Tairona Inca: Colombia and Peru in 2 Weeks
Day 5: Arriving in and spending a day discovering the sights of Bogota, Colombia.
From Santa Marta, I had a direct flight to Bogota. El Dorado International Airport is still under construction and you can see the ruins of the old airport as you walk through the terminal.
I took a shuttle to the Holiday Inn Bogota Airport where I would spend the night. As I had an extremely early departure the next day I wanted to be close to the airport.
The hotel was very new and well maintained. Monica, at reception was very helpful and introduced me to the sights to visit during my day. When I asked if it was safe in the city she said “um… no.” She advised to get authorized taxi even on short stretches in midday.
I picked up some Colombian fast food consisting of cooked beef and rice which I ate in the taxi to save time.
The driver dropped me off a block from Plaza de Bolívar. Walking to the square, I saw a group of police officers opening and inspecting a manhole. One of them climbed out and that’s when I read “bomb squad” printed on the back of his vest. Hmm… I probably shouldn’t be following them.
The square was packed with people. There were tents in the center which seemed to be a part of a protest. Beggars, street performers, and hawkers were rampant.
The buildings adjacent to the plaza are all of importance. La Catedral Primada built 1807 – 1823, holds the remains of the founder of Bogota, Don Gonzálo Jiménez de Quesada.
The National Capitol houses congress on one side of the square. The Palacio Liévano, the seat of the Mayor is on the other side. And finally Palacio di Justicia completes the square.
Walking up the cobblestone road, I visited the Botero Museum. This museum exits the works of the most famous Colombain artist, Fernando Botero, who recently passed away in 2012. It was a nice exhibit. There were also works by other famous international artists.
Nearby was La Candelaria Church, which the entire historical district is named after. Built in 1686 -1703, the church houses paintings by Gregorio Vásquez from the colonial period.
Walking a few blocks down the main road gave me an impression of how unsafe Bogota was. There were many police and military patrolling the streets, keeping an eye on the unsavory characters. In the same crowd were tourists and locals. It was an interesting mix.
Next stop was the Gold Museum. The Museo del Oro holds an impressive 35,000 pieces of tumbaga gold, making the collection of pre-Columbian gold the largest in the world.
I browsed the Incan pottery and gold artifacts for about an hour before leaving.
The museum called a taxi and the driver convinced me to take a short tour of La Candelaria. We drove by red and white El Carmen Church, the Casa de Nariño (Presidential Palace), and several universities, before driving up the mountain. I noticed all the intricate graffiti around the city. The artists are very talented!
At the Monserrate station, I waited in line for tickets and to ride the cable car up. The line almost took an hour, probably because people wanted to see the sunset. In line I met a guy named Ramsey who use to live in Philadelphia and now is working in South America. He was very knowledgeable about Latin America and had a lot of interesting stories to share.
A young girl named Stephanie in front of us kept asking me questions in Spanish and basic English. She was very shy and wanted to know where I was from, my age, etc. Cute kid.
The cable car was quite large and was set up for everyone to stand. We were just in time for the sunset and caught the fiery sky over the panorama of Bogota.
A rumor I heard was that if couples come up together to the mountain, their relationship is cursed and they will break up.
At the top of the mountain is the Monserrate Sanctuary which was full of people. There was a large nativity scene on display.
Then we went to a cafe on the mountain to get some hot chocolate that you melt cheese in. It sounded strange but was simply delicious. We chatted about many topics with a night view of Bogota.
He told me about the “millionaire taxi ride”. The name sounds great, but its actually a scam where a taxi driver takes you to some random place to pick up an armed accomplice. Then they take you from ATM to ATM forcing you to withdraw all your cash at gunpoint. I guess the thieves become the millionaires eventually. Sigh.
After our conversation, we took the funicular down which went through a tunnel at one point but still offered views through its glass ceiling. There is also the option to walk down the mountain but it’s known to be dangerous due to muggings.
I thanked my new friend and hopped into a taxi back to the hotel.
Setting my alarm for an early awakening and I drifted off to sleep. As if I’d just shut my eyes, my alarm was blaring in my ear.
It was time to fly to Lima, Peru!