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August 13th 2010
Published: August 13th 2010
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Dear All

Greetings from Bogota! The highest point of my trip so far, at 2500m, and up here it sure is nice weather! Sunny, with a bit of cloud and rain, but an average of around 15 degrees! What a treat after the sticky humidity of the Caribbean coast for all of my trip until now, and no need to ask for air conditioning in my hotel any more, but hot wáter instead. It really does feel like a different world up here compared to Colombia´s Caribbean coast, and a welcome respite.

Biggest news for today´s entry is, alas, I appear to have had some problems with the memory card of my camera. It seems a virus in a Cartagenan (¿) internet café I was in has erased the software on my memory card which is needed to download photos on to a computer. Thus, I can see the photos on my camera perfectly well, but can´t do the necessary to get ´em up and downloaded onto my blog. Worse still, I´m not sure if I´ll be able to print them out back in the UK. Took it to a few camera shops here in Bogotá, and they said the best I can do is buy a new memory card, which fortunately still has the software so I can thus still download further photos, but they could do nothing for all those taken up till now…! Arrghhh! Anyone any ideas of how to do this, or of a shop in London Town which could perhaps hack into my card and get those darn photos back??

Anyway, after careful consideration, I think I´m gonna still continue to upload photos onto my blog, but just be doubly sure the computer I´m using does not display any signs of dodginess (the culprit I was using actually did show lots of virus signs that I did not heed, so maybe my fault…).

Back to the journey - here I am in Bogota. Took a fantastic 1-hour long flight from Cartagena, which was 19 hours shorter than the bus trip I´d planned, and only $15 dearer!! And Avianca, Colombia´s national carrier and who I flew with, was simply just amazing - right up there in my books with Singapore Airlines as being the best airline in the world. Get this- for an hour long flight, for only $60, there were personalised monitors for each seat, with myriad choice of movies, TV, music, games and the like, as well as complimentary juice and a USB port I could recharge my MP3 players in - Ryanair, take note!! And the short flight has also given me an extra day of travel, hooray!

Cartagena was just amazing!! Aside from my shaky form of arrival, and fortunately my American fellow traveller Brad did arrive safely albeit a bit delayed due to the bus taking a detour, presumably as the road block was still going on way into the late hours (again, very glad I decided to chip when I did…!), the city just has to be one of the most beautiful I´ve ever seen (and I´m sure you´ll gather I´ve seen a lot…!). The historical colonial centre was square upon square, alleyway upon alleyway, of colonial gorgeousness and splendour. Loads of churches, lovely Little cobbled streets, hundreds of overhanging balconies covered with bougainvillea and flowers of all kinds, and all surrounded by majestic city walls built by the Spanish. Incidentally, the city was the main port in Hispanic times for plundered gold from the South American continent to be shipped back to European lands, and thus the Spanish protected it with their most extensive walls and fortress system in the world. Indeed, the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas was their largest and most protected fort ever built, and I believe the setting for the final scenes from “Romancing the Stone”, classic 80s film set in Colombia which I just have to watch when I get back.

My first day in Cartagena was spent checking out this fantastic city. The second I took a boat tour to the nearby Islas del Rosario and Playa Blanca, a tried and tested tourist trap of the city. My boat held up to 300 passengers, and there were two other similar boats as well as lots of Little speedboats, each plying the same route 3 hours away from the city towards a beautiful archipelago of tropical islands, the Islas del Rosario, and then a 2 hour sojourn on one of the most beautiful beaches I´ve seen so far, Playa Blanca (though still doesn´t top the PNN Tayrona, although this time you could swim) - a 2km stretch of White, sugary sanded beach with coral reefs just offshore to snorkel around. Unfortunately, every other boat on the trip was also there, but most people were interested in banana boats, beach massages and the like, while I happied away the hours snorkelling, and seeing some beautifully coloured tropical fish, lots of spiky things I´m not sure what they´re called, a couple of jelly fish and a small ray!! It was really nice, and the sea air from the boat trip was refreshing.

Yesterday morning flew to here, Bogotá, and staying in a beautiful hotel, my favourite kind which I would describe only as “faded grandeur” - a hotel which probably once was, but is a bit rusty round the edges now, thus making them quite cheap but still strikingly beautiful. Huge, sweeping staircases, high ceilings and iron-worked balconies. A great room, unfortunately overlooking seemingly one of the busiest and noisiest intersections in La Candelaria, the student zone and historical centre of Bogotá. Still, despite the constant horn-honking, it´s worth it for the hotel.

As mentioned, Bogotá is certainly a breath of fresh air, literally, though really not too much to see here. Just spent today joining the crowds in walking round the city of 8 million, taking a peek at the famous “Museo del Oro” with numerous glittering examples of pre-Colombian golden treasures which escaped the clutches of the Spaniards, and trying to figure out the complicated “Trans-Milenio” transport system. This is, instead of an underground metro, the city´s main transport system involving a massive fleet of red bendy-buses steaming up and down the mainly north-south axis of the city along its own specially constructed roads. Indeed, a very complicated system which I didn´t believe would be, and this coming from a guy who knew the Moscow metro system fairly darn well… And rush hour was just murder - I´ve not been on the Tokyo metro system before, but imagine it to be quite similar.

Anyway, less of the complaints, it really is a nice city.

Tomorrow, am catching a bus up north along the Andes mountain range to a town called San Gil, dubbed “adventure capital of Colombia” - looking forward to hopefully regaling a few more adventure stories from there - and heading back again towards the Venezuelan border. In the meantime, am uploading some photos (having carefully checked this computer...), but only from Bogota. Unfortunately, my most beautiful photos taken on this trip so far, from Cartagena, may have to wait till England to be uploaded, if at all…. ¿pero así, qué se puede hacer?

Laters y´all

Alex

PS Whoa - just read on the BBC website there was a car bomb detonated in Bogotá yesterday!! Seems to be far from where I´m hanging around, so hopefully not too many worries there...


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Current Political Sentiment

"Uribe leaves, but the guerrillas remain" New Colombian president, Santos, was sworn in on my first day of arrival in Colombia. The hope is he will continue his predecessors excellent steps towards ridding the countryof its guerrillas, and thus its poor international reputation.


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