Out of Colombia
Our last week in Colombia before returning to Swizzyland. It’s just raining too much to continue the trip. Roads are getting closed due to landslides, viewing anything in the pouring rain is not to everybody’s taste. So, we drive southwards towards Ecuador and find a well-covered place for Prado for the few weeks until we’ll continue and get back to Bogota. Then we’re on our way back to Lucerne.
Pasto, 20th April
We’re about to leave Popayan. It’s time we have a look for a nicely covered accommodation for Prado – simply because it’s not waterproof until we get a few spares.
And for us, it’s time to think about leaving Colombia. Definitely not because we’re tired of the country. No, it’s simply because we’re tired of the constant rain. Yeah, rainy season caught us.
So, we drive to the south Colombian town of Pasto. Some 250km away, according to our GPS just 6h to arrive. Knowing the prevailing road conditions, we’re not sure if we can make it in 1 day.
The 1st 40km surprisingly fast. An excellent road with next to no traffic.
Then we’re back to Colombia’s reality. We have to climb the 1st ascent. Small landslides everywhere – fortunately, no big 1s. And suddenly the trucks are back. The usual stop’n’go. Average speed down to 20-30km/h. No problem, we’re used to that.
Thus, we slowly continue our way enjoying the hilly landscape. From time to time some reminders that FARC is still not too far away.
Then traffic comes to a complete stop. On both sides. There’s nothing serious. Just 1 of Colombia’s notorious road construction sites. To organize their task more efficiently they simply close regularly both lines for a few hours. Well, we’re lucky. After a little more than 1h, we can continue. The only problem: by now we drive in a huge traffic jam. With 100s of trucks.
Sometime later another stop. Finally, we discover it’s only a landslide. Just big enough to make the road impassable. Nevertheless, the guys are working on it. Just another hour to wait – and we can already move on.
We made 60km in 3h. And we still have nearly 200km to reach Pasto.
Some km further we pass the small town of El Bordo. And the wonder happens: the huge traffic jam simply doesn’t exist anymore. No idea where all these trucks’n’cars have gone. And the road improves considerably.
We’re in the valley of Rio Turbio. Follow the rive for many km. And advance pretty fast. Then shortly before reaching Pasto the road climbs again. To about 2500m.
Late afternoon we approach Pasto.
Yeah, we did it. The whole 250km from Popayan in just 1 day. And that on Colombian roads.
Pasto – the capital of the Departemento de Nariño is famous for its carnival. Not really for any other outstanding sights. So just ok for a short stroll thru its busy streets and for a look at its enormous churches.
Still, there’s another place not to forget: Bar del Parque. The ultimate watering hole to sip a couple of beers.
Bogota, 27th April
We’re back in Bogota. The proud capital of Colombia. In the meantime, Prado got its well-deserved place for rainy season hibernation. We have our flights back to Swizzyland – it was not an easy task to find reasonably priced flights with an acceptable schedule.
Still, we have a few days left to explore Bogota.
The proud capital of Colombia. Bogota, just 8 million inhabitants – thus as many as Swizzyland has. A town with a notoriously bad reputation for its social discrepancies, famous for its mix of super modern and decaying buildings. Here you find some of the poorest slums in Latin America as well as some of the poshest zones on the continent. And a town infamous for its crime nearly everywhere. Apart from all these pretty negative headlines the town stands for its famous murals, a few colonial alleys, and its gold museum.
We find a sleepery in Candelaria. Definitely not the paradise for the security addicted tourist on his package holiday. But it’s the old town, and it’s next to a BBC bar. The place where they serve Septimaza – the real Colombian IPA. Thus, the place can’t be that bad.
The next morning. We head for Monserrate – the hill behind Bogota to get the ultimate overview of what to visit.
It’s a Sunday. Thus, we’re definitely not the only 1s having this idea.
A funicular railway brings us up to about 3000m.
On the top, the famous view of Colombia’s capital. Even if visibility is far from perfect due to dust’n’smog. Besides that – a church and numerous shops selling terrible souvenirs and eateries offering the usual Colombian delights.
Then back to town. Even if we couldn’t get a real overview of the town on the hill. Maybe there were just too many houses and streets, more probably it was just too dusty to see every detail, or most probably we simply don’t remember everything.
Whatever, a stroll thru Bogota’s La Candelaria – the capital’s old town. A mix of more or less restored colonial buildings and more or less maintained modern constructions. Many places decorated with these murals Bogota is famous for.
A visit to Bogota’s Calle del Embudo. One of the few remaining cobblestone alleys in town. Well known for its murals and famous for its cheap bars where youngsters get drunk during weekends.
