Bogotá Distrito Capital or Santafé de Bogotá or just Bogotá is the largest city in Colombia, the third highest capital in South America and is our last stop before heading to the great big world of Europe.
We’d finally left the heat of Cartagena and arrived in to the hustle and bustle of the Bogotá airport and then out to the screaming taxi men. Arriving at the BoGo hostel we were welcomed by the lovely staff that showed us to our room, gave us a proper map of the city and a lot of good recommendations for food close by. We wound up at the De Uno Travel Bar, which had some very tasty food (teriyaki pork and a chicken salad) with really cheap beers from Bogota Brewing Co… lunch altogether cost about $10aud for both of us, with multiple beers. Winning!
After probably over indulging a little bit too much in the delicious food and beers we wandered our way back to the hostel to sort out what we were going to do for our week exploring Bogota. We did this for a grand total of maybe an hour, before deciding that we needed to go and explore one of the craft beer bars close by. The uniquely named “Delfo’s” bar, brews and serves it’s own beer. It’s a dingey little place on the corner of a park, the inside was quite dark and almost as uninviting as the bar tender, the beer was average at best but still we had to try it! During our walk around in the day we had come across a fairly fancy looking Mexican joint, we realised that it wasn’t too far from Delfo’s so cruised across to get some dinner. Along with a few nice margaritas we had barbecued beef tacos and quesadillas… they were good but a little expensive for what they were.
Bogota has all sorts of weird and wonderful things to see… the standard set of knick knack markets are around, plus the normal fruit and vegetable markets, as well as a couple of interesting museums. While we spent days enjoying a few beers and seeing what the local street performers were doing we stumbled across a few of the museums and thought we should probably should include some culture in our travels around. The Banco de la Republica in Bogota really has themselves sorted in getting tourists interested in seeing Colombian history. They have a website that has useful information about things to see around Bogota along with the opening hours and prices (most of the places are under $2aud or free).
After having learnt many things about Pablo Escobar in Medellin we were surprised to have a little more to learn in Bogota, however the feelings toward Escobar differed greatly to those held by the Medellin locals. We discovered inside the Palacio Museo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, the National Police Museum, that there was quite a show of memorabilia belonging to Escobar, including his pink Harley Davidson, his “second wife” - a Bernadelli pocket pistol, along with the jacket he died in. These were just a few of the things the police had recovered after Escobar’s death. Our free guide (no tips required, he was actually free) explained to us the building all of this is housed in was originally a police station until it was turned into the museum in 1985. The guides are local students who are completing their compulsory military service, part of the requirement is to understand the history of the military efforts of Colombia - what better way than to show a few gringos around rooms filled with memorabilia dated back to the 1800’s. The museum was much more interesting than we thought it would be, definitely worth the visit if you find yourself looking for something to do that doesn’t involve beer on a rainy day in Bogota.
The next stop on our cultural enlightenment tour was at the Museo del Oro, The Gold Museum. We’d been advised by a few people on our travels that if we were going to go to any of the Gold Museums in Colombia (there are surprisingly quite a few), that we just had to stop in at the one in Bogota. The museum has the most gold either of us have ever seen… three floors of gold, alloys and a few bits of pottery, dating back to Pre-Hispanic Colombia - there are over 55 000 pieces of gold in that building. The museum takes you through a chronological journey of how the ancient metallurgists mined and manufactured different metals, the significance of the metals and how they were used in day to day life along with how the metals were used in cosmology. As well as all of the metals and shiny things, the museum had a special exhibition of a pre-Colombian mummy - just wow! The museum is free to visit on Sundays, any other day of the week it’s about $2aud, give yourself a few hours to take in all of the shiny stuff, then maybe stop into one of the coffee shops across the road for some brown water disguised as coffee when you’ve finished.
