The flight from Medellin to Bogota is one of the shortest flight that either of us have ever been on with less than 45 minutes of airtime. By the time Lisa had pulled out and turned on her electronic device at cruising altitude she had about 5 minutes before the pilot called out over the intercom that we were preparing to land and all devices needed to be powered down and stowed for landing.
We found a budget hostel with a private room and breakfast for $8 a night per person in the Candelaria neighborhood (historic “old town”) of Bogota. The location was great and the building was in decent shape though it could use a few touch ups. The one issue we had with the room was that the mattress was longer than the length of the base of the bed and the end of the mattress hung over the footboard. This caused the end of the mattress to elevate about a foot, forming almost a J shape. After one night of not sleeping well we moved the mattress to the floor and were able to sleep much better.
On our first morning we had a nice breakfast at the hostel and then met up with Juan Carlos and Lupe, some friends that live in Bogota. The original plan was that they would pick us up and we would go for a hike in the mountains around the city. After looking at the weather forecast and seeing a high chance of rain we decided to explore the city where we could duck into a cafe if rains came. They suggested that we climb Monserrate, a mountain that towers over the city center with a beautiful church on its peak that was built in the 17th century. The hike consisted of stairs and steep slopes and took us about 50 minutes to climb 1,666 feet to the church which sits at an elevation of 10,341 feet. The view from the peak was incredible and the immensity of it made city of Medellin seem normal. Bogota is home to almost 9 million Colombians and spans close to 120 square miles. To give some perspective, San Francisco has a population of 850,000 and 46 square miles. Bogota is primarily made up of buildings with 4 or more stories, which we were told was for security reasons as well as to accomodate the staggering number of residents.
We continued our first day by exploring Candelaria with our personal tour guides. We both love having locals as tour guides because they can share a locals perspective and show us places we would never find on our own. We would like to thank Juan Carlos and Lupe for taking an entire day to share their city with us, we had an amazing time and learned so much.
The next day we went out with our friends from sailboat trip from Panama to explore the art scene of Bogota. We first went to the Fernando Botero museum which was full of paintings and scuptures from one of Colombia’s most prolific artists. The museum also has artwork from famous artists such as Degas, Picasso, Matisse, and Chagall.
After enjoying the museum we made our way down towards Plaza Bolivar, an area full of restaurants with traditional Colombian food. One of the dishes we tried was called Bandeja, which is basically a huge plate with a little bit of everything. The one Kevin shared with our friend Oliver had sausage, beef, avocado, rice, beans, fried plantains, and a fried egg all for under $3 a person.
Later in the day we joined a walking tour of the street art in Bogota. Street artists are not stopped by police in Bogota so they can take their time to paint amazing pieces of art on walls and buildings around the city. On the tour we learned about the methods, styles, and lives of several of the artists and street art collectives.
Our third full day we left the city in search of Colombia’s number one tourist attraction: the salt cathedral in Zipaquira. The cathedral sits more 650 feet below the earth’s surface. To get to the cathedral we walked down through the mining tunnels along which they have built alcoves for the 14 stations of the cross. The tunnel opened up to an immense cavern with an enormous cross illuminated on the back wall. The cathedral and tunnels were a place of beauty and serenity for believers and non-believers alike.
On our final day in Bogota we took a short trip to a quaint mountain town called La Calera. We wandered about enjoying the small town feel and the mountain scenery. We also tried to walk to a nearby lake but as we got close we found that the perimeter was fenced off with barbed wire and a securitty guard telling us that the lake was off limits. He did however suggest a hike back the way that we had come that wound up into the mountains and would give us a nice view of the lake. After a brief hike we managed to climb through some of the fencing and trespass slightly to get a nice view of the area. Our last night in Bogota was also our last night with our friends Oliver and Melissa so we decided to go out to a nice dinner and celebrate our time together and the friendship that we have made. We have been truly blessed with the friends that we have made in the first month of our trip.
Tomorrow we have to get up at 3:15 am to begin our trip to Cali. Bogota, like Medellin, has been a magical experience and we look forward to seeing a few more places in Colombia before we make our way to Ecuador.