te amo Bogota

Bogota Travel Blog

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Bogota is an amazing experience for anyone who has never been to a city larger than 2 million people (i.e. a lot of New Zealanders).  The pollution is ghastly, all the buses and traffic chug out sickening amounts of black smoke and when you wash your face black stuff always comes off.  But the weather is beautiful (so far) and there is so much to look at as you travel around.

It is impossible to get your head around just how huge the city is.  Janneth´s family live in the not-so-safe south area, Barrio Madelena.  Their house is about 42m2 total over three levels and they arelucky, only three people live there permanently (Janneth´s mother, step-father and little sister).  Apparently there can be many more families living in houses this size.  The house is sandwiched in between about 15 or 20 other houses all in a row so they all share common walls, and is about 3 metres wide.  The front area of the house is used as their business (making shoes).  They have a telephone and gas hot water (which is very temperamental, you have to keep turning it on and off until it runs hot) but don´t use the telephone to make calls often as it is very expensive.  It is cheaper to walk out around the corner to a local shop where it costs only 30 cents a minute to call NZ!

Janneth´s family have been very very kind and have been running us around Bogota in their car.  Despite the exchange rate, it costs approximately the same amount to fill a car as in New Zealand, which is far too expensive for most families.  There are different types of bus - the Transmilenio which runs down the main Avenidas (and costs less than NZD $1) and is most efficient as it has its own dedicated lane separate from teh rest of the traffic and specific stops.  Then there are the little buses slightly larger than a mini-van called the "colectivo" which will stop anywhere (often causing traffic problems for the people behind them) to pick you up and drop you off.  They have signs in the front window telling you which areas of town they go to and how much it costs.  You have to be quick to get inside when they stop as they take off again very quickly.

Each little street constitutes its own neighbourhood which is surrounded by high walls and has its own security gate which you can´t go enter unless you live there or have specific business there.  The people who live in each street pool money to hire a 24-hour security guard who minds the gate and stops people from entering if they don´t belong.  Apparently the neighbourhood Janneth´s family lives in had a disagreement and so stopped paying for a guard.  The fronts of all the houses are completely secure from the street and nothing is left outside.  Everybody with a car pays extra to have it parked behind bars so it is off the street and secure.

Ooops got to go.

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The first day after arrival we went into the centre of town to look at some museums.  We saw the Museo Nacional and the Museum of Modern Art (which was very disappointing as it had only two artists on display).  The Museo Nacional was amazing.  The museum is contained inside an old prison which has been converted.  Of course everything is in Spanish so we couldn{t read much except what Janneth translated for us but it was still an enjoyable venture.  Colombians are very proud of their history and there was an entire hall featuring Simon Bolivar.  There were mummies on display, pottery surviving from the various indigenous indian tribes that were prolific before the arrival of the Spanish and a lot of art (heaps of Botero, a world-famous Colombian artist).

I also had the opportunity to have el menu de dia.  Rather than going to a cafe that serves sandwiches, cakes and coffee which would cost 10000 pesos or more for lunch, Janneth took us to one of the places she used to frequent as a student.  You ask for the menu of the day and can have a delicious three-course meal which could consist of fruit, juice, rice, meat, some veges and sometimes salad or pasta, all for anywhere between 3500-6000 pesos.  This is about $4 NZD (divide by approx 1500).  There is usually ladies standing outside perfectly willing to drag you in and tell you that if you don{t like it you don{t have to pay!

It was a tiring day.

Bogota
photo by: caliphil007