December 31st, 2007 – by: AndySD
Monserrate on the top of the hill and the cable cars moving up
The first day after arriving in Bogota I hiked up to the top of Monserrate, the church on the mountain that borders Bogota to the east. Considering that Bogota itself is at an altitude of about 8,300 ft, it was quite taxing, especially after spending more than a day sitting on a bus. The pathway up to the top was buzzing with activity since it was the last Sunday of the year and many people were walking up to the top. The trail was essentially one continuous market with one stall after another on the spiralling stone pathway. It took about an hour to walk up the stone steps all the way to top which is at about 10,000 ft. At the top there were great views of Bogota as it spralled away from the hills to the east.
The pathway up to Monserrate
After lingering at the top for a while I decided to head back down to the bottom. The alternative to walking up to the top was to take either the cable car or the old railroad. Of the two, the cable car seemed much more terrifying so I opted for that. With that maximum number of people crammed into the cable car we began plumeting nearly straight down towards the base of the mountain, and were down there in a few minutes, definitely a lot quicker than walking, and much easier. After Monserrate I went to the Museo del Oro to the see the collection of gold artifacts. When I got to the musuem there was a sign up saying that it was closed for renovations until 2008 and they had moved a few of the most important pieces to another musuem across the neighborhood. The few gold pieces that were there were really nice, but there weren´t many.
Burning offerings on the trail to Monserrate
I continued walking through the historic district, La Candelaria, and looked at some of the churches and other buildings. The road was closed in front of the presidential palace and guards were walking up and down the sidewalk. When I stepped onto the sidewalk to take a picture the guard told me that I wasn´t allowed to walk on the sidewalk. That was a first. I spent some more time wandering around the city before taking the Transmillenio, Bogota´s mass transit system, home. The Transmillenio, which is a bus system that runs in special lanes in the middle of the road along selected routes, is really convenient for the parts of the city that it serves, although it is rather confusing as there are all sorts of different continuing routes marked by different letters and colors and these are interspersed with normal and express buses.
The next day I attempted to go to Zipaquira, the underground salt cathedral located an hour north of the city. After a 20 minute Transmillenio ride and another hour on a local bus, followed by a 15 minute walk through town to find the place, I got there around 1pm only to find that they had closed at noon because it was New Year´s Eve. Apparently no one else knew either because there were lots of cars with Colombian tourists trying to get in. So repeating the same procedure to get back I decided that I would have to come back the next day to see it, after all, it is one of the unique attractions in Colombia. Bogota seems to have a pretty good climate, due to the elevation it is warm during the day, in the 70s with a strong sun, and cold at night, sometimes down near freezing. I haven´t experienced the rains that are apparently common but other than that it seems quite pleasant.