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Written on: Saturday July 19th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

In Bogota for the weekend, this is a real party town where some travellers seem to get īstuckī for a week or two cause theyīre having fun - we tried to have absolutely no fun so we could stay just for a few days!  My lingering stomach bug helped that along, but we did have a good time.   The main tourists so far have been english and australian, all easy going people and on a 6-12 month trip like us.  Most of them have heard good things about Colombia from other travellers and have extended their trip to visit.  Thereīs a small handful of gringos hanging around in Bogota to avail of cheap cocaine (usually spotted by their red noses and scabby upper lips cause its probably stronger than they are used to) but theyīre easy to avoid. 
We have been warned that Bogota isnīt that safe, but we have been fine - you just need to know which streets to avoid and get a taxi home at night.   The biggest danger in Bogota is the missing manhole covers in the pavement.  They are stolen for scrap metal.  A guy at our hostel was walking to the pub after some rums at the hostel and one leg went completely down the hole.  One minute he was there, the next minute he was down there, in some kind of sludgey water that he didnīt want to know more about.   There is a bit more poverty visible here, more kids around selling sweets to make money, even an old guy walking around at 11pm selling a selection of nail clippers.  Most properties have guard dogs, but thieves are known to feed poisoned food to them and if they donīt die they go blind, so our hostel owner was training his young dog not to take food from anyone but him.

There is a huge salt mine just out of town, now an attraction because one of the deep carverns has been turned into a huge cathedral, 80 metres long, 18 metres high.  As I said before, they are very religious here. 

We visited the world-famous-in-Colombia restaurant "Andres Carne" (Andres Meat).  Itīs a cavernous eclectic steakhouse with lots of dance floors, roaming entertainers - a little bit crazy. Unlike our part of the world, Colombian men donīt need to be drunk to dance, if thereīs good music there will be dancing at any time of the day.  It was great fun but itīs not for the budget-conscious, and only well-off Colombians could afford to eat there - which was good for us because these Colombians could speak english so we got a taste of how friendly they can be.  The couple at our neighbouring table helped us order, bought us some mojitos, salsa danced with us when we started mucking it up, gave us a ride home via their sober chauffeur and even gave us a white t-shirt to wear at the big march on Sunday.

Sunday is Colombian Independence Day, and in response to the recent hostage rescues, marches all over the country were planned to protest against the guerilla groups and the remaining 700 hostages held.  A million people descended on the streets of Bogota in white t-shirts to voice their frustration at the lack of security.  Against NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs advice, we joined in the march and just stuck to the advice of our hostel receptionist, which was not to "throw anything".  Glad to report it was all really peaceful, and a great day out.