Bogotá is big. A city of over ten million people. Ten million!!! It’s a gritty working city, full of graffiti and certainly not known for its colonial charm. A trip up the Monserrate cable car for an overview of the metropolis provides a small clue as to the scale of the place, but never let it be said that we judge a book by its cover. We’re here to give Bogotá a fair crack-of-the-whip and we find it a nice city to mooch about! Also, we’re here to do some gadget shopping. Hmmm… sounds expensive! Bogotá Blog
City Park-upsBogotá Blog
Cities are always a challenge for parking-up an overlanding vehicle. The bigger the truck, the harder it gets (surprising that, huh? 😊). Traffic volumes, lack of safe street parking and height restrictions to get into car-parks can make it a bit of a nightmare sometimes. In Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, Rio de Janeiro and Quito we found good, secure places right in the heart of the cities from which we could easily wander out.
Unfortunately, Bogotá isn’t quite so obliging. Here we have to park in the far suburbs of the city and transit into town with the commuters. Sounds awful, but actually the spot is by a pleasantly peaceful park with a nearby out-of-town shopping mall. The commuter bus system is remarkably clean and efficient, with a dedicated lane allowing us to be whisked past all the traffic into the heart of the city pronto. Just 40 minutes and we’re off the bus, keen for a bit of Bogotá action…
Street art, graffiti, de-facing or vandalism… I guess it depends on your point of view. But even if it’s not your ‘thing’, it’s hard to deny the talent of some of the artists decorating the streets of Bogotá today. We join a walking tour with a local artist to ‘get down with the kids’ and learn a bit about the ‘street art culture’.
After our impressively informative walking tour with Milo in Medellin, our expectations for this tour are probably unreasonably high; the guide isn’t as good as Milo. A rather idealistic, left-wing, anti-government young lady spends more time ranting about Colombia’s political problems than the street art we see before us. “Democracy doesn’t work in Colombia“ she declares on numerous occasions. Who knows? Maybe she’s right… but she’s not exactly brimming with ideas when asked what system she would like to see in place as an alternative. Nevertheless, the tour is an enjoyable couple of hours and the quality of some of the art work around the town is astonishing. We’ll let the pictures do the talking.
The great thing about Bogotá is that the street art is everywhere. It’s not restricted to some dodgy neighbourhoods where you need the close-armed protection of the local mafia to get you in and out of the zone. It’s in the tourist areas as well as the business districts. If you ride across town by bus, you’ll see oodles of it, of a greater or lesser quality, all across the city.
There’s some high-end culture in Bogotá too. We’ve seen a lotta, lotta museums on our travels. Frankly, some of them are generously stretching the definition of the word. And many of them are just plain dull. But then there is the rare occurrence… just occasionally we come across a super-shiny world-class display, par excellence! Beautiful artefacts, imaginatively presented, reviving all faith in the curating profession. Exhibit ‘A’ to demonstrate this rare occurrence is the Bogotá Gold Museum. A morning well spent learning about the history, science and artistry of producing gold.
It maybe something of an understatement to say that law and order has been a bit of a challenge for Colombian police in recent history. That said, we can honestly say that our experience of them has been nothing short of exemplary. They carry out routine road-stops professionally, with courtesy and good humour. Not once has there been any hint of arrogance or aggression, no bribery or corruption. Thoroughly nice chaps! So it’s fascinating to gain an insight into the policing at the Colombian Police Museum. Sure… it’s only the bit of the story that they want you to hear, but nevertheless, it’s interesting. Mateo, a young cadet is delegated the duty of showing us round the displays and tells us amusing stories passed down to him from the ‘old hands’ in The Force. The star exhibit is Pablo Escobar’s Harley Davidson, needless to say, it’s all very ‘bling’.
Way back down-south in Patagonia (seems like years ago… in fact it was pretty much exactly two years ago) we received sage advice from travellers coming down from the north that we should enjoy the good meat while we can. The steaks up-north just can’t match the fabulous parilladas of Argentina and Chile. And it’s true, of course. It’s a long time since we’ve had a really good steak in South America. The exception to said rule is the crazy steakhouse of Andrés Carne de Res. This whacky place has to be seen to be believed! It’s a huge venue outside of town, crammed full of weird memorabilia, life-sized crazy cows and random signage sprinkled with twinkly lights of every colour. The place is a Bogotá legend; one taste of their steak and it’s not hard to see why. The whole experience is unforgettable in more ways than one.
What else can we mentioning about Bogotá? Ah yes…. the salt cathedral in Zipaquirá. Well, okay…. the sharp cookies amongst you may recall that we mentioned this in our last blog as we visited it on our way into Bogotá. But just for the sake of completeness, it can’t really be omitted from a Bogotá blog. A disused salt mine in the hills north of Bogotá has been converted into a stunning underground cathedral – one of only three in the world. The lighting is a bit kitsch in places and the underground parade of souvenir tat-sellers is extremely so, but hey… it’s not every day that you find a cathedral cut out of salt (in fact we’re told there are only three in the world and the other two are both in Poland). It’s still very much worth a spot on a Boogie-around-Bogotá itinerary.
Remember the ‘gadget shopping’ bit in the introduction? Well… having carried out due-dilligence on the selection of drones available in Colombia, Marcus has decided that our old drone is no longer ‘up to scratch’ and is in need of an upgrade. Surprise, surprise, the preferred new drone (a Mavic Pro) just happens to be in stock in the Bogotá gadget store and Marcus just happens to have a certain ‘big’ birthday coming up soon! The mission to buy was therefore successful and soon afterwards, the mission to sell the old drone completed our time in Bogotá. Practice flights with the new drone are now underway. Stand-by for some footage from the new gadget in the near future… sometime 😊
Dropping in on Pablo
Heading back to Medellin, the route just happens to run right past the gate of Pablo Escobar’s old ranch, Hacienda Napoles. Those familiar with the tv series Narcos, will recognise the scene from the opening sequence of the show. The actual house has long been demolished and the site has been turned into a theme park (complete with his menagerie of safari animals) that is very popular with locals. It’s the Saturday morning of a holiday weekend when we pass. The place is teeming with coach after coach-load of visitors, bussed out from Bogotá some 3 hours away. The crowds almost put us off stopping, but we can’t resist the photo opportunity of Cuthbert in front of the famous gateway.
So…. a few weeks ago, we left Medellin to do a roundabout exploratory tour through central Colombia. Now, mission accomplished, we’re back in Medellin eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Iveco spare parts that we ordered 6 weeks ago back in Cali (routine spare parts to prepare Cuthbert for the next leg of our trip up through Central America). Iveco Colombia is making all the right noises in the email communications (which is encouraging) but we don’t actually have the parts in our sticky-mits just yet. Keep your fingers crossed for us 😊