At Christmas last year, my friend Hannah jokingly suggested to come visit her in Colombia. I was talking about wanting to go somewhere warm and exciting for parts of the cold German winter. A few days later I had found and booked an affordable flight.
I am in Bogotá for a week now. It´s exciting, weirdly beautiful and ugly at the same time and not a place for weak nerves. During the day, most areas of the city are relatively safe and there are many beautiful and fascinating places to explore. Cafés, restaurants, markets, arts and crafts and the most diverse palette of fruits I have seen in my life. The mountains are accessible by foot from the city (if you are in shape), promising breathtaking views. The hike up Monserrate Mountain is 2.5km of stairs in 3000m altitude. On the way up, one passes desperate “gringos” struggling with thin air and weak legs and local sellers where a desperate “gringo” can get a drink or some fruit to reenergize.
I walk a lot during the days. At night, it´s not recommended to take a scenic stroll in some areas though. A few steps in the wrong direction can cost you phone and all your money at gunpoint.
Friendly locals and hostel workers try to make sure I´m safe. So I am left with taxis, both for the night and for further distances during the day. After all, the city is huge and public transport is limited to a few overcrowded busses. All of Bogotá is packed with little yellow cars that are kept together by a bit of spit, rusty screws and gafftape. Safety belts, AC and a feeling of safety stay a luxury that is reserved for Ubers and people with their own cars. I am poor, so no luxury for me. That´s ok. It´s quite incredible actually, that the Colombian taxi drivers can make these cars drive. The absence of any regulation allows for quite elaborately decorated vehicles. A very uncomfortable side effect: Pollution. Thick black and blue smoke created a cloud of smog over Bogotá over the last week. Apparently that happens a lot.
Every day, like clockwork around 3pm, showers of rain offer some relief of the dirts air. They say, if you can rely on anything in the world, it´s the fact that there´s sun and rain every day in Bogotá. The reliable weather informs the planning of my days. Early hikes and explorations are followed by work and going out or making a nice dinner in the evening with new and old friends. A few days ago, me and a group of people from the hostel went to play Tejo. Tejo is a local game I would describe as a mix of darts and bowling. With loud explosions. One throws a piece of metal on a target of clay with one or more pockets of gunpowder on it. Points are awarded based on how close to the center of the target you hit and if you can make something explode. It´s very very loud. It´s actually not at all like darts or bowling. Maybe it just feels like it because one usually gets very drunk while playing.
Next up: Santa Marta. I am looking forward to 30 degrees, sun, beaches, jungle and fresh air.
(translated from a little travel diary I wrote for my family)