Bogota, Botero and Beggars.

The flight from Santa Marta was direct and very fast! I fell asleep with take off and the next minute we are landing! Why, oh why can’t I do this on long haul flights home? The first thing was that it was bitter, bitter cold! Shock! I had decided to take the bus, I had plenty of time and that way I would get immediately used to the public transport system! Great idea! Bus to the city centre was in an accident, oops, need to take an other bus! Great!

Apparently this bus didn’t go anywhere near the city centre! All people got involved! Off the bus, ah, all you need to do is cross the huge road with the overhead walkway! Duh! I suffer terribly from vertigo, so not on your nelly! Finally this man stops a cab, puts my bags on the floor in the back, locks all the doors and gives me a lecture on how terribly dangerous Bogota is! Great, I am freezing cold and now shit scared as well!!

The taxi driver got me in the right direction, but kept going in circles. Meter ticking away! I told him to stop! Paid, got out and sorted it myself! He was two streets out! Finally arrived at Casa Sabella, where they slugged me for an extra 25,000 pesos on top of the bill! Nobody spoke English, I was tired, cold and very miserable. In the end they rang somebody who spoke some sort of English who told me that booking dot com actually mentioned this! She was right, I had just not read that far ahead! Now I was tired, cold, miserable and very, very, embarrassed.

Hot shower, and a nap. Always makes me feel better! I asked for an extra blanket as the blanket I had was see through! Received another one the same.  Started my explorations the next day. Great National museum. Found a lovely place to eat.

Mambo, Museo Arte Moderno de Bogota, didn’t open at the time it said on the door! Why not? Well, it was Saturday 20 July, Independence Day. All celebrations were on the Plaza Bolivar, which I thought was far, far away! Duh! Another five minutes walking would have brought me there. Anyway I amused myself, got my photos put on an USB. Chatted with the old men at the juice seller, and had a hot coffee at Maccas. Visited the Gold museum as well. This was mightely impressive. It had a fabulous display of traditional objects. It was packed! I forgot that my camera’s memory card was at the photoshop! Duh! Hours were spend here, best gold museum since San Jose in Costa Rica.

On Sunday I decided to visit Zipaquira, where the famous salt Cathedral is located. I had wanted to do it on a tour, but as I am only one person, it was much too expensive. So I took the bus to the Portal del Norte, where I caught the local bus to Zipaquira.

It didn’t take all that long, and I was quite content to look out the window and see the world go by. Zipa, as the place is locally known, isn’t very large. The historic centre was in walking distance to the bus station. Lovely old town being restored slowly and carefully. Would have been nice to stay here for a few nights!

The Cathedral of salt wasn’t too far away. The steps up to it did agrevate my dear knees, though. I wish they would just get over it! I mean my whole body is the same age! Why would he knees be the ones to demand extra attention? The cathedral is something else. You walk into a tunnel of different coloured lights, and then slowly, slowly you walk downwards. There are fourteen stages of the cross. There are all these different crosses hawn ( is that the word?) out of salt.  The spotlights on them turn them into different colours all the time!

Kitsch, indeed, but magical. Slowly you descent into the depth of the earth. I couldn’t help but think of these men who made all this beauty. After a hard days work, they then work on this cathedral. A 180 meters deep, you reach the main nave, with the altar. Ere are salt and sandstone sculptures everywhere. Mightily impressive!

I spend quite a long time underground, feeling like I was in outer space. When I finally surfaced, I visited the archeological museum, had a beer on the plaza de Independencia, and slowly wandered back to the bus station. Catching the bus home was challenging, as I recognised absolutely nothing! It was by now dark, and the beggars were all on he bus, telling their sad stories. Tears were rolling over my face, listening to their woes. Most of the beggars are from Venezuela. My heart just breaks when people are forced to leave their countries of their birth. I did this voluntarily , which is hard enough, let alone if you are forced to leave, so your children can survive. By now the whole bus is involved where and when I should get off, as the lady at the station had given me the wrong information.

Finally I arrived back after dark at my hotel room. Another great day was had. The only disjoin ting thing was that I bought a cross made out of salt, for my crosses collection, when I opened the parcel, it wasn’t the cross that I had chosen at all, but a salt Angel, which was half the price, while I was being charged the FULL price for the cross! I was very angry with myself for not checking while I was there, but you know, tired, dark and not thinking idled get ripped of in a CATHEDRAL!! Ah, one lives and learns!

The next day I moved to a different section of town, which is where I should have gone I. The first place! Calendaria is the ” happening” place! Just passed the gold museum is a barrio full of murals, music and action! My Cranky Croc backpackers was right in the centre of it all. Set up by an Australian, it was a magical place. Friendly staff, hot, hot water, thick quilts and awesome beds!  As it was Monday, and raining, I decided not to check out the other hotel until it was time to go. Working on my blobs, diary and notes, having a restful day, as all the musea are closed on a Monday anyway! So, took my time, settled into the new place and wandered around!

An amazingly vibrant barrio. Lots to see and do. I was determined to walk the graffiti tour. Then on the Tuesday I walked all the way over to the Botero art gallery only to find out that here, in Bogota, all the galleries are closed on a Tuesday! Bummer!

Lots of people from Venezuela here, selling objects made out of Venezuelan money. One young man painted famous prior traits on the money! Also a lot of older people begging in the street. I now keep my two thousand peso bills for the beggars. ($1) They are flying out. As it started to rain again, I decided to go back to the hostel and warm up. Signed up for, what I thought was the graffiti walking tour, and had a great afternoon, learning lots about the history of Bogota and Colombia.

Finally on the Wednesday I managed to get to the art gallery of Fernando Botero. What an absolute delight this was! How fortunate that I booked my flight tomorrow, this gallery was not to be missed. It has three galleries in one. I spend over four hours just wandering about.

I was so fortunate that a class of Indigenous Kindergarten kids, we’re giving a dance demonstration. Their teacher made them look at the dancers, a painting by Botero, and then the children gave a performance. It was just delightful! And very, very cute. One of the girls whacked one of the little boys , who obviously made a mistake! Proud parents and teachers and all of us fortunate visitors clapped and cheered as if it was a Broadway show.

Beautiful Bogota, probably much better when the sun shines, stay in the old part of town, near the gold museum. I had seven nights here, four in the wrong part of town. Shame. On the way to the airport the sun came out, and the whole city changed. Ah, Bogota, I only touched the surface. I never got to know you for real! Next time!

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4 Comments

  1. nina

    What a great read Ineke ! It’s so satisfying, learning about the history of places. The museums sound great and that Salt Cathedral sounds incredible !! Nina xo

    • ineke

      Thank you Nina, so wonderful to get feedback!., much appreciated! Always!

  2. Richard Green

    Great blob, Ineke. Isn’t it curious how wherever you go and no matter how wonderful the people are, there’s always some asshole who wants to rip you off. Even in a cathedral, as you say. That’s the colourful panoply of humanity, I guess.

    • ineke

      I was livid, with myself! I KNOW I need to check things when I buy something!! However, tired, dark, and just forgot! I am really pissed off as I wanted that fabulous cross for my collection!., ah well, karma will get them!!

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