting position and do not have any bandages covering them. From here we walked back past the Church of San Diego, built in the 19th Century out in the farmland, today it is surrounded by several skyscrapers. One of these was the 48 storey block which we were able to get to the top to see the panoramic view all the way round; this was good because it was a nice clear day. It was then back down and a walk towards the centre itself, at one stage we passed 3 churches right next to each other, one called St Francis had a very elaborate gold chancel but we could get no pictures because they were about to have a service. Next to this was the Gold Museum, arguably the most important in the world with over 34,000 gold pieces from all the major pre Hispanic cultures in Columbia. It is a dazzling site; in addition they have some 20,000 other historic items. This one was also laid out wit English explanations and defiantly worth seeing. We turned off the main street here and started to walk through the area called La Candelaria which is the best preserved area of historic buildings. In one of these which dated from 1735 was housed the original mint for the country, the first established in the Americas. Today it is a museum which houses a very interesting display on money from the early Spanish to present day. In addition it has lots of the different presses for minting coins and making bank notes. Most of them actually came from Britain. Carrying on a bit further and we arrived at Plaza de Bolivar at the heart of the old town. Around this are situated the main Government building, the new Palace de Justice ( it replaced the old one burnt down by guerrilla's in 1985), the huge French style Mayors, offices, the main Cathedral Primada (which dates from 1823 and is fairly plain inside) and finally the Capilla de Sagario the only colonial building in the square. Next we had to go through a security check to walk down the next street because it housed the house of the President and was surrounded by the Presidential Guard. At onstage here I wanted a look at an Old Observatory building and went up to the fence. I was shouting to Mike to come and look, whilst he was shouting to me to come back as the Guard was coming down to move me. Our last stop was at the Church of Santa Clara, which is now open as a museum with again a very elaborate gold chancel, a painted vaulted ceiling and more than 100 paintings, statues of saints and altarpieces dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. From here it was time to catch a bus and return to the vehicle.
12th - A fairly overcast and damp day, I should add that as we are at about 8,000ft it is quite cool. The daytime temperature gets up into the high 20's, but at night it drops to about 10 degrees. We spent the day catching up on some chores.
13th - Hanging around the garage whilst they finish the service
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