For a few of you playing along at home it may come to you as a surprise that we are doing things other than sampling all of the beer and all of the barbecued meats, or chatting about Simon Bolivar and his mates. Our next stop on our cultural enlightenment tour was at the Botero museum. Fernando Botero is apparently the most recognised artist in Colombia - all of his artwork depicts objects and people in an overly exaggerated way. In previous cities we’ve seen a few sculptures from Botero, but nothing to the extent of the collection of art housed in this colonial mansion. Along with the couple of hundred artworks donated by Botero, there are quite a few other well known artists’ paintings displayed in the permanent collection; including including Monet, Picasso and Dali.
Right next door to Museo Botero is the Casa de Moneda, the Colombian Money Museum. As the name suggests, the museum goes through the origins and production of money in Colombia. This museum wasn’t quite as interesting as the others that we’d visited, however we were given free coins when we left and got a few cool photos of the machinery used to make bank notes and coins.
Along with the visits to the museums around Bogota we also embarked ourselves on to the walking graffiti tour. The tour was much larger than we’d anticipated - there were at least fifty people waiting for the guide to arrive, who himself is an artist. The tour took us around the streets of the La Candelaria district, delving into the stories of the artists and the meaning behind the art. Like most walking tours it was “free”, a tip is expected at the end, however it was worth the couple of dollars to learn about the impressive and thought provoking urban art.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to get to the Salt Cathedral near Bogota, or go up the teleferico that rises up onto the hill behind our hostel due to a mix-up of days and a public holiday. The day that James had organised the Salt Cathedral tour we were both severely hungover from trying all of the wonderful beers; it probably wasn’t a bad thing for James that the tour had been cancelled - that particular day he spent recovering at the hostel while a few of us had organised to hire bikes and ride around and see the city. A few Sundays a month, the local council shuts down one of the main avenues so that people can walk and ride up and down and get some exercise. Dani, Henry, Larry and Daisy had organised to head out and grab some bikes, Dee decided to join them but the hunt for bikes was unsuccessful… instead they chose to walk the giant street, coming across flea markets and a lot of interesting people. Eventually ending up in a fairly shady neighbourhood (there was a lady on the side of the road without any pants on, or underwear) we got a taxi to another set of markets and took the boys on a fruit tour of Bogota. After all of the fruit we’ve seen at markets on the way around we’d become accustomed to trying mystery fruits… the day ended with a trip to another set of markets in a fancy neighbourhood and a stop by BBC brewery… not a terrible way to spend a Sunday!
The food in Bogota really wasn’t anything to write home about, however there was one place that we’d definitely go to over and over again. José in Cali had recommended Crepes and Waffles restaurant, we were a little sceptical of this place as it is a giant chain restaurant (a similar size to that of Hog’s Breath Café). We’d decided that we needed to give it a chance before leaving Colombia, after eating there we’d regretted not going sooner - a giant menu, reasonably priced and really, really delicious food.
Our hostel was thankfully very sociable, by the end of our stay in Bogota we were extremely sad to leave as we’d felt like we’d moved back home. Between family dinners with the crew (Sasha, Vernon, Juan, Diego, Gabby, Lilian, Bec, Dani, Charlie, Sammy, Henry, Larry, Daisy - the list goes on!), a few mishaps with water and cooking and a very tragic and traumatic event, we’d all pulled together. The pulling together involved a lot of beers, a lot of food, a lot of laughs, some fairly average attempts at playing pool and a hilarious game called Tejo. What’s Tejo you ask? Throwing half-kilo metal/rock pucks at triangles of gunpowder that are sat in boards of soft clay… you buy beers; you get the gunpowder pellets for free. Yes, this is as ridiculous as it sounds, and as fun as it sounds… it’s an extremely competitive sport amongst the locals and does require a certain level of intoxication to be good at it. It would be remiss of us to mention here that the friendship and love between the staff and guests at the hostel was more than we’d ever experienced on the road - to all who involved, thank you for making us feel supported and at home when we really needed it.
After a lot of fun in Bogota and quite a number of cultural experiences it was time for us to pack and head off. Bogota was a wonderful way to finish our journey through South America - our final hours in Bogota were spent in the business lounge at the airport, sipping champagne and eating canapés. Next stop, new country and new continent! ¡Hasta Luego South America, hola Spain!
Go see all the photos from Bogota