Bogota

Final day in the big city
Bogota, Colombia

 


While on holiday, I never seem to give myself much of a break!

I left at 4am, in a taxi to the airport. It didn’t take too long and by 4.20am I was arriving into a deserted airport terminal. Turns out check in doesn’t open until 4.45am – and then closes again at 5am….doesn’t seem to give much time for check in!! So I had to sit and wait. It was soon 5am and check in was finally opening.

I dropped my bags and made my way through the rather lax security to sit in the waiting lounge. No open shops or cafes, was getting a bit peckish. The flight was supposed to leave at 6am. We started boarding at 5.45am, and shortly after 6am there was an announcement in Spanish. As far as I could understand we were waiting for 10 minutes for something. A short while later, another announcement that I didn’t understand at all. But no one was very happy and people were taking their seat belts off. And getting up.

We were getting off. I had to ask the crew what was happening. Turns out Bogota airport is closed due to fog. So we have to wait. No idea how long. This is fun. Or not. Was well worth getting up at 3.30am for. By 7.15am, we were heading back onto the plane. And at 7.30am we were off. Thank goodness!

We landed into the city at 8.45am and were in the terminal at 9am. My bag came out almost first! Like a first ever! We were an hour and a half late. Not as bad as it could have been!

I now have 9 hours in Bogota. I had arranged to have a guide take me around the city for the day. But now I was late. Luckily they had whatsapp, so a quick few messages later and the driver had found me! Really, how did the world cope without on-demand Internet and messaging.

We drove into the city. Enroute I found out that the airport had been closed for 5 hours this morning. There was rather a lot of disruption – so many planes cancelled and delayed. Lucky I wasn’t totally cancelled!

The city wasn’t that exciting to begin with. Just dull grey buildings and graffiti so far. Our first stop was at Monserrate and I was dropped off and met my guide for the day! I’ve never hired a personal guide for the day (I felt like such a tourist!!) but it seemed a good idea given that I only have a few hours and I don’t want to wander around the city by myself. And at £70 for the day, wasn’t too expensive.

My guide was Colombian, having lived in Bogota most of his life, apart from 7 years in Italy and was the same age as me. The first thing we did was catch the funicular up to Monserrate Sanctuary.

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This is the second highest mountain surrounding the city of Bogota. It is an important pilgrimage site, with a church situated at the top. We could have walked, but it’s a 3 hour hike and I don’t really have time for that today! So funicular it was! And it was very steep!!

Once at the top, we were now at 3,152m above sea level and heading into altitude sickness territory. After a while of wandering around at the top I did feel a bit weird. Luckily there is help on hand – coca tea!!

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I’ve not had this since I was in Peru and Bolivia 4 years ago. They make it in a similar way here – coca leaves (same leaves used to make cocaine) soaked in hot water with a lot of sugar. It actually tastes good!

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Colombians seem to go quite mad over Christmas. Cartagena was full of Christmas decoration shops and many places are already covered in lights. Monserrate was no different – the entire walkways were covered in special Christmas lights and tacky decorations! There was a service happening in the church and it was packed. Just up behind the Church was a row of stalls selling the usual touristy stuff and some food stalls.

The main reason for a tourist to come all the way up here – the view. Today however, was rather obscured by the copious amounts of fog. Typical! We could still see quite a lot of the city, but the whole grandeur of the endless city was rather lost in a large grey cloud. That was a shame!

After about an hour of wandering around, we headed back down on the funicular train to a more respectable altitude of 2,640m.

We walked through a park and along graffiti covered streets. There was a fake river running through the street – apparently the result of an architecture competition! It was fairly busy around, but apparently quite safe around here. Although I was given instructions to walk as if I knew where I was going. And to put my camera away if he thought people looked dodgy. I was still glad I wasn’t by myself!

There is graffiti everywhere. Some of it is incredibly detailed – works of art.

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Next up – the Museo de Oro. The gold museum. I went to the smaller one in cartagena – which is not a patch on this one! And I had no clue what I was looking at. This time I had a running commentary! All the gold, copper, bronze, platinum, stone, pottery and cloth artifacts were found across Colombia. Mostly up by Santa Marta – where I had just come from this morning! And most dated around 700 – 1,200. That makes them incredibly old. And they are incredibly detailed. Animals, jewellery, masks, statues. So much.

