Currency is Colombian Peso, 1GBP = 4000 pesos (or thereabouts)
Columbia! I know what you're thinking, scarey stuff. And your right!
Actually, it's not as bad as people make out. There are certainly areas that are a lot more dodgy than others, but we're only going to be in and around Bogota, and thats supposed to be OK, by Colombian standards anyway. We'll see.
Arrive on flight from Quito at 1730. Booked a taxi through he official office at the terminal, hi is upposed to cut down on people being ripped off. You give he deails of where you ant to go to the nice lady behind the desk, she orks out where it is and how much it hould cost, then assigns you a driver.
This seemed to work quite well, until the point where we were sat in the taxi and had pulled away from the airport, then the driver said he didn't know here the Hostel International was, and didn't recognize the adress Rita had got from hostelworld.com. The driver pulled over so we could discuss what to do next, we thought perhaps we should return to the terminal and try again, but the driver thought he would be able to find it.
He took us to the right area, but to another hotel as he couldn't find the International. Of course, the hotel he took us to was three times more expeniev, and he woul dprobably have got a finders fee for introducing us. We said thanks but no thanks, paid him the 15000 pesos we were supposed to (amazingly he didn't try and charge us extra) and de-taxied (is there such a word? there is now!) and parked ourselves in a conveniently situaed cafe. After a quick cup of coffee (they didn't sell, beer, poor choice) Rita was just about to set off to find the Hostel International when the taxi driver came in to the cafe and said he had located the hostel, it was 100 yards down the road. He offered o take us there in the taxi, but we declined his generous offer, he probably would have charged us again and getting out bike bags into the boot again was more hassle than it was worth.
(I'm having terrible problems with this keyboard, particularly the W and T, so there might be a few I've missed and haven't noticed. Dont worry)
The hotel turned out to be quite secure, they keep the front door locked at all times (except while they've got it open for people to go in or come out, of course) and they dont even give you a front door key! Only 28000 pesos a night for double room con banos privado and hot water too.
Our hotel is in the Candalaria area of Bogota, allegedly one of the more pleasant and historical parts of the city, so a good place to start our exploring. Took a walk up our street and checked out a couple of restaurants and bars. There were few armed guards outside the businesses in our street, but as we got furher away we saw more police and even several groups of armed soldiers patrolling the streets. It must be a bit dodgy around here because even the armed soldiers were going around in threes!
It is surprisingly cold here and I so wished I hadnt ditched my waistcoat and only long sleeved shirt in Quito, to drop weight and I thought we were moving on to a warmer climate, but before and after midday it is chilly, and positively cold in the evenings especially since, I have to mention this:-Why whereever you go in any shop, cafe, bar, hotel, museum. or cake shop!! do the colombians always leave the doors open. Sitting drinking a beer with teeth chattering is not my idea of fun.
Unfortunately I cant find any clothes to fit to buy presently so I shall just have to wear all those that I have at one time. Paul hasnt felt it quite so chilly and never does, but has relented a couple of times and put on his jacket.
Paul mentioned the police patrol in threes but to add to the chilly atmosphere the guns they tote are loaded and presented, which makes us feel far more secure!!!! Having said that I feel we are far less likely to get robbed or mugged here than in Quito, its a perception which may not be correct,
Plenty of beggars roam the streets and one in particular who followed us back to our lodgings was very pushy and watched us for some time as we waited for security to open the door. He shouted at us in Spanish and I had to shout
back fiercely as possible "NO!"
However the old woman on the corner down from our place sits there daily and quietly makes her request every day when we pass and I have not been able to refuse her some pesos.
I hope you can appreciate some of the lovely old buildings from our photos, they are kept in very good condition in this old town area of Candalaria, near the university buildings. One cad of an architect or artesan has chosen to place bronze scultpures of a ragamuffin on the rooves of some of the buildings in the area which are quite amusing. Paul reminded me we had seen this in some other town, Choquimbo, Chile.
The students run amoc here in the week, in the bars, internet cafes and streets, but disappear at the weekends. Then, the streets are full of vendors of cigs, biscuits, toffee, flowers, gob stoppers, and chiclayo gum, and in the main square the illegal vendors try to flog emeralds and pieces of jewellery.
We were approached to buy and shown a couple of emerald encrusted crosses which I declined on the basis of not being religious, and the small ring, possibly a result of a robbery of diamonds and sapphire, I declined on account of the price of 300,000 pesos, 150 dollars, around 80 pounds but really it looked worth much more and would certainly have cost much more in England.
Every sunday in the city certain roads are closed and all are encouraged to get out their training shoes, skate boards and bikes and so on for a good old bit of exercise, judging by the sweating and red faces, this is not a regular choice for some. As it happens this last sunday was the occasion of the city marathon and I saw numbers of 27,000 and higher on t-shirts, so I guessed this might be the number of entrants, could be wrong. There was also a handicapped
category. We didnt feel inclined to get our bikes out and havent felt it is safe enough to ride them in this city, chicken did I hear you say, yes!!
There were crowds to watch this event but we decided to go by cable car to the monserrat mountain which is topped by the church of Santo Confortans and has a spectacular view of the city of Santafe del bogota as it is officially known.
A cable car and a funincular railway run up the mountain or you can make the trek on foot. The church atop was jam packed when we arrived, this is such a devoutly catholic city.
On our return to the centre we came by the casa viejo which was a restaurant tipico recomomended to us by a young colombian I met in an internet cafe. For a splurge we decided to give it a go. Paul had a typical colombian dish consisting of beef, susage, several different kinds of potato, sweetcorn and banana, topped with cabbage leaves and a rich, hot bechamel type sauce. He enjoyed it and had no trouble with any of its contents just the size of it! I had the trout with tiny new potatoes and an equally tiny portion of mixed veggies. The trout was excellent. We followed with a delicious dessert of marinated figs with soft caramel fudge and fresh mint, good for a sweet tooth.
After lunch we walked calle 7 which is the main retail street, to the plaza indepencia and up and down some of the lovely streets. There is a great sunday atmosphere with families out and about, dining and eating ice creams, candy floss etc.. pretty much like Exeter on a sunny day. But keep your hand on your wallet!!!
Its great to have found a small supermarket, that sells a good variety of fruit and veggies and we have luxuriated on our breakfasts for a couple of days with bowls of chopped apples, plums, grapes, peaches, bananas and strawberries, not to mention a handfull of almonds and bread and honey. The veggie quality however is nothing like Sainsburys, although I have had a couple of good salads of my own composition, since prices of veggies and all above are relatively cheap.
Our logdings have a far from well equipped kitchen but it is adequate and it also has a tiny dining are decorated with many plants and lit by natural light so, it is quite ejoyable
to eat there, unless ofcourse your meal is disturbed by the sound of adjacent flushing toilets or the odd lodger with a high opinion of himself, who we really didnt want to listen to. Suffice to say Paul was able to manage to drum up a smashing curry last night without too much ado, what a sweetie he is?
Enough of food. (Paul-What are you saying?)
The gold museum is just one of the many in this area of the city and is contemporary and fairly impressive by content but I would have liked just a little more description in English. It shows the whole of Colombian indigenous areas and the types of jewellery and artefacts made by the andeans from gold and is housed in the Banco del Colombia building. Just outside is a large market of second hand goods, (sadly couldnt find a longsleeved shirt to fit ) and sheds full of artesanal boutiquey type stalls selling all the obligatory touristy tasters. Got the T- shirt!!!
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