True, there are many murals, even if some bars just had them sprayed to attract customers. And cheap bars – definitely quite a lot of them. Mainly selling local corn beer – Chicha.
We continue sneaking thru La Candelaria. Often next to areas nobody dares to enter if not living there. Sometimes not easy to recognize no-go areas.
We’re approaching Plaza Bolivar. The institutional heart of Colombia. The place lined by the nation’s Capitol, the Justice Palace – a building destroyed in 1948 during riots, rebuilt in the 60ties, 1985 taken over by guerillas, and later attacked by drug cartels. More peaceful the municipality, and Bogota’s cathedral. Next to the Plaza the Presidential Palace.
And the more you approach the place, the more the beautiful murals are replaced by this unique art only tourists buy when they’re on their ultimate trip.
The Plaza: Huge, empty. Mainly a place for Colombies to take selfies, and a few food stalls at the side. That’s it.
After all this beautiful street art and these terrible tourist paintings time for a change. The Museo Botero. Surely you know the guy. You’re right it’s this gentleman ignoring all people weighing less than 200kg.
To the CBD. On the Septima. The big shopping precinct of central Bogota. A mix of modern buildings in all states of decay, some colonial buildings, and an array of hawkers just outside the shops. Somehow a combination giving a pretty shabby image of the town.
On the way a look at the Emerald House. Inside full of jewelry stores and traders. Outside 100s of people busy on the informal emerald market.
On to the Iglesia de San Francisco. 1 of the oldest 1s in town and in fierce competition with the fanciest Mexican churches.
Further on the Septima. Approaching CBD. High-rising buildings and fancy stores still mixed with street hawkers selling lousy 2nd hand stuff.
Another church and some interesting murals, …
A few blocks further the area visibly degrades. Not exactly the area to go for a beer after midnight.
Well, we intend to visit the viewing platform of Torre Colpatria. 50 floors above the town. Unfortunately, they only open on weekends. Shame on you guys.
We’re on our way back to the city center. To Bogota’s world-famous Gold Museum.
But to start with a word of warning: Parque Santander just in front of the museum seems to be infested by Bogota’s famous thieves. As this is the town’s ultimate tourist hotspot, there are probably just too many opportunities for these guys. When we took the pic on the left a guy tried to get the camera. Fortunately, Monika saw him so we could get rid of him. Whatever. Be warned.
The museum – world-famous, and described as a must-have-seen-sight. On the bucket list of everybody and definitely something not to be missed.
We could not really understand the hype around this museum. Of course, it’s full of precious’n’beautiful artifacts.
Still, the presentation is pretty plain and old-fashioned. Not really well-illuminated objects, an endless series of showcases with spanish’n’english descriptions. But without really giving you the necessary context. Only at the end on the 3rd floor, the guys get a little more innovative.
Whatever, we expected a little more.
It’s 28th April. Tonight, we’ll fly back to Swizzyland. Thus, our last chance to experience a little more of Bogota.
We head thru La Candelaria to the Presidential Palace. Nearby is the Museo Santa Clara. A former monastery converted into a museum. Accessing it is a little bit complicated as it is situated within the president’s secured zone. Thus you have to ask nicely the heavily armed guys to pass.
Definitely, worth a visit – a splendor even Mexicans can’t compete with.
We still have another place to visit. Probably 1 of the weirdest in Bogota: the Police Museum.
It’s a place where you learn in what glorious and philanthropic way, they support good boys and how efficiently they fight bad girls. Still, a slight tendency towards a certain self-criticism might eventually be more than welcome to give a more realistic picture of their work.
After that enlighting place, it’s already time to enjoy Bogota’s constant traffic jams on the way to the airport, …
… and later to enjoy Lufthansa’s absolutely inedible gourmet menu on our 15h flight to Francfort’n’Zurich.
Next day in the afternoon we’re back to Lucerne. Enjoy warm weather – at least compared to the temperatures in Bogota.
And celebrate with a bottle of wine that we’ve survived Lufthansa’s excellent chicken class service without permanent health damage – at least as faras we know.
Well, guys that’s it. And not only for this post – as well as for this trip. 3 1/2 months thru Costa Rica, Panamá, and Colombia.
A voyage without any exceptional problems – no serious food poisoning, no serious encounters with bad girls, and no unacceptable behavior of Prado. But the hell a lot of impressive experiences in these countries and with numerous locals and foreign travelers we bumped into on our 8000km in Central’n’South America.
Don’t worry, just keep your jealousy on a high level. We’ll be back on the road by August – if the coronnies behave.