We arrived in Bogota on Tuesday, March 18th around midnight, and took a cab to our hostel, the Cranky Croc. Upon arrival, we were lucky to get an upgrade to a room with a private bath however not so fortunate to realize the hostel was being remodeled with the construction (right next to our room) starting at precisely 4 am every morning the following morning and continuing every morning after.
We woke up on the first day of our 4 ½ month adventure and headed straight to a coffee shop to indulge in some real Colombian coffee. As soon as we stepped out of the hostel and into daylight, it was hard to miss the graffiti covered walls of the streets of Bogota; street art at its finest. The hostel even offered a free Graffiti walking tour that lasted a couple of hours which we were unable to attend due to the frequency of the tours offered during the week.
One of the first things we did in Bogota, was to visit Monserrate, the hilltop with incredible views of the metropolitan city of Bogota. Being as it was our first day and we were a bit tired from the flight out, we took the cable car (teleferico) up the hilltop and made the 45 minute walk down the 1500-step stone path on return. Throughout our walk, we noticed numerous police men stationed on the path which we initially assumed was for the safety of the tourists since theft and robbery are quite frequent in the bigger cities. However, as we became more familiar with the country’s history and culture, we came to realize the police are not a big relief to the citizens/civilians of the country as they often do not offer much help in times of distress. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city and taking in the culture and were lucky to miss the famous Bogota showers as we heard it rains pretty frequently there.
Back home, a friend referred a must see restaurant called Andres Carne de Res, famous for its four different levels which mirrored Dante’s The Divine Comedy: Hell, Earth, Purgatory, and Heaven. We headed here for our first dinner out. Although we weren’t able to make it to the original one in Chia (situated about an hour outside of the city), our visit to the one in the city was still a very unique experience. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Colombian hosts dressed in outfits resembling that of circus performers, who were generous enough to give us a tour around the restaurant’s different levels, let us choose where we wanted to seat, and gave us a few Spanish lessons on things to avoid saying to not sound like a typical “gringa”. We ended up getting seated at the Purgatory due to its ambience and the great looking waiters/hosts we spotted on the same floor. Once seated we were serenated by a band, given crowns and sashes, and thrown confetti as a welcome to the beautiful country of Colombia. The menu was quite excessive, consisting of 62 pages, which made it very difficult for us to decide on what to eat. We drank a beer and people watched while waiting for our food though I will admit… most of the people watching was concentrated around the good-looking waiters.
The restaurant was located in an area called Zona Rosa, known for its upper class citizens, fancy shops and boutiques and mainly the high concentration of wealth surrounding the area. On our cab ride back to our hostel (located in La Candelaria, downtown part of Bogota), I couldn’t help notice how we had gone from a wealthy upscale neighborhood to a poverty stricken one in the matter of 10 minutes. Back at the hostel, we joined a group of backpackers for some beers in the common area and bonded over our lives, paths, past and upcoming travels.
The next day was more relaxing as we walked around the city, explored and absorbed as much of Colombian culture as we could. I even tried a Colombian street snack consisting of what tasted like a thin piece of bread with caramel spread, cheese, coconut, peanuts, and some milk sauce concoction. Yes… it tasted as distasteful as it sounds.