My final few days in Colombia have flown by… I was in Bucaramanga for a few days, a small but pleasant city filled with parks and university students, and extremelllyyy delicious pineapples. I then caught a flight to Bogota, and TBH, I was not initially impressed… perhaps I was influenced by other people’s negative perceptions of the city, but it was grimy and cold and not nearly as pretty as all the other places I’ve visited. I decided to go out that night on a party bus, which I realized was a huge mistake because I’m just getting tooooo old (never again) I decided to leave the club “early” (around 2:30 ) with a British guy. We were walking thru some pretty dodgy areas and despite the British guy's insistence to “trust him” (ehrm I just met you like 10 minutes ago), I didn’t feel very safe… which was the first time I felt that way in Colombia. Luckily the hostel was like 2 blocks away, so we made it back perfectly intact.
In the morning I took a bike tour with Bogota Bike Tour, which was AMAZINGGGGG… we biked all around Bogota for about 6 hours. Our tour guide was a guy named Mike Ceaser, an American journalist whose been living in the country for around a decade. The path we took was extremely random, but I felt like I really got to see a ton of the city that I would have otherwise never known.
We started at the market and just ate and ate and ate…. Literally they just kept chopping some exotic looking fruits and hand it over to us... and I would obligingly put it in my mouth because I couldn’t help myself (thatt’s what she said…) We had tomate de arbol, granadilla (my favorite), guanabana, lulo, curua, maracaya , uchuva, and a ton of other deliciousness that’s indigenous to Colombia…
Then we biked around Bogota's National University, where there was a huge protest. Apparently the teacher’s in Colombia are on strike—they’re demanding higher wages, better healthcare, and the elimination of stringent evaluations (sounds familiar doesn’t it???) It was amazing to bike thru the campus, which is known for being pretty leftist. There was some amazing art on the walls as well. Bogota has apparently become a South American mecca for graffiti artists following the death of a young artist, shot by a policeman in 2011.
After the killing, the mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, issued a decree to promote the practice of graffiti in Bogotá as a form of artistic and cultural expression while at the same time defining surfaces that are off limits, including monuments and public buildings. It sparked a new tolerance of street art that has exploded into a colourful free-for-all of artistic expression. While some of the artwork has a social or political statement, other pieces were created just to make people smile…Justin Beiber even got involved… (he’s so hip and cultural)
After biking down the road with the most street art, we visited the red light district, which has a special “tolerance” ordinance in place. Despite being a Catholic country, Colombia is quite progressive… same sex unions are recognized by the government… prostitution is legal in some areas of the country… and euthanasia is permissible as well. Then we then biked along a park, and some teenage guys stopped us… apparently they’re rappers from the Santa Fe neighborhood of Bogota, which is not one of the safest places in the city. They spit a couple of verses… which made me pleasantly surprised because 1) I am allll salsa-ed out and I desperately wanted to hear hip-hop!! 2) I love the fact that hip-hop transcends communities and is really an outlet for the oppressed….
Afterwards we visited a local coffee shop, played tejo, and watched the Barca/Munich match.. there were some Germans on the tour, so they were not pleased with the results. We got back at around 4, which was much later than I expected, since the tour started around 10:30… so I packed all my stuff and headed to the airport, where I’m now typing this up! I wanted to make sure I got there early to avoid paying the exit tax, which was super simple... all you had to do was visit a window where they would check your passport and hand you a slip of paper!
I’m overwhelmed with emotions… Colombia was such an amazing place to start my RTW trip… It a country filled with rich biodiversity, amazing sites, great nightlife, and most importantly, kind, beautiful, and resilient people… They’ve experienced a lot of pain and suffering, and yet they continue to love life and carry a warm spirit. I didn’t have any real expectations, other than maybe a few horror stories.. .and now I have and now im ready to head to Europe for the summer! Fingers crossed that the dollar stays pretty strong J