1/6/2016: Bogota, Colombia
Guess who’s in South America for the next two and a half months? This guy.
Guess who gets to read about it? Anyone who wants to, which may or may not include you. I’ll be posting twice a week about what’s going on, how much everything costs, what’s awesome, what sucks, and whether I think someone else should or shouldn’t try the stupid things I do. A wild, smart, and talented woman by the name of Angelica is traveling with me.
Right now, we’re in Bogota, Colombia. How did we get here? Well, after several wonderful days in Key West, thanks to our amazing hosts, Sweet V and Wesley, and having the fun factor multiplied by befriending Kelly, Lisa, and Sebastian the Swinging Swede, Angelica and I took a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Bogota. The cost of the flight? $129. (For those of you bewildered, this will be a theme. Contrary to popular belief and your coworkers’ repeated grumbling, traveling doesn’t have to be expensive.)
We got in late and the widely-held belief is that Colombia is the place stupid travelers go to die, so we wanted to find the safest way to our hostel and lock the door behind us until sunrise. A man in a sports jacket hailed us over and said something in Spanish that sounded like, “Have I got a ride for you!” (This would be a good time to explain how little Angelica and I understand of the Spanish language. Just minutes ago, her smart phone app congratulated her on being 2% fluent in Spanish. She’s 2% ahead of me.)
So the sports coat takes us a few steps to another sports coat who takes us another few steps to another sports coat who we follow into a dimly-lit parking lot. Angelica has almost walked away twice. (Remember how smart was the first way I described her?) The sports coat looks disgruntled and gets on his cell phone. Apparently something is not going right for him. I’m late to the party but at this point agree that its time we hail a marked, bright yellow, very safe-looking taxi cab. The sports coat surprisingly makes little fuss.
Back at the start of our taxi searching adventure, a woman honks a gentle horn and motions for us to get in. She’s in the requisite bright yellow taxi and greets us by smiling and singing along to the music video playing from her phone. She then tells a traffic cop, “escuchen!” and holds the phone out closer for better sound. The cop gives her a blank nod and motions to continue moving. This woman
We buzz in to our hostel and I am happy to notice the door is super
sings, smiles, and laughs us along to our destination. The ride cost us 30,000 pesos. This is roughly ten American dollars. We got 2,880 pesos per dollar at the airport exchange.
thick, heavy and latches securely. The whole place is great. A family of Colombians runs the place
and their mother (grandmother?) runs the business/ marketing/ reservation side of it from San Diego. After a bit of unpacking and logistics discussions, we buy some water and go to sleep.
January Sixth was mine and Angelica’s first full day in South America. Because I watched (and loved) The Martian on the plane, I’ll be using their measurement of time…so January Sixth is Sol One. We walked around the city center, went to a few museums, visited Simon Bolivar’s house, and had an unsuccessful breakfast (the language thing) and then a very successful lunch/dinner. (The menu was easy to communicate)
First of all, the city is absolutely beautiful. There are some modern characteristics, like shopfronts and skyscrapers, but the walkways and a multitude of areas are historic and well-maintained. I think, when I look at it from a history and nostalgia perspective, Bogota might be the most beautiful city I’ve been to. In addition to the architecture, the museums were surprisingly awesome. I say surprisingly because a normal American museum can get a bit arduous at some points and some have a sort of throw-together feel. The three we went to were 3,000 pesos each (one dollar American) and were beautiful, informative, and had a cohesive theme. Seeing Simon Bolivar’s place was a goal of mine and I was glad to knock it out early. The house gave mean insight into the Liberator’s life and the garden gave me ideas for future projects at my grandparents’. (You guys are cool with me making intricate raised gardens with cobblestone walkways somewhere out in your woods, right? Great.)
Our dinner experience was one of those situations every traveler has been through. You see a restaurant that finally goads you into approaching, the woman out front hands you a mystery meat to try, its delicious and tastes like something between pork and chicken, then you sit down and see your favorite animal on the menu (Capybara).
Then you try to decide whether a live capybara you see later would judge you negativelyif you do eat it, then you decide to go for it, then Angelica orders the same thing, then when the waiter leaves you tell her it’s a rodent, then she freaks out and changes her order, then your meal gets to you and you realize the mystery meat you both ate at the beginning was capybara. You know, we’ve all been there. The meal was delicious, I couldn’t finish it all (If you’ve eaten with me, this means something) and cost 24,000 pesos…8 dollars American.
So, what’s next?
We’re switching hostels tomorrow, (I like to test a few out) and staying in Bogota until Sunday, Sol Five. Then we head to Cartagena. Our Lonely Planet book describes it as a well-preserved colonial coastal town. I’ll be the judge of just how preserved it is, thank you. We need to learn more Spanish. The Colombian people are friendly enough but I think they don’t make that extra effort or have that extra interest in someone who isn’t willing to learn their language. I am willing, I need to get to work.