Sunday Oct 14-18 – Travel to Bogota, Colombia

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October 18th 2018
Published: October 23rd 2018
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Sunday Oct 14-18 – Travel to Bogota, Colombia

We flew with Virgin Airlines to LAX then with Avianca Airlines to Bogota, staying at the Cranky Croc Hotel in the middle of the city old town (Centro Historico). Leaving Brisbane at 9.30pm after saying goodbye to Kerrie and after Adam dropped us off, and after making some last minute phone calls and email.

We had 2 ½ hours in LAX and we needed all of that. The flight to Bogota was around 7 hours, arriving at 7.45am on 15/10. We flew through the night from Brisbane-LAX and also from LAX to Bogota with the time-zone changes. We had organised a hotel shuttle, but we didn’t see anyone holding up our name so caught a taxi, no problems. Straight away we saw how cheap things were in Bogota. The other aspect we noticed was how short of breath we were at this sudden higher altitude of 2,600m.

Finding the hotel easily we checked in, immediately hearing an Australian accent. It is in the heart of La Candelaria and is the newest and cleanest hostel in Bogota. Run by Aussie ex-pat Andy and his crew, this historic building has been completely remodelled and features a wet bar, indoor barbecue and cafe serving breakfast and the Friday night all you can eat barbecue. The hostel also included a huge kitchen, clean rooms with lots of hot water, 2 outdoor patios, free coffee, excellent Wi-Fi and Internet terminals, laundry facilities. Andy has been in Bogota for 13 years.

After the amazing shower we tried their breakfast and it ‘hit the spot’, including the coffee. We felt refreshed so decided to go for a walk. We learnt from the owner of the hotel that it was a public holiday – Columbo day celebrating the landing of Christopher Colombo in Nicaragua, but they now celebrate the diversity of races in Colombia. Many of the streets around the 2 main squares were closed and full of stalls and people. There weren’t many cars on the road which was a real plus. Check out the photos of some of the unusual things for sale. There was music on each corner as well.

We had pollo (chicken) empanadas for lunch, a Spanish specialty. We then hit the wall and decided to have a short sleep. That carried us through the rest of the afternoon. Having a light dinner, we flopped into bed.

After an incredible sleep and after another breakfast in our hotel, we headed for Mt Monserrat. Walking along the main Avenue Jimenez, we soon arrived at the funicular which took Tom up to the catholic church on top of the mountain. I decided to walk up, despite not being fully altitude-ready. After a tough first 200m, plus a stop and a drink, I felt better to keep climbing up the many stone steps. The altitude forced me to stop from time to time, reminding me to appreciate the spectacular view of this large city. The legs were starting to feel a little shattered ¾ the way up and then I came across a 200m flat section – just in time. I felt good enough to complete the last very steep steps and saw Tom on the balcony on the side of the church, waving.

At the top in addition to the large church was a market with very touristy items for sale, a café, couple of restaurants and a garden with many religious statues and beautiful plants and lighting for night time. There was also the church administration and book sales. There is also a cable car going up the mountain, but it wasn’t working in this Tuesday.

After having a coffee and a bread roll snack, we both caught the funicular down. The ride took 5 minutes, unlike my 1 hour climb up the mountain.

We walked all the way down Ave Jimenez and turned south finding the Tourist Information Office to get a better map of the city and a few more hints.

It was starting to lightly shower, not enough to put our raincoats on. We found a restaurant for lunch, but I won’t “write home” on the standard of the menu.

Next, we were off to the spectacular Oro (gold) Museum. It was interesting in so far as the story depicted by the displays ie way metallurgy influence the cultural tribes and mythology of the Americas. We also noted massive thick heavy doors we had to walk through to see some serious gold displays. It was then back to the hotel for a coffee and sit down.

Our third full day in Bogota started with a visit to the National Museum. The National Museum is the oldest in the country and one of the oldest in the continent, built in 1823. Its fortress architecture is built in stone and brick. The plant includes arches, domes and columns forming a sort of Greek cross over which 104 prison cells are distributed, with solid wall façade. It was known as the Panóptico (inspired by the Panopticon prison) and served as a prison until 1946. In 1948, the building was adapted for National Museum and restored in 1975.

The museum houses a collection of over 20,000 pieces including works of art and objects representing different national history periods. Permanent exhibitions present archaeology and ethnography samples from Colombian artefacts dating 10,000 years BC, up to twentieth century indigenous and afro- Colombian art and culture. Founders and New Kingdom of Granada room houses Liberators and other Spanish iconography; the round room exhibits a series of oleos from Colombia painting history. It was very well presented.

We had an excellent lunch of crepes and fresh fruit before trying our hand at negotiating the Bogota bus system. The lady from the café we had lunch at, showed us where to buy the green ad with is loaded with our elected amount of money. I used my google translate to ask her where to buy them. She went out of her way to take us to the bus stop. She then handed us over to a Colombian who had lived in England for 8 years so his English was very good.

After catching the right bus we arrived at Simone Bolivar where the Parque El Largo was. We walked along the lake then decided to head for the Parque Metropolitano. It was so massive we didn’t quite make it. We were wishing was had hired bikes.