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Some worn by shamans, some by women, others by normal people, some for ceremony’s and others as offerings to gods. Frogs, bats, Jaguars, birds, just so much!! I hate museums. But this was so cool!! So much gold and such amazing shapes! After leaving the museum, it began to threaten to rain. I realised I hadn’t eaten yet. And it was nearly midday.

We bumped into a couple of fruit stalls and I got a massive cup of mango, papaya and banana (60p). Yum! We passed through a street full of jewellery shops. Shortly followed by a load of shops selling plastic Jesus and Mary figures – apparently they are really popular here and some people will have the huge ones (literally 2m tall) in their houses!

We were now in the old, historic part of the city – La Candelaria, full of colourful colonial buildings and narrow streets. There were cute cafes, a lot of hostels and a lot of hippy shops. A bit too hippy for me – the smell of drugs in the air and rather questionable things being sold! Many of the small bars around here were selling chica. A fermented corn (alcoholic) drink. I’ve tried it before (in Peru) and hated it. So I wasn’t going to repeat that experience. Apparently it’s a very local drink here, but is dying out as people turn to beer instead. Around La Candelaria is one of the few places in the city that you can still drink chica.

As the rain started, we ducked into the Botero museum. Which was free to enter! Botero is a celebrated Colombian artist – apparently they are few and far between! His specialty – painting and sculpting fat people. And fat stuff – like fat fruit.

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The work is instantly recognisable! There were a couple of rooms that were not his work and it was clear straight away. The Plaza de Bolivar is the largest square in the city and is surrounded by old buildings, now the administrative centre of the city. The Cathedral Primada – the largest church in the country, an old shopping area and some buildings are now part of a university. On the square was a large Christmas tree! And lots of people who seemed to be having a llama party!

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Llamas are not indigenous to Colombia. They are brought from Peru and the people hassle you to pay to have a photo with them. I opted not to have a llama photo. At one end of La Candaleria was an old market. Full of fruits, vegetables, meat, plastic flowers, phone booths, just about everything you could want! As we headed out of the market I was told to put my camera away. Walk fast. And quickly head to a cafe. Some dodgy people around. I didn’t need telling twice! The cafe we ducked into was really cute! Chandeliers hanging from the low ceiling, mosaic floor and pink flowers on each table. I ordered a maracuya juice and a guava pastry. Was a bit peckish! After a while, the guide seemed to think it was a good idea to have some shots. So shots of aguardiente – a local alcohol – were ordered. Turns out it’s like sambuca (which I really like!).

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By now it was gone 2pm. And our driver was supposed to be picking us up about now. But was stuck in traffic. Apparently rain means even more traffic than usual. So we wandered around a bit more and thankfully at 2.45pm she finally turned up! I was getting a bit worried! It ended up being a fairly quick, yet slow in the traffic, drive to the airport. Taking half an hour to drive just 8 miles. I had a great day in the city! I saw so much in such a short space of time. Glad I wasn’t staying longer, not the most exciting of cities!

Colombians and people who have been in the country too long have to pay a tax to leave. If you’ve only visited for a short (I didn’t find out how long ‘short’ was) then you don’t need to pay, but have to get a piece of paper stamped which means you are exempt. This seemed a bit of a weird system and I had no idea I had to do this, so was barked some rude instructions when I tried to join the check in queue, as I hadn’t yet got my stamped paper. The check in queue was moving so slow. I waited for nearly an hour to drop my bag. Ridiculous given the queue really wasn’t very long. Finally though to the shops and able to spend my last few pesos!

My flight was at 6pm, back to Madrid. Sad times, can’t believe my holiday is over already. I want to go travelling again!! This time we didn’t appear to be delayed, yet didn’t take off until gone 7pm. On the way here I wasn’t too impressed with the food on these rubbish Iberia planes. However this meal was a complete joke. My pre-ordered vegan meal arrived. A starter of plain pasta and HAM. A main course of plain pasta and two tomatoes. A slice of CHEESE. And two slices of kiwi. Seriously. Beyond ridiculous. Luckily I have a bag of apples with me. So hungry after barley eating all day!!

I didn’t manage to be vegan the entire trip – I ate cheese several times. I would have starved otherwise. Particularly in Colombia, being vegetarian is a very alien concept! If something has no meat, guaranteed it has cheese instead! The 10 hour flight went very slowly. I couldn’t sleep, was just so uncomfortable. We landed half an hour late into Madrid, so I had an hour to make my way to my final flight to London.

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