The Bedazzling Views In Bogota, Colombia
It’s a shock to the system when, at 6.30am and after yet another long night journey, we arrive at Bogota bus terminal to mild temperatures of fifteen degrees. Layered up in tracksuit bottoms and hoodies, Dave and I wait in the authorised taxi queue for thirty minutes, before we’re taken on another twenty minute drive through the Colombian capital, finally arriving at our hostel.
We’re only in Bogota for the rest of the day, as we’ve booked a flight to Quito for tomorrow, but neither of us is particularly bothered about spending much time in big cities and Bogota itself looks pretty standard; modern, busy and commercialised. So, after being allowed to check-in to our private double room early (and finding upon doing so that the bedding most likely hasn’t been changed as there are hairs under the sheets – nice), we roll out our essential sleeping bag liners and have a few hour’s kip.
We wake around midday and get ready to go out exploring for the afternoon. Using Trip Advisor and Google as our bibles, we decide that we’d like to visit Cerro Monserrate, a shrine built 3,152 metres above sea level, overlooking the entire city of Bogota. Despite the slight chill in the air, the sun is shining brightly so it seems like a perfect day to visit. After obtaining some quick directions from the hostel receptionist on how to get to Cerro Monserrate, we walk two blocks to a bus station, successfully buy our tickets in Spanish and jump on the correct bus.
It’s just a short five minute journey to our stop, which luckily for us is also the end of the line as otherwise we’d have no idea where to get off. From here, you can reach Cerro Monserrate by cable car or by walking for two and a half hours uphill. We opt for the easy route; the cable car.
Reaching the top, I’m already wowed by the scenery. The hilltop has been built upon with narrow, stone pavements, brilliantly-white painted buildings that house small cafes and restaurants, and purposefully planted flowers in reds, yellows, purples and pinks. The pavement takes us a little further uphill to the church itself, which is surrounded by large open spaces and low concrete walls, the perfect height for looking out over Bogota.
For the first time on our trip, I have goosebumps as I gaze out. Everything up here is so quiet, peaceful and completely stunning. It’s so far removed from the bustling streets below us, which now look idyllic and peaceful themselves from so far away. The blue sky reflects the light that bounces from the tallest glass buildings, while white clouds slowly drift through, blown by a mild breeze. For minutes, Dave and I just stand together and watch. Nothing changes and nothing happens, but I could stand here simply watching for hours.
Of course, we take plenty of pictures and the few below don’t even do it justice:
I’m so glad we came to Bogota if only for this view.
Eventually, Dave drags me away so we can make the last cable car before nightfall and we return to street level. The contrast between above and below is magnified further as we queue for a bus among a group of two dozen stressed and forceful Colombians, who literally shove us onto the bus when it arrives. To say the bus is packed is an understatement. If I didn’t know Dave I’d be accidentally dry-humping a stranger we are pushed so close together. Even as we approach more stops, very clearly squashed as we are, more people force their way into the smallest of gaps just to avoid waiting for the next bus to come along. It is mental and getting off is just as fun, in fact I accidentally elbow a guy in the head while shoving my way through unmoving students and business people to reach the street.
That night, we cook ourselves dinner and watch a film on Dave’s tablet in the privacy of our room, ready for our afternoon flight to Quito, Ecuador. We’ve booked online with Vivo Colombia, but whilst researching our options for transport, I read from a fellow travel blogger that many people are actually owed some of their flight cost back because, when booking within the country, airport tax is automatically included, yet only Colombian citizens and a select few others are supposed to pay this. So, upon arrival at Bogota airport the following day, I’m determined to claim some money back and eagerly seek out a help desk attendant. I’m informed that indeed, we are owed the airport tax back and in order to get this we simply ask the check-in clerk. Easy!
As part of our check-in process we sign a form to say we’ve received just over one hundred and fifty Colombian pesos, technically less than we’re owed due to a crummy exchange rate on the airlines part, but we’ve still managed to get back most of what’s rightfully ours and added to our rapidly decreasing travel fund – victory is ours! (You can read more about how to claim back Colombian airport tax here).
Feeling a little smug, we make our way to the departure gate and await our short flight to Quito. We can’t wait to experience a new country and look forward to spending a few days in the capital, which is actually a UNESCO world heritage sight. To read about what we get up to in Ecuador head to my next post, and subscribe to this blog for monthly updates.