Thursday, 8 May 2008

Bogota, Bogota, So GOOD they named it once!

The missus and I had a few hectic days (including a friends wedding in an estancia outside the capital) before we flew to Bogota, Colombia (via Lima). We arrived at 00:45am and by the time we picked up our backpacks and reached our hostel it was close to 2am.

It had a tall, wide imposing metal gate but there was little sign of life beyond it. I must have rang the buzzer and rattled the gate a dozen times but got no answer. This was neither the city nor the hour to be stranded without a roof. Just as we were starting to sweat (a.k.a. piss my pants!), a head appeared at a window and thankfully a security guard let us in. After a little confusion (they had no record of our reservation!) we were able to check in. It turned out there was an electrical fault which prevented the buzzer from working and the lights on our floor were also not working so we had to resort to candles. Relieved and exhausted we collapsed into bed.

The following day brought altitude sickness, cold chills (picked up a bug on the plane I reckon), squirt alert, nausea and generally wasn´t a great day. The famous Museo de Oro was closed for renovation but we did get to see a cool salt cathedral built into an old mine about 40kms outside the city in Zapaquira.

The city is a heaving, swarming, fast city but the public transport system is impressive with dedicated double lanes for the extra long bendy buses. About 70% of the traffic seems to be taxis and another 20% is minibuses.

There are armed guards everywhere. Army, transport police, regular police, special police, extra special police, security guards. They all had guns, machine guns, rifles, revolvers. Charlton Heston and his buddies in the NRA would love this place!

There aren´t that many tourist here so I was being stared at as something of a novelty. Dinner is early here (approx 7-8pm) compared to Argentina (10pm-1am). Public transport shuts down early (10pm in the outskirts) for security concerns.

On our last day in Bogota, we headed to the old town section of the city and ended up in the middle of a protest which turned nasty. We were literally caught in the middle of a narrow street with rock throwing yobs (their faces shielded by scarves) on one side and the riot squad firing tear gas and water cannons on the other side. It was a hairy scary moment and if I had anything left in my bowels (squirt alert was still going strong), I probably would have shat myself. It took us about 30 minutes to walk clear of the trouble and in the aftermath there were 40 people arrested and there was substantial damage to banks and businesses. Windows were smashed and paint splattered everywhere. Translated News article here.

Bogota has a bit of a reputation as a dangerous city, but like any big city you just need to keep your wits about you and stay clear of the no go zones. Oh and don´t forget to bring your own stash of loo roll for those little emergencies!


Anonymous,  May 08, 2008 4:22 am  

So not your run of the mill holiday destination then. Still and all, those kind of places are often the most interesting...

Nick May 08, 2008 5:24 am  

I rather like it when I get to a place and don't have the usual detached tourist experience of visiting the sights and taking photos. It's good to get a flavour of what it's actually like to live there - high security, demonstrations, unrest etc. Then I feel I'm not just ripping the place off for my enjoyment, I'm there as another human being getting some insight into other people's daily lives.

Baino May 08, 2008 4:44 pm  

It sounds like a strange place, even the name is ugly. At least you're getting the snots and squits out of the way early in the peace! Happy travels.

Quickroute May 08, 2008 7:17 pm  

Conortje: I like to get a bit offthe beaten track but that usually comes with a price

Nick: Exactly! - Nothing worse than following the hoardes to the over run touristy destinations and standing in a line to enter a suffocating attraction!

Baino: Thanks - the snots are gone - wish I could say the squirts were too but they seem to follow me around like a dark cloud!

Shaunj May 09, 2008 6:31 am  

Hey -Sounds a very interesting spot. Dangerous? No. I'm sure you have walked around O'Connell st at 3am in the morning also..

Quickroute May 12, 2008 7:48 pm  

Shaunj: To True - O'Connell Street can be like a war zone when the fight for kebabs gets going!

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