Our “plan” for this whole trip was to visit Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. When it came time to leave La Paz for Quito we decided to splurge and fly… The bus would have taken about 58 hours.
Even though we were splurging, we still wanted the most economical flights possible. Turns out the cheapest flights have connections in both Bogotá and Guayaquil, and it worked out a few hundred dollars cheaper still if we spent a few days looking around Colombia… how could we turn down the opportunity?
We flew into Bogotá early on a Sunday morning, with no hotel booked and a very basic idea of what to do. The guide book said there is a café with delicious breakfasts, so that’s where we had the taxi driver drop us off. Then we discovered that the entire city shuts down on Sundays. The square was empty, all businesses closed. Just two out of place backpackers wandering aimlessly in the post dawn streets.
We soon made friends. A drug addict asked Michael for money, the more he was turned down the more aggressive he got. When Michael said he had no money (true, we’d just flown in), the guy threatened to check Michael’s pockets. I rang the next doorbell and hoped that someone would open the door. The hostel was kind enough to let us in. More than that they gave us a bed way before check in, and a serve of breakfast even though we hadn’t stayed the night.
That’s one thing that we noticed about Bogotá, addicts. In our travels so far through Peru and Bolivia, there have been beggars but they were almost always poor campesinas. They ask for money or offer a lolly for a donation, if you say no they move on. In Bogotá every single outing we were harassed or followed by aggressive addicts begging for money. Their tactic seemed to be to scare people into handing over cash, whereas the campesinas would tug on your heartstrings. Maybe the increase in addicts is a sign of Colombia’s relative wealth, or it’s position in the drug trafficking supply chain.
Oh gosh, this is making Bogotá sound awful… let’s start again.
Bogotá is a beautiful city with colonial architecture and great infrastructure. There are broad avenues with bus only lanes, making public transport fast and easy. The area of La Candelaria is the heart of the city, it is packed with people visiting restaurants and bars (except on Sundays).
We visited the Gold Museum, a much more interesting site than it may sound.
We rode the antique-ish cable car (built 1953) up to the viewpoint at the top of the mountain Monserrate. There are a number of cafés at the top, with excellent views and a church at 3152 metres.
We had hoped to go back down by foot, because it is meant to be a lovely walk, but it seems they only allow pedestrians in the morning. Instead, we took the funny little train thing. It’s on tracks but has mechanical cogs since the incline is so steep, and due to this slope as well the carriage is odd shaped, we were in the top section, the people in the middle stood at my foot level, and I couldn’t see the people in the front of the carriage.
Triangle shaped train carriage
Bogotá’s Colón Theatre is the oldest in South America and the interior is absolutely beautiful.
Even the ceiling is fancy
Rather than take a tour as offered in the day, we went to see an evening show; Macbeth in Spanish. Due to buying last minute tickets at the door, we were right up the top of the balconies sitting next to the spotlight guy. The production was amazing, actors great, script a little beyond me. Not a bad way to see the theatre (and a nice end to our anniversary).
The stage, as seen from the great height of our seats
We made friends with the psychologist sitting next to us at the theatre. She insisted on showing us the sights. The three of us walked through the Plaza Bolivar, rather quite late at night. She pointed out where a violent coup de etat took place and historic buildings where famous Colombians lived. We crossed back to the square where we had the taxi from the airport drop us, it was packed with people. There was a busker doing flame throwing tricks to a huge audience, and cafés overflowing with people. We saw the psychologist to a taxi and were then followed by a teen beggar all the way back to our hostal.
Wandering around the hill, trying to find a way into the park
And that was our two days in Bogotá.
but not the end of our adventures in Colombia…