The last time I did an entry I was sitting in the Orlando International Airport discussing my time in Puerto Rico as I awaited my flight to my next destination. Many probably assumed that after a month and a half in Puerto Rico that I would be ready to return to the hustle and bustle of Washington DC. However, I boarded the plane and landed in my next destination Bogota, the capital of Colombia. I have decided to continue my goal of visiting all the countries in the Western hemisphere and Colombia is next on my list (I went to Panama in February 2019). Although I have never been, I have many friends who are Colombian and this is one of the destinations that I have always circled as to have wanting to visit. It has since been a week since I have been in Colombia, and I have decided to do a weekly entry highlighting my time in various places throughout the country.
Arriving in Colombia- I arrived in the El Dorado International Airport in Bogota last Sunday at about 11:40 pm. After getting through immigration and customs, I stepped outside of the airport only to be greeted by a taxi line of 200 people which was increasing by the second. Much to my dismay, my Uber app was not working (most likely due to a prohibition on rideshare apps at the airport). I got into the taxi line and surprising waited only 20 minutes before I was off to my hotel in Chapinero. As much as I enjoyed my stay in Bogota, you need a PHD to figure out the city’s transportation network. I experienced this firsthand coming from the airport. The way the taxi’s work is that there is a number on the meter which increases either every 100 meters or 25 seconds of waiting time. The number which it finishes on upon arriving at your destination corresponds to a chart that is supposed to be hanging on the back of the front passenger seat of the cab which tells you the total cost. However, not only didn’t my cab have a chart but there were also extra charges included such as airport pickup and weekend rate. After arriving at the hotel and having no idea how much the ride cost, I gave the driver 50k Colombian Peso (COP) and he gave me 30k COP back which means my ride cost about $7 USD. Although I think I got ripped off, the COP is so weak against the USD that it really didn’t matter and I was happy to be at my hotel.
The Weather- So as I have explained before, whenever I travel, I tend to pack light as possible. This is easy given that I have gone to mostly tropical destinations so I can fill my bag with shorts and T-shirts. In fact, when I was in Puerto Rico, I only wore long pants ONCE and that was for a meeting. Given Colombia’s proximity to the Equator, I figured that I could continue to ride that formula throughout this trip, especially since we are technically still in the summer season. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Bogota has bipolar weather in that one day it could be 80 degrees and dry while the next day is 50 degrees and pouring. I was initially perplexed as to why my hotel didn’t have an air conditioning unit but after 2 nights of sleeping in the freezing cold, I finally understood.
Gringo Tuesdays- After recovering from my late arrival on Monday, I decided to meet some of the locals. Although I am not a club guy, I decided to check out on of the club in upscale Zona Rosa called Vintrash which promoted “Gringo Tuesdays”. Although I speak Spanish, I figured this would be a “safe” place to ease into meeting some locals who could speak English as well. Although I arrived late, the club wasn’t even half full. True to Colombian form, the club started to fill the later it got. Although I expected it to be filled with European backpackers, I was pleasantly surprised that it was mostly locals who were interested in learning languages such as US English, UK English, German, and French. I ended up approach two pretty Colombian girls, one actually lived in the UK and spoke perfect English while the other lived in Bogota and worked in tourism so she was looking to perfect her skills. We hit it off and end up going for sushi (which turned out to be disgusting) and returned to the club for more dancing. Although I didn’t have high hopes, it turned out to be a pretty good night.
Cerro de Monserrate- My new Colombian friend that worked in the tourism industry suggested that I check out Cerro de Monserrate which was the highest point in Bogota. Although it was the greatest day weather-wise, I decided to go do it on Wednesday. Once again, I struggled to figure out the Bogota’s transportation system and gave up and took a cab halfway to the destination. I arrived to see a building that looked like a train station out of an old western film with static lines going all the way to the peak of the mountain. It turns out that you can actually ride a cable car to the peak of the mountain. While technically you can hike it on foot as well (takes about an hour), it was too cold and I was too underdressed to do so. I ended up paying 12K COP (about $3.50 USD) for a ticket up. The ride up the cable car was interesting as I was crammed in with about 30 other people but was still able to get a magnificent view of Bogota before ascending into the clouds. The top of Monserrate was not what I expected. I thought it would be a scenic view area which one would spend 20 minutes and descend back down, instead it was an actual town with houses, restaurants, and even a church. Unfortunately, when I initially arrived, it was freezing and I couldn’t see anything because of the fog. I literally took refuge in the catholic church, which happened to have a mass going at the time. I was rewarded with my decision to wait it out as the weather eventually did improve and I was able to see some great views of the valley from above. If I were in Bogota a little longer, I would definitely return on a more pleasant day and tour the whole town
Tequendama Falls-I really wanted to do something that was “off the beaten path” but was also low maintenance enough to where I can do it in half a day. After scouring internet forums, I decided to check out Tequendama Falls which was a waterfall about 18 miles south of Bogota. Although, it was only a 70k COP ($18 USD) Uber ride, I took the more adventurous route and paid 7k COP ($2.25 COP) for a local bus. I was initially nervous because I was the only passenger on the bus and it initially didn’t start as it took 6 people to push out of the Salitre terminal parking lot. In addition, the ride was agonizingly slow as the driver literally went 5 mph until the bus was filled to capacity. After about 2 hours, I had to tell the driver to let me off next to an old hotel on the side of the highway as he really didn’t have any intentions on stopping. There was a wonderful view of the waterfall from next to the hotel but the smell was pretty bad given the contamination of the water. In addition, there are several local street food vendors that literally sell the same thing (sausage, arepas, and corn pancakes) for the same prices. I bought and arepa (which tasted like a McGriddle) and a sausage (which looked better than it tasted) for about 6K COP ($1.75 USD). Because it was the weekend, the hotel was open for tourists. I bought a ticket for 9K COP ($2.75 USD) and took part in a tour of the hotel. The tour was in Spanish and ended up being a presentation on the preservation of the Bogota River and the dangers of climate change. I was a little disappointed because the hotel itself was billed as being “haunted” and I would have liked to hear more of the story behind that designation. We also weren’t allowed to take pictures inside of the hotel which I really didn’t understand. In the end, the view of the waterfall is great but only did the tour of the hotel because it was cheap and it took a lot of work to get to the site.