09 December 2011

Final Day

We started our last day in Bogota with a trip up to montserrate, a church on one of the highest peaks in Colombia. Much to the chagrin of our cab driver, I pronounced it without the "e" on the end (like in Barcelona), and because of that he almost wouldn't drive us.

They may explain how crazy he was driving, though. There were several times I thought we would plunge right off the side of the mountain we were zooming up. As our cab had no seatbelts, I was grabbing onto the handle in the back like it was my job. The church is rather high up there, so even after the huge climb in the car, you still have to go up further,  either by cable car, funicular, or walk. We certainly weren't going to walk, and since the cable car wasn't open, our choice of the funicular was made for us.

The view from the top is pretty spectacular...I imagine even more so if the skies are clear. Being so far up, it is probably kind of foggy up there most days, but yesterday we had the added bonus of rain. It was still very pretty! Since it was a holiday, there were lots of local families hanging around up there, and there was a mass going on (feast of the immaculate conception, I think). While the names are similar, this Montserrate didn't remind me much of the one in Spain; where that one felt like an overhyped tourist trap, in Bogota it felt more true... It didn't feel so commercial, prices weren't completely jacked up. There were lots of vendors selling traditional food...I had a hard time walking through that part as I watched them unfolding intestines. No, really, intestines.

After a while of walking around, the cable car opened (and funicular closed), and we headed back down the hill to catch a cab and head back to our hood.

Again, our life was in this driver's hands, but luckily this time there were seatbelts. This dude was screaming down the hills, weaving in and out of traffic...my heart was in my throat throughout the ride. When we got back to the Parque 93, we had some trouble understanding the cost of the cab, and he then chastised me for my Spanish.  In fairness to him, it wasn't totally correct and I'm totally rusty, In fairness to me, I was trying really hard, and after week of constant translating, I was a bit tired.

At any rate, I wanted to spend my last day walking around, checking out our neighborhood and another nearby. Bill went to get some tea and hang out near the park. I tried to go to the Usequen (sp) neighborhood, thinking it was just 10 blocks or so away...I was wrong, it was more like 20+! Once I realized this, I turned back around to head back to my hotel and reset my day. On my way, I passed a bunch of very young members of the Colombian military, cruising the streets with huge automatic weapons.  Needless to say, this was a bit intimidating!

Back to the Zona Rosa (Zona T on the maps) I went, and decided to grab a beer a the local brewery. Bogota Beer Company is the kind of place my dad would have loved...lots of good home brews on tap, dark wood bar, locals hanging out watching futbol. This area is definitely the place to be, and where I would recommend anyone visiting bogota stay (or Parque 93, just a few blocks away). Tons of bars, restaurants, shopping, and local life. The Candelaria seemed like it would get quite seedy at night, whereas the area we were in felt super safe. On this particular night, it was hopping by about 4, since it was a holiday, the sun had made an appearance,  and the Colombian national championship soccer game was on.

Soon we were done with dinner and on our way to the airport...another hair-raising cab ride, in which I grabbed the oh shit handle so much, my hand was sore! All the flights have been without incident..I lost Bill somewhere between customs and the transfer area in Houston; he sped outta there and our flights were in different terminals.

Overall, I enjoyed Colombia. It's fun going somewhere rather unexplored, and the heat in Cartagena forced me to really relax a bit and lounge; a nice transition between jobs! I loved getting lost in the old part of the town,watching the inner workings when not many tourists were around. The availability of fresh fruit, sliced,whole, or as juice, at every corner, was awesome. And so inexpensive! Then experiencing a version of the paseo, where the people of neighborhoods all seem to gather in the local plaza  in the evening to eat and socialize, seemingly the only time of day they can do this and not be absolutely done in by the heat...it was a great way to get to know the city. And, of course, our roof pool was the bomb.

It was also cool to see a city like Bogota, which has so much history and so wants to start attracting the tourist dollar, but has some ways to go before it does (and, speaking as someone from a heavily touristed city, there are ways to do this-- carefully-- without pushing out those who have lived there a long time...and the infrastructure improvements and money coming in could be beneficial, once they ready). A guy that was staying at the same hotel in cartagena remarked to me that many people compared Buenos Aires and Bogota, and he felt Bogota had more charm. I could see that. Nestled there in the mountains, the landscape is just lovely. I think, someday, they could both be vying for the same tourist monies.

No comments: