can you tell we're running out of inspiration??
17.02.2010 - 20.03.2010
The journey to Bogota was long and windy as we had to go over the Andes once more and it was dark by the time we reached the capital. At the bus station we popped into the tourist office to get a map and the man working there took us down to put us in a taxi. Taxis from the bus stations in Bogota are very good as you give the address to kind of dispatcher who types it into a computer and then hands you a receipt with the fare printed on it. We were heading to La Candelaria which is in the historic centre of the city. It was a long ride and we had our first introduction to Bogota traffic which is a nightmare. Finally we arrived at a hostel that Lily had given us a card for but as soon as we entered we knew it wasn't for us, a bit too backpackery. As it turned out it was full apart from a couple of beds in a 4 person dorm and they wanted £6.50 for each of them. We declined but one of the guys behind the desk, both of which were Aussie said he would ring round for us to see who had some space as it was getting late, which was kind of him. While he was doing that the other guy asked us where we were from and when we said 'England,' he replied with 'Oh I feel sorry for you.' When we asked him, slightly dumbstruck as to why he felt this way, he simply said 'Well I'm from Australia' as if that explained everything. Now I wouldn't say either Adam or I was massively patriotic but this kind of got our backs up and reconfirmed why we really didn't want to be staying at the Cranky Croc Hostel.
We ended up with a rather expensive room at Platypus Hostel, another guidebook favourite but it was only for the night. Walking around Bogota when we popped out to get some dinner we were really taken aback by how many Westerners we saw. In Ecuador and the south of Colombia we had hardly seen any so this was a bit out of the blue. After quickly locating a little takeaway we made our way back to the hostel with food in hand and called it a night. In the morning we got up as early as we could muster and set about finding alternative accommodation. It took a little while but in the end we stumbled across Hotel Internacional. It didn't look like too much from the outside but we were pleasantly surprised with how clean and fresh it looked inside, as if it had been recently renovated. We secured a room and went back to collect our stuff.
Our first couple of days in Bogota were really spent getting to grips with the city and also trying to track down various things. It is a very big place with lots and lots of different districts catering to different needs. Both Adam and I wanted to try and get a leather jacket made and Adam also wanted another tailored suit. Our first attempts at finding the leather district and separate material district were unsuccessful. The guidebook lied about the location of the leather shops and information about material shops and tailors was sparse. Conscious that taxi would mount up we tried to make use of the award winning Transmileno bus system which runs throughout the capital. Unfortunately it all seemed very confusing with no definitive map and a lot of letters and numbers which didn't make sense. As my knee was getting more and more swollen we ended up falling back on to taxis which actually turned out to be quite fairly priced and all run on a meter.
By chance we passed through the leather district which was a bit of bonus and soon enough we were faced with the daunting task of trying to explain in Spanish what we wanted. This was a little easier for me because the first jacket I tried on was almost exactly what I wanted it was just a bit small. For Adam though it was a little trickier. In the end with the use of the English to Spanish dictionary, some pointing and our basic grasp of the language we got there. Thankfully we were ordering it from a lovely lady called Leonora who seemed genuinely interested in helping us get what we wanted and we both left with a fairly confident feeling.
Finding suit material and a tailor was even more tricky. We asked a couple of taxi drivers, one of which spoke really good English as he had lived in America for a few years and we were pretty sure we were on to a winner. However once out of the taxi we discovered most of the shops sold curtain material. In the end we it was a couple of streets we'd walked down numerous times that seemed to have more shops than anywhere else in fact when we looked a little closer we discovered there were more than we'd realised. One shop we looked in took us to a nearby tailor so we could establish how much material would be needed. The tailor was quite a young man and he seemed to understand what Adam was looking for. With the tailor found all that was needed was the material and Adam bought it from a very jolly fellow who seemed to like the fact that we were trying to speak Spanish and took quite an interest in our dictionary. We negotiated a bit of a discount and he gave us a sweet when we left, a pleasant shopping experience.
On our various excursions throughout the city I came to quite like Bogota. The Candelaria or Centro area of the city is the most picturesque as it is full of old buildings, narrow streets and big avenues but the whole place has a vibrant feel about it, there are certainly a lot of people. Unfortunately the homeless population is really quite high, I don't think in any other place we've visited I've seen more people on the street. It is always hard to know who to give your money to, as you don't want to be feeding someone's addiction. We've eaten at the same chicken place a few times and there tends to be the same old chap outside it, we like to give him a bit, he's always very grateful.
When we left Bogota after three full days we made a reservation to stay in the same hotel for when we returned. We were planning to give ourselves about 5 days before our flight to pick up the jackets, the suit and buy various bits and bobs. Neither of us was very excited about the thought of a 20 hour journey up to the northern Caribbean coast and back but we were longing to see some lovely, pristine beaches and clear blue water. We were just going to make a little stop on the way to break things up.
Laura & Adam