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Monday 1 Feb 2010
Bogota, Colombia

Yo no soy un gringo!

As if to signify my farewell from Jeri on the 31st Jan, it started raining heavily for about 2 hours in the morning. Thankfully I had gotten the best of the weather (I spent all day of the 30th lying on the beach in the sun while the water was coming onshore. It was like being in a hot jacuzzi!). Predictably when something can go wrong it does, and I had a nasty slip on the wet stairs in the pousada, landing on my rear ribcage and making me breathless for a while. It could have been a lot worse if I'd fallen forward, but this fall made packing up quite a chore as I was aching all over. I even had to get a dune buggy to bring me the short 5 min walk to the Jardineria bus as I couldn't carry the backpack! Hopefully haven't broken anything, and it's just a bruised kidney or liver as it's still hurting fairly badly (I'm writing this on the 2nd Feb) ... so that's a damaged knee from kite surfing and bruised liver/fractured rib. Maybe I'm getting too old for this travelling lark! Undecided

There are two different buses you can get from Jericoacoara to Fortaleza, the standard (which leaves you at the Rodavario bus station) and the VIP (which leaves you at the airport). VIP is R$ 50, standard is R$ 35 and you can get a R$ 20 taxi to the airport from there. As the VIP bus was booked up, I had to get the standard, but I was assured it was the same bus, the only difference being that one dropped you at the airport. Unfortunately the difference seems to be much more than that, and the space in each seat is FAR less on the standard. When the lady in the front row put her seat down, it literally crushed up against my knees and I couldn't move. Thankfully she was nice enough to understand and the seat beside her was free so she moved into that instead! So another lesson, always get the VIP bus in Brazil if you are over 6ft tall!

Got to the airport in good time and I made sure to ask for two Fire Exit rows on my VoeGol flight to Sao Paulo, then Bogota. I also made sure to take my fleece with me as the air conditioners on South American flights are really strong! The flight had a 3 hour delayed departure time (this seems to be par for the course now), but we eventually boarded the flight at 4am for the red eye to Sao Paulo. More fun ensued: despite going out of my way to ask for a Fire Exit seat, the guy a the check in counter booked a standard seat for me. Not only that, but the seat was DOUBLE-BOOKED (I didn't think that was even possible), and some guy had a ticket for 28C as well! Oye! Never mind, I managed to kick up a fuss and wrangle a Fire Exit seat.

The flight from Sao Paulo to Bogota was much better. I got a "proper" Fire Exit row with lots of space (on these flights, there are two fire exit rows beside each other, the front one is always the one with the leg-room.) and managed to even kip off for a while, plus got nicely fed. Have to get my €450 worth at some point Smile

Now I was heading to Spanish-speaking South America, so just as I was starting to get a handle on Portuguese it was time to forget it all and try to remember my Spanish! Several words I am constantly mixing up are:

  • fala -> habla ("speak")
  • frengo -> pollo ("chicken")
  • quincho -> queso ("cheese")
  • obrigado -> gracias ("thanks" I'm having major problems with this one)
  • muito -> mucho ("a lot")
  • chuva -> jubia ("rain")

Initial impressions of Bogota. For one, It's a lot colder than Brazil. Surrounded by the Andes mountains, the city is at a fairly high altitude plus it's above the equator so the seasons (well the "dry season" as it is here) are reversed. It's a very flat city built upon a plateau, but the horizon is dominated by sharply-rising mountains on all sides. The historical Candaleria area where I am staying lies at the edge of the mountains so has some steep roads though. Despite the surroundings, the actual city itself is nothing particularly special...

After getting cash out of the ATM in the airport, I opted to take the bus to my hostel from the airport. I had asked a taxi driver if he knew the way, but I got the similar blank look I received from the taxi driver in Salvador so I could predict how that would have turned out! It's strange that he didn't know where it was as Bogota's grid street system makes locating places very easy. Taking the bus was great as it gave me a quick tour of downtown. The downtown city looks a lot like a ghetto. Rundown buildings, people walking around in rapper-garb, traffic chaos, smog. In 30 mins I saw: a girl sniffing inhalants out of a black plastic bag while her dealer was wandering around the street looking for the next victim (he seemed high as well)... cyclist squished under a huge truck (they'd removed the body but the bike and associated puddle of blood was still there as well as a huge crowd). Driving here (let along cycling!) is literally taking your life into your own hands, the rule of the road (for there seems to be only one) is to get to your destination as quickly as possible while assuming you are the only car on the road.

Got to my hostel with little trouble though, about 5 or 6 people on the bus went out of their way to let me know where I should get off. People here are very helpful, but rather guarded and not overly friendly from the outset until they "trust" you. Just like any large city in the US for example, and no doubt people here are cautious of others due to the high levels of crime.

Got a nice single room with shared bathroom for only 13 euro a night including breakfast. Tried to get some sleep but was awoken when I heard what I thought was a cat being strangled, but it turned out to be the voices of a very annoying (and extremely loud) bunch of yanks in the lobby . "Oye gringos" I thought. I was on the verge of checking out... but found that my earplugs served their purpose pretty well!

In order to escape the onslaught of "Oh. My. Gawwwd!" and "totally sucks dude", I ventured out into the Bogota night in search of sustenance (and to prevent further damage to my eardrums). As luck would have it, I found a cosy little rock bar where I had a large Chicken crepe and chips. People in Bogota seem to love their heavy rock music. Even the bus into town was playing death metal loud. Met up with two local Design students at the bar: Catalina and her Argentinian friend (whose name escapes me). Catalina instructed me in the art of Colombian Spanish and all the slang used in place of common words. "Beunos" instead of "Beunos Dia"/"Hola". Even saying something like "Quisiera una cerveza por favor" gets strange looks, you need to just point and say "una cerveca". In Bogota manners are an unusual thing, although Catalina said that if someone comes up to you, it's best to play it safe and be nice and courteous.

She also showed her disdain for Americans (they're called Gringos here as "Americans" can be used to describe anyone from the continent of North/South America). She said I wasn't a gringo though, as I have more cop on I guess...

By the end of the night, I'd had a full meal, and ordered about 8 beers for myself and my new friends. Total price? COP$ 24,000. That's €9! Yes Colombia is hella cheap and makes a nice change from Brazil in this respect!

Bogota doesn't have too much in the way of tourist attractions apart from several museums, but the main reason for being here is to visit "El Catedral de Sal". A large underground network of churches carved out of salt!

2-3 days here before headin up north to Cartagena.

2 Comments for this Travel blog entry

Gaz Bro Says:

3 February 2010

Hey Pete, no photos of the knee or ribs yet! Take it easy out there! And me? Great trip.... glad to be home in one piece too!

peterforan Replies:

4 February 2010

Nah nothing to show in photos... knee just sore, but not swollen.

Won't do anything too strenuous if I know it'll affect the knee so don't worry :)

Cool you should update your blog with your latest trip!

Mum Says:

4 February 2010

Hadnt heard about the fall ! yikes Peter are you 'a ccident prone'? Anyway, glad no injury there. Take care of knee. Looks bit dicey place in Bogota - hope nxt place bit safer. Cathedral de Sel looks lovely! Take care, Mum

South America Twenty Ten

Travel blog by peterforan



After previously dipping my toes in Latin America via trips to Cuba and Central America, it's time to go for the big splash! 3 1/2 months to take in as much as I can, armed with little more than my camera, laptop and a few dodgy Spanish phrases.

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    Heavy security on Bogota's streets
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    Catedral de Sal
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    Catedral de Sal