Skipping a month in Costa Rica and 10 months in Mexico, I’m jumping straight into writing about Colombia. Welcome to Bogotá!
It’s ten in the evening, I’ve finished my fresh coffee and I’m sitting at a wooden table on the terrace of a hostel in the small village of Minca (650 m above sea level). I have a view of the seaside town of Santa Marta, shrouded in night and illuminated by street lights. Across from me, a dark-skinned Colombian woman is typing something on her laptop. I have a beautiful view.
On the way here in a small van, I met a history student from Austria. After settling in the hostel, we explored the village together, drank a few beers and ate at the local alternative restaurant Líná kočka. Tomorrow we are going to discover waterfalls and hopefully we will find a local coffee farm, where for 80 CZK they will show us how they process coffee beans the old way.
20 days earlier…
On November 27th, I am landing on a plane from Mexico in the capital of Colombia. At the airport, I ask how to get to the center. The nice lady at the information shows with a smile that it will be a piece of cake. The free green bus is supposed to take me from the airport to the public transport bus station. Here, all you have to do is get on the right express bus and that’s it.
And indeed. The green bus drops me off at the station in a small alley from which you can only go in one direction and that is to the entrance of the station. You can only go through the turnstile with a valid ticket. So I ask at the checkout if I can pay by card. No. I wonder what I should do, should I go back to the airport and look for an ATM. They’re sending security on me…
He’s actually a nice young police officer. He takes me through the turnstile and takes me about 15 minutes through the bus station. He shows me a small booth and says you can withdraw money there. I choose half a million pesos (approx. 4000 CZK). The guard is still around watching over me. During that 15-minute walk, we only talked about the weather, otherwise he wasn’t very talkative and didn’t respond much to my questions. And so it seemed long… actually we walked for about 5 minutes.
I approach the guard and nod that I already have the money and we can go back to buy a ticket and credit for the ticket. The guard jumps up to the ATM and runs his hand over all the number buttons, warning me that I should always do this or the next time someone misuses my card. Thank you. The guard shows me the express bus to take to the center. I say I have to buy credit first. The policeman waves his hand and says that I can only buy credit in the center… Ouch… I’m Czech, so free riding makes me very happy 🙂 And most of all, I think how nice it starts….
The best coffee
in my life
A meeting with a Colombian, a Jordanian and a Chinese womanA Colombian, a Jordanian and … erm … ok, different…
AdinhoAdinho is a warm Jordanian and architect, traveling for almost a year on his savings. He went away for 3 months and found that he won’t spend so much on the road and is enjoying life in Brazil for the time being. In December, he went to Colombia to visit his friend. Adinho teaches salsa to a Chinese girl.
JoyJoy is a loud and surprised Chinese woman. He enjoys everything, he asks everyone about everything, he stops people on the street and asks them what they have in their hands. He stops at all the street food stalls and asks what it is and if it’s good. Joy barely speaks Spanish. Joy is shy to dance in front of people and already knows the basic salsa steps taught to her by Jordanian Adinho.
GringoIn Central and South America, they are used to seeing tourists from the US. They refer to them with the word Gringo. A typical Gringo is fair-haired, tall, well-built, does not have a round face, has a neck and sharper facial features. Unfortunately, Andy has the same traits. A typical Gringo comes to the South with one purpose, to have fun. Everything here is extremely cheap for him and the laws are more arbitrary. And so he scatters and does not value anything very much. This is, of course, an opportunity for the local residents to make a little extra money, and bad luck for Andy, who has to constantly explain that he is not a Gringo. Unfortunately, the information that I am from Europe gives the same impression as if I am a rich Gringo.
Tricks of taxi drivers and Bogota with a garbage truckThe Oscar is over. Oscar catches a taxi, he does not recommend walking to the hostel. He allows himself to be taken to his home by a taxi and then instructs the taxi driver not to cheat me… ehhh. On the other hand, Oscar explains to me that I see a taxi meter in the taxi (they didn’t have those in Mexico) and there is a price list on the seat next to me. I can find how much I pay for points taken in the table. So the taxi driver can’t actually rob me in any way. The price should be up to 10 thousand. 20 minutes later… I get out of the taxi, pay 18,000 and stroll through midnight Bogotá as if it belongs here. In 20 minutes I’m at the hostel, on the way I give change to an 18-year-old young man who talks to me about how he sells chocolate on the corner. Back to the taxi driver. He got lost on the way to my hostel and couldn’t find his way. When I had to pay 15 thousand according to the table, I decided to walk it. In order not to say, I still pay a 3 thousand fee for getting into a taxi. Welcome to Bogota!
Don’t give papaya to anyoneBogota is one big garbage dump, garbage is everywhere on the streets and you have to be careful not to step on homeless people lying around. Which I really feel sorry for, because most of them didn’t even have shoes and socks and overnight temperatures in Bogotá in December are around 6 degrees. Bogota looks dangerous, and it probably is. You can feel it from people. Everyone is constantly looking back to see if someone is behind them to attack or rob them. You hardly see anyone on the streets with a mobile phone in their hand. Whenever I ask about safety, everyone advises me: “Aaaah… it’s not that bad, just be careful and don’t give papaya to anyone…”. Papaya is so readily available in Colombia that the phrase Give papaya is like Opportunity makes thieves.
Views from Monserrate
Tips for visiting Bogota
- Watch out for taxi drivers, they often get lost. You can also try UBER, taxi drivers say it’s more expensive than them, but trust them…yikes…
- Don’t show too much that you have a lot of money on you and don’t hold your mobile phone in your hand so that someone can swipe it. Always stand in a corner somewhere or stand next to the police who are almost on every corner… so a corner is just what you’re looking for 😀
- Try the local typical drink chicha [čiča], arepas (roasted dumplings with cheese or chicken), ajiaco(cream with chicken, radish and avocado), buňuelos (big sweet croquettes, they are cheap and tasty). Another typical dish is Banda Paisana (a large portion of different types of meat, rejje, fried banana, beans…) but if you plan to visit Medellin, that’s where it’s mecca is.
- If you see a shop called Oxxo, go there for a coffee. They also have a Juan Valdez coffee chain here, something like Starbucks, but the coffee there is expensive and not much. The paradox is that quality Colombian coffee is intended for export and only average quality remains in Colombia. Juan Valdez is a Colombian chain. Oxxo is something like our Frog, but I think originally from Mexico.
- Be sure to visit the Botero Museum and the Monserrate hill.