Bogota. Border trouble, bike trips and beer tips.

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January 6th 2015
Published: January 13th 2015
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Home for three days Home for three days Home for three days

Art work by my hostal casa bellavista in Candlearia, Bogota
I awake on a cold but sunny Bogota morning and reflect on the arrival the night before.
In the film 'Romancing the stone' Kathleen Turner, who plays the part of author Joan Wilder, arrives in Bogota to an airport of chaos and madness. She has to take the bus to Cartagena and gets in the wrong bus. A woman who's never left New York she gets sick climbing the escalator at Bloomingdales.
Quite why I thought my arrival would be the similar to the film is beyond me. A modern, clean and ordered airport, things have changed a lot in 30 yrs since Miss Turner was here.
Having said that I've a feeling I'm going to be probed in places I didn't know you could probe when I leave.

Entering into a country with a huge cocaine exportation problem, as a single traveller with only one bag, who lives in Ibiza, and no real plan was, in hindsight, asking for trouble.

My first immigration official was Jorge. A short man, smartly dressed, gun in belt. Around 30yrs of age a kind face but an inquisitive eye, he beckoned me to his booth.

"Welcome to Colombia. Where have you come from?'
"well sir I flew in from Ibiza, which is where I now live, but I've spent the New Years in Kingston, Jamaica'
"Who are you travelling with?"
"I'm alone"
"Why have you come to Colombia"
"Always wanted to visit here, see the sights, visit done museums, that sort of thing"


I could hear all the alarm bells sounding in Jorge's head.

"You live in Ibiza, you've been to Jamaica, and now you're here to visit museums?" He asked almost sarcastically as he frantically flicked through my passport for the entry stamps.

"Yes" I replied " and learn some more Spanish"

"I see... Please, come with me"

Things were not looking too good for me as I was taken to meet his supervisor. Jorge explained the situation.

Fernando was a senior immigration guy who had heard my story I guess a thousand times. He flicked through my passport and didn't even make eye-contact with me through the entire following conversation.

"So, tell me where you're staying in Colombia" he asked as he read my entry stamps.

"the casa bells vista in the Candlearia' I replied.

" and then?"

"No idea. Guess I'll work that out as I go along"

"And you live in Ibiza? What do you do?"

"I'm an English teacher"

"I see" he said as he stamped my passport but then wrote some information across the visa.

"We'll chat more when you leave. Enjoy your time here and welcome to Colombia"

I'm going to buy some Vaseline on my travels. I think I'm going to need it.

The taxi driver was very concerned when we arrived in a deserted street. So concerned the he reversed into a bollard, damaging his car. He pointed out the damage to me, as if it was my fault. Nevertheless he escorted me to the hostel which was on a narrow cobbled street nearby with no vehicle access.

I finally stepped into my home for the next three nights, settled the bill with a handsome tip to reward his kindness and, having dumped my stuff, went in search of a beer.

A bitterly cold night. I guess being at 2670 meters above sea level, the nights are always this cold, even this close to the equator.

The following morning,
Cable carCable carCable car

Packed in. 4 min ride up to mountain Monseratte.
over a cigarette and coffee I started chatting to Logan. A quiet but thoughtfully spoken dreadlocked dude, aged 23, from Colorado who was taking time out from his job as a snowboard instructor in the Rocky Mountains. He'd just arrived and so we decided to explore the city together after breakfast.

As we were leaving the hostal the receptionist asked if Adrian could tag along. He too had just arrived but couldn't check in for a few hours. No objections at all. It turns out Adrian, from Yorkshire, is a paragliding nut and has taken a year out to travel the world and throw himself off all the best mountains. He has bought his canopy with him. This is the first day if his adventure.

After visiting the museo del Oro (museum of gold), and tired of looking at shiny things we decided to head to the church on top of Mount Monseratte. At 3710 Meters above sea level, this mountain and place of worship dominates the skyline of Bogota.

"Hey guys" came a voice behind us as we were walking to the cable car to take us up the mountain. "You're in my hostal. Can I
Church at topChurch at topChurch at top

Before the cable car and Fenicular railway it was a steep climb for the faithful
join you?" The voice turned out to be a lovely chap from Vancouver. So three became four.

Hendrick, the guy from Vancouver, had been on a walking tour that day. He unfortunately hadn't realised the power of the sun at altitude, and so, with no sun cream on his face, had burnt quite badly.

He managed to find some from an English couple who were in the line for the cable car but still he'd have to be careful for the next few days.

The view from the mountain was stunning. Bogota is built on a vast plateau and the city stretched as far as the eye could see. Almost every inch of space has been occupied. A busy, modern city, with hundreds of police officers on the streets, on every corner, at every important building, in motorcycles, vans and cars. The anxiety I had of visiting Colombia had disappeared almost instantly. A security platform had been established here and it was here to stay.

A city of millions, I felt part of the human race again. Winter in Ibiza is devoid of people. Everything is shut and the inhabitants are hibernating, recovering from a busy

Every inch built upon as far as the eye could see
dinner. Sure folks still live there but not in this volume. It felt good to be part of a busy city scene again, and the blues I was feeling in December vanished instantly.

Happy hour (5-7) at a pub owned by the Bogota Brewing Company finished off a quite memorable 24 hrs. Furthermore, all my new companions agree. I'm in for serious digital examination when I leave Colombia!


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