Bogota: Saturday 6th October to Friday 12th October.

Our midday flight from Santa Marta to Bogota meant that we were up pretty early to take the bus to the airport! Worst bus in the world as it was stopped twice for police searches and also it didn’t even take us all the way into Santa Marta where we could change for the airport bus. In the end, we just ended up taking a bus to the airport which was much faster, but more expensive. It was a pretty easy process getting to Bogota and we then took a taxi to our hostel – in the area of Zona G (G for Gastronomy!). This area is a bit away from the main touristic downtown centre but way cooler, with heaps of awesome restaurants around. 

Sunday 7th October

Cyclopia – Bogota.

On Sunday mornings in Bogota, 120km of main roads are shut down to allow people to get out and about on their bikes. One of the roads went right by our hotel so we headed out to walk the 6kms into the historic city centre. The vibe was fantastic! So many people out and about. We walked past a national park where some people were doing aerobics and finally made it into town. The Historic Centre was packed with people and the Plaza de Simon Bolivar was a pretty impressive centre, with vendors and heaps of pigeons that people were feeding – gross! We walked around the main centre of town and visited the Botero Museum. Botero is the most famous painter to ever come out of Colombia and his work investigates volume – he paints “fat” things. I really liked his work and the other pieces that he donated from his personal collection to the museum. 

Monday 8th October.

This morning we headed up to the top of Cerro Monseratte. We took the funicular the 500m up to the top of the mountain. It was a pretty steep ride and as we ascended the views of the city of Bogota just got better and better! At the top, we walked to the viewpoint for sweeping views of the city. It was beautiful! We then walked back down the mountain to town – it was quite a challenging walk down the stairs and we passed tons of people working up the stairs – lots of school children which was great to see. Many of them were really puffing and finding the walk challenging. Once down at the bottom of the mountain, we walked into town and did some shopping and had lunch before heading to the meeting point for an afternoon tour called “Breaking Border”. The guys from the company met us in a square in the Candelaria area and we walked up to the area called Calle 10 – an area once inaccessible for tourists – and police because the gangs controlled the area. In the past there was a lot of problem behaviour from young men and violence, and many deaths. Thanks to the work done by the Breaking Borders program to implement programs and walking tours in the community, the violence has decreased now, the area is safe for the children to play in the streets and the community has progressed significantly. Our guides explained the local graffiti to us – the story of the development of the community. We were also able to visit the home of one of the tour guides. It had been constructed by the family – and definitely didn’t look safe! But the family seemed very happy and they had an amazing view of the city. They offered us Chicha to drink. It was a locally made concoction of fermented fruit that tasted like fruity lexia. We were able to see the soccer pitch that they had constructed from the funds from the breaking boarders program. They are also in the process of building a woodshop where the young people can go to hone their woodworking skills. The tour gave us a great insight into the way of life of the poorer people in Bogota. 

Tuesday 9th October

Regan left really early this morning – and I was back on my own again… So weird but I was definitely ready for a day of rest and work catch up! I needed a plan about where to go in Colombia and where I was going to fly to next. This needs a bunch of work! I also had a few things to buy – clothes that had worn out, a new watchband and battery etc. So it wasn´t a very exciting touristic day but I got a lot done!  In the afternoon I caught up for a coffee and cake with Juliana who was an old GAP student at Ballarat Grammar last year. She was only just back from her GAP year for about 2 months so it was really great to be able to see her and gossip a little bit about what was going on at the school.

Wednesday 10th October

I headed into town for lunch today and ate at a restaurant that Juliana had recommended called Crepes and Waffles. This restaurant has delicious food, but more than that it is very interesting in that it only employs women in all of its roles – trying to provide employment opportunities for single mothers and older women who find it difficult to get jobs in Colombia.

In the afternoon I joined a graffiti tour of Bogota. We spent the afternoon wandering in some different areas of Bogota learning about the various graffiti artist that have been changing the way that the streets of Bogota look over the past 10 years that graffiti has become decriminalised. Our guide Carlos told us about the differences between street writing and street art and street calligraphy and the motives of the artist behind each one. In Bogota, and in general, there are hierarchies of street art. Tags – basically the small and ugly stuff should never be painted on more artistic street art or graffiti. Street writing is the more fancy type of tag where the artist writes their name or a message in a fancy way. Apparently, street artists don’t really care if regular people find their work ugly – their motive is to express a dissatisfaction with the use of public spaces and the segregation of society in general. Their belief is that cities should be more open and welcoming rather than shutting people out. Street artists, paint the lovely pictures that we saw on the walls throughout the city and their work can be quite political too. We saw some lovely work from some very talented artists from around the world. Making street art is really easy in Bogota and throughout Colombia. To do it legally, all the artist needs to do is ask the owner of the wall on which they´d like to paint and if the owner says OK then the artist is good to go. Of course, some graffiti artists still prefer to work illegally and under the cover of night for the thrill and the political statement. There was an event in 2011 that changed the trajectory of the Colombian street art scene for the better – but it was very sad event that was the cause. A young man who was painting under a bridge was approached by police and decided to try and escape. The police shot him in the back, killing him and then tried to cover it up. The parents, who were activists, protested and were supported by the street art community in Bogota. Then, six months later, Justin Beiber decided to make some terrible graffiti under a bridge and the police sent a large escort to accompany him. The people were outraged! The following week they staged a 24 hour painting session in the same spot and the police had to protect them. Since then, the laws have been changed and people can paint more freely throughout the city without fear.

After the tour I walked down to Simon Boliviar Plaza where there was a massive demonstration of university students protesting because the government had taken 3 billion dollars of funding from public education and reallocated it to Military spending. 

Thursday 11th October

This morning I took an uber into town to visit the Museo de Oro – the gold museum. This is known as one of the best museums in all of Latin America and it didn´t disappoint! I was able to see a history of the methods of gold extraction and the methods for setting the gold and its alloys into the impressive pieces seen throughout the museum. I also got a feel for the different regions of Colombia through the gold artefacts that they had produced throughout the ages. No wonder the Spaniards were so excited about South America when they discovered the new land. In many regions it was the tradition for important people to be buried with all their gold and treasures. So many tombs just waiting to be plundered! It´s great that there is such an extensive collection still in Bogota, providing a bit of an idea as to how the ancient peoples used to live.

In the afternoon, I visited the National Museum with the intention of visiting the exhibition of the early works of Botero. I have to say that I wasn´t too impressed with his early works – he definitely improved as he got older that’s for sure! Upstairs there was a range of paintings from Colombian painters sorted into the various centuries. The whole building and the exhibits were also super interesting. 

Friday 12th October

Today was my last day in Bogota. I caught up with an old friend who used to be a GAP student in Australia in 2011. Her name was Maria – we had a really nice breakfast in the famous restaurant Crepes and Waffles – it was really delicious! It was really great to catch up with another old friend in a new city. Maria gave me some great ideas about where I could go next on my trip. Exciting times ahead!