Find your Passion, and then Live it

Medellín, Colombia

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Semana Santa Part 2: Bogotá

The second half of my Semana Santa was spent in Bogotá. The plan was to travel to Bogotá over Wednesday night with my friend Leo, and spend 3 FULL days in the city. However that didnt really happen. We decided a couple weeks ago to take a bus to Bogotá because it´s cheaper than flying. The trip from Medellín to Bogotá is suppose to take about 9 hours... however our experience was vastly different.

The day before we left Bogotá there were various reports about flooding and landslides within the region where Bogotá is located. We were told because of this a different route would be taken, and the trip there would only increase by 2 hours. Ok, so 11 hours in total on a bus, that´s doable. We left Medellín at 10pm Wednesday night, and were suppose to arrive in Bogotá at 7am Thursday. However 2 hours into our trip our bus stopped, at first it stopped because of bus troubles, then 20 minutes later it stopped again. This time it stopped for 6 hours... ugh brutal. At first I didnt quite understand what was going on, but later learned there had been a landslide and there was a huge backup of traffic which we were stuck in for 6 HOURS! We had to wait for police to come and move the debris and a large rock from the middle of the road. After that it took another 12 hours to get to the capital. Needless to say we were exhausted and frustrated by the time we arrived in Bogotá.

Here are some photos of the flooding and landslides we saw during our trip:

When we did arrive we took a cab to La Candelaria district, which is where we were staying the first night in a hostel. La Candelaria is a very beautiful district of Bogotá with colonial style buildings. We stayed at the Alegría Hostel for one night, we had our own private room and bathroom. This was my first time staying at a hostel, and overall it was a really good experience. It was separated over two different buildings, and had common areas, a kitchen, patios, etc etc. They also had a cat with 3 kittens which were adorable, so obviously I had to play with them.

Once arriving and checking into the hostel, Leo and I decided to get some food. However we were told to be back before 9pm, because the district of La Candelaria is dangerous at night, specifically after 9pm. Also, the area we were directly in didnt have a lot of restaurants / restaurants open because it was Semana Santa. So after walking around for less than 5 minutes, we got freaked out and chose to get food from the first place we saw, which was a pizzeria. The area we were walking in was a bit sketchy, the people didn't give us the best vibes, so after getting food we decided to just hangout in our hostel for the first night. We met a bunch of different people from around the world, Australia, England, Spain, Germany etc etc. We also watched one of the Barça vs Real Madrid soccer games on tv, which is always a good time. It's definitely a lot chiller in Bogotá, so while watching the soccer game, I sat by the fire to stay warm and cozy.

The next day we left our hostel walked through the Candelaria a bit before heading to the north of the city, to meet up with Leo's friend who's also from Guatemala.

Fun fact about Bogotá... IT'S HUGE. And im not exaggerating.... it took us over an hour to get from one end to the other by the Transmilenio. The Transmilenio is Bogotá's transportation system... it's like a bus/metro system combined. It's quite efficient, and there are a ton of different routes you can take, but it does take FOREVER to get through the city, because it's so big.

We met up with Jorge (Leo's friend) and headed to Salitre Magico... which is kind of like the Colombian version of Canada's Wonderland, an amusement park! We had really great weather in Bogotá, so it was quite warm (about 18-20 degrees) and sunny! We went on rollarcoasters, did kart racing, bummer cars ... the works. It was a totally random day, I really didnt think I would ever visit an amusement park in Colombia... but I did! At night we made a delicious dinner which consisted of steak, potatoes and beer.

Saturday in Bogotá was a really busy day, because it was our last in the city, since we lost almost a full day on Thursday by being on a bus :( . In the morning we headed to Zipaquirá, which is a small town 40 minutes outside of Bogotá that has a major tourist attraction. It's called La Catedral de Sal (The Salt Cathedral). Basically it's a Cathedral underground in a Salt Mine. Entering the mine was a little scary, as it was very dark and goes far underground.
The site where the Cathedral is housed... is HUGE.... and at some points you dont really realize youre underground. There's a special route until you get to the main alter of the Cathedral, and there are different "Stops" along the way, which represents the stops Jesus made on his way to being crucified. Each stop has a large cross carved from stone/salt, with special spots to pray in front of it. After passing 13 stops (... i think there was 13 of them) you finally come to the main alter... which consists of a HUGE cross with lights on it, which reflect off the natural salt. Its very impressive to see, and Im not even a religious person, I was just appreciating it on a structural aspect, as well as the fact that we were far underground.... very cool.

After seeing the main alter, we were able to see a 3D movie (also underground) which explained about the Cathedral, its significance, why and how it was built etc. Afterwards we took a special tour on the Miner's Route... where we were given hardhats with lights attached, and followed a guide on a route that would let us experience what it's like to be a miner. First we were lead through a tight cave tunnel thing, which was really sketchy for me, and at one point I got really claustrophobic and almost had a small panic attack... as we were (god knows how many feet) underground, and it was completely pitch black. intense. Never in my life was I so excited to see light at the end of the tunnel from the guides flashlight, then she explained the daily routine of a miner, how they worked, the risks the worked with, how they chipped away and gathered salt, how they used dynamite etc etc. It was actually really interesting.

After all our tours in the Salt Cathedral we headed back to Zipaquirá and took a small train through the town for a quick tour. Afterwards we headed back to Bogotá, and travelled down town to the Museum of Gold. This was an impressive museum to go to, as it houses a HUGE collection of gold from Colombia ... which makes you wonder if the legend of El Dorado is true or not... hmm... food for thought. You can basically see 2,000 year old pieces of gold from different indigenous tribes located all over Colombia. Gold is still mined today in Colombia, especially in the region of Chocó (which is on the western coast of Colombia). The museum was definitely worth going to see (and I recommend it to anyone who visits Bogotá), and it was only $3,000 pesos to enter ($1.50 !!!).

At night we went to check out the famous Zona Rosa district, which is a fancy bar district in Bogotá. It reminded me a lot of King West in Toronto... and its pretty expensive unfortunately. So we didnt buy a lot of drinks, we did have a couple :) We didnt stay out too late, as we were getting up early to head back to Medellín. We were hoping and praying our journey wouldnt be as long as it took to get to the capital... but unfortunately it took 18 hours... so almost the same amount of time. We were suppose to get back into the city at 7pm Sunday... but I didnt get back to my apt until 4am Monday morning... not so fun.

The city of Bogotá was nice to visit, since it's the capital of Colombia... but I wasnt overly impressed. It was kind of the same impression I was left with when I went to Madrid... the city was ok but I loved Barcelona so much more. It's the same with Medellín. Bogotá was just ok... i found it to be quite dirty and filled with graffiti.
I also felt an emotional attachment to Medellín when I got back, I was really glad to be back... in MY city :) Medellín is starting to feel like my new home, and I definitely felt that when I got back.

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