79. COLOMBIA -Bogotá

We didn’t make it to Bogotá from the national park that day so parked up at another family restaurant near Villeta. Though this was their day-off and were closed they were happy to let us stay in their garden next to the pool. They even served us beer, offered to cook dinner for us if we wanted, and offered to use the pool.

Of course there are always a few exceptions to the rule but generally there is a true thing about Colombians; They are very friendly. Genuinely. Almost everyone we meet is smiley, kind and helpful. They go far just to help us and don’t expect anything for return. We never came across with judgement, quite the opposite, they help for the joy of helping a foreigner who got lost, looking for something, or gone down the one way street. However when they are behind a steering wheel in a vehicle that’s a whole different story. Drivers, whether women or men become rude, impatient and pushy. That might just be usual human behaviour?

The following morning we woke to a couple of talking birds chatting away a desperately looking for “Hector”. It was very strange hearing human voice and words coming out form a bird. It was a bit bitter-sweet too as they were “pets” so their wing feathers were cut which makes me sad. I suppose it is a cultural thing, and though they are looked after, fed and all it seems wrong.

They family waved us off and we were on the road before 8AM. It didn’t take long to reach the city. We just went with our instinct and aimed to get to a shopping mall/complex that we looked up on the map previously. That seemed a good bet as usually they have large parking areas. As this day was the first day of a bank holiday weekend, even it was late morning hours, the traffic was horrendous. This part of the city is relatively new so there are plenty of wide roads and avenues though when a 3 lanes road packed with solid traffic that is a reminder of M25 at rush-hour in London.

Bogotá doesn’t have undergrounds or any railway transport. It has a bus public transport system that actually worked out quite well. They have these hugely wide and long avenues 3-3 lanes each side for traffic, and 2-2 lanes in the middle only for the bendy buses. So taking the bendies is actually quite fast. And then through smaller streets you can change to normal, smaller buses but that is through traffic.

So we were sluggishly making our way to the shopping mall. Finally we reached the parking entrance which was a quite a sharp turn, so in tried to make space for the turn with Burt. It wasn’t easy as everyone was in too much of a hurry in the 50m/hour traffic to let us so we started moving very slowly, holding the two lanes now. The concert of horns was enormous. At some point we had to stop and indicate for reverse a bit but a bus driver (a smaller one, not a bendy) couldn’t wait the whole 15 second and very tightly over took Burt from behind while we were advance reversing ever so slowly. He shaved off some plastic bits with Burt’s spare tyres. Then of course he stopped jumped out and started shouting at me (as it looks like I am the driver) I told him that he has to wait a minute, we are going to park up just by the entrance and will be back. This whole thing happened in front of 6 taxi drivers (who were holding up the entrance in the first place, that’s why we didn’t have enough room) and in front of the police. So I was super stressed.

It took just seconds to park out the way. We jumped out and as we walked back the bus was gone. A taxi driver who witnessed it all said to us with a smile “Ah it happens all the time, he’s gone. No worries. Have a good day” The police disappeared too and we were just standing there for a minute looking around for “now what?” The busy life just went on, no one seem to notice us or bother with any charge so we jumped back and parked up for a few hours.

It was still before midday and we spend the whole day looking around this are do some shopping. After John’s original phone was soaked in water way back in Canada we eventually bought a new one in Costa Rica but that broke a couple of weeks ago. I mean broke, physically. In his pocket. Weird. So here we were, another city with a reasonably decent selection of offers. After a few hours of deciding we finally got one for him.

It was getting late and we still had to figure out where to stay. We were still in the Claro shop (like Vodafone in the UK) for the final set up of the new Motorola when we got a message from the Overlanding Family that they are in Bogotá as well. After a few messages back and forth we got the GPS coordinates where they are and we headed their way.

It just got dark when we got there (again, through the heavy traffic) Last time we saw them was in Cartagena and we didn’t have a chance to say goodbye so it was extra nice to see them. The parking was in a large 24 hrs parking lot behind (another) shopping mall. We spent the evening together, had fast food dinner in the mall and after the girls went to bed we were catching up till midnight.

The next morning we said goodbyes and they left. They are heading south to Ecuador and the Galapagos. We are heading north to Venezuela so this might have been the last time to see them -or at least for a long while.

Johnny and I spent the day in Bogotá. We figured where we wanted to go and hopped on the bus. We visited the historic centre, the gold museum, an art gallery and just generally looking around. Even the historic centre seemed seedy at places and posh at other. Surely, it was one tiny are of an 8 million people city but I had mixed feelings. There were art, poetry, literature, music and there were shady, crime-full of places that only a street divided from one another.

We heard of the Bogotá Beer Company and headed that way for the evening. It was a London style modern pub replica with gastro food and 4 beers on tap. They were decent brews particularly the Roja so John was happy. We settled at the bar and stayed there till the end. It was similarly London-like scene with well dressed, young and wealthy crowd, friends get-together etc. We got pretty “happy” and when we really had enough (settled the bill once already but then stayed for one more for the road) eventually ordered a cab and got back. It wasn’t a cheap night-out but somehow it was worth it to let our hair down and have a little nostalgia.

We stayed in bed all day the next day. Well almost. We went to the cinema in the evening to watch a crappy film then early bedtime with still a bit of a headache. Definitely moving on tomorrow.

Next, Zipaquirá and Villa de Leyva…

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