Bogotá is the Colombian city with the most extensive and comprehensive network of bike paths. Bogotá’s bike paths network or Ciclorutas de Bogotá in Spanish is also one of the most extensive in the world and the most extensive in Latin America. The network is integrated with the TransMilenio bus system which has bicycle parking facilities.

We decided to go back to the bus station and return home. The busses were packed, so packed that I hadn’t realised that Tom didn’t get on the same bus as me. I could see that only he could fit onto the bus so I went to the next door of the bus. Tom said his backpack was stopping the bus door from closing, so he hopped off. Then we both realised we had separated. But never fear, I knew I had 3 stops before getting off the bus but didn’t realise that I was on an express bus. I saw my stop go past!! I got off the next stop, walked over the overpass to get on the next bus going back to Simone Bolivar where I was hoping Tom was waiting for me. He was! The bus he had caught wasn’t an express so he could get off at the right station.

Next, we found that one of the legs of the bus route was not running as University students were matching for better conditions so some of the streets where the busses run was closed, so no busses. We ended up walking for 45 minutes back to our hotel.

We bought a couple of beers and breakfast for the next morning (as we were flying early to La Macarena to see the Cano Cristalis rainbow river) and flopped on our bed for ½ hour to recover.

We then had a lovely, tasty meal at a Turkish restaurant. As we were leaving the restaurant, we heard shouting and saw fighting in the street and then a massive number of heavily armed bike and riot police arrived. Some of the uni students we saw street marching were now drunk and causing trouble. We saw the march as we were walking back to our hotel earlier. There were riot police everywhere to ensure the march was orderly (which is was).

The issue calmed down so that we were able to walk through the riot police, back to our hotel. A little excitement for the night.

Although the crime rate per capita shows that Bogotá is safer than Washington D.C. and most other Latin American cities, crime is rampant but has been drastically reduced over the past 5 years. Muggings happen, at any hour, and may occasionally be violent. Bogota's major safety problems are the drugged, homeless people that are found all around the city and muggers with knives. We are always careful, everywhere we go in the world. We have certainly seen an abundant number of police dotted around the city streets, including all tourist sites.

That night we slept well and got up before 6.00am to go to the International airport to catch a charter flight to La Macarena for 5 days. We were coming back to Bogota for another 1 ½ days after seeing the Caño Cristales river. We were then flying to Mexico City for our next tour.

Here is a bit about Bogota:

With a population of about 8.8 million people, Bogota sits approximately 2640m above sea level in the Colombian Andes region. Orientation is relatively easy, as the mountains to the east are generally visible from most parts of the city.

To understand the sheer size of the city, consider that Mexico City and New York City are the only North American cities larger than Bogotá. In fact, in 2008 the World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC) from the United Kingdom ranked Bogotá as a world city comparable to San Francisco, Washington DC, Dubai, Buenos Aires or Berlin, grouped by their economic, political and cultural developments. What this means for the traveller is a world class urban destination.

We found Bogotá to be a city of contrasts, as we prepared ourselves to find a hectic balance between the new and the old; the peaceful and the frantic. We encountered century-old plazas and churches shadowed by towering skyscrapers was fantastic to see (photos again will show you). Stret art is abundant too so the camera was clicking away.

We found peaceful tree-lined bicycle routes cut through by wild-traffic avenues. Bogota is a city with many layers. From internationally recognised universities to regional offices for multinational companies, Bogota is Colombia's capital for official business dealings. It is a city that caters to a population that has been exposed to European and North American influences, which ensures that anything from traditional dishes (Ajiaco) to sushi or fast food restaurants can be found. It's one of the most modern and metropolitan cities of South America and the world. Bogota is divided into 4 sections: The South which is mainly the poorer section of the city; El Centro (where we stayed), which translates "Center", is the city's original Downtown and hosts most of its traditional heritage locations, city and public offices, and financial headquarters. El Occidente, which is home to Bogota's major sporting venues and outdoor parks, as well as residence areas for mainly middle and some upper class living; and The North which is where most modern development has taken place and combines many upscale living spaces with affluent shopping centres, boutiques, cafes, nightclubs, and many new business neighbourhoods offering headquarters to many multinational corporations.

Additional photos below
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23rd October 2018

Can you believe it Pam, we received a travel blog email to inform us that you wrote a blog entry! It has only taken 2 years for this to happen (lol). An interesting experience you had with the bus system!! Safe travels xxo .
23rd October 2018

Receiving the travel blog
Was that the travel blog I forwarded separately to you Jude?
24th October 2018

2 years ago
That is inctedible Jude. Something is going wrong that is for sure.
24th October 2018

Pam it is very interesting for me. We have quite a lot of students from Colombia. I used to phone the Aus Embassy there a bit. They all had a story to tell, kidnaping extortion etc. I know it was nearly 20 years ago, now seems to have changed a bit. It looks such a beautiful place. Cheers Marg.
24th October 2018

Thank goodness it has chanted Margaret. It must have been a terrible place 20 years ago or even 10 years. The govt has done a great job. I hippie the Fark don't get back into power. Pam
3rd November 2018

First Travel Blog
Now I can settle down to have another holiday!!!! Keep enjoying xxx

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