Culture Time

Bogota, Colombia


After a lazy few days in Cartagena it was back to Bogota for a bit of Culture. I was unsure of what I was to find in this city but I was surprised to be greeted by beautiful Colonial architecture and art. I had also not expected the drop in temperature and I am sure my jumper got a complete shock to be pulled out the bottom of the bag for the first time in three months.

I generally wandered around the the historic center of the city, La Candelaria, which is filled with churches and museums taking pictures and visiting some of the must see places.

Donacion Botero
Is one of the art museums in Bogota holding the collections of Fernando Botero. For those that don’t know, Botero is a famous Colombian artist well know for his satirical take on human plumpness. I was pleasantly surprised and delighted by his work (pictures included) with my favourite being Mother Superior. I friend who is a dietician had decided that these will work wonders in her office at the NHS as an incentive to lose weight ­čÖé

Police Museum
I rushed in here about 30mins before closing time which was an added bonus as the young policeman took me straight to the most interesting and probably the most visited section of the museum – the story of the capture and demise of cartel leader, Pablo Escobar, who was finally killed in December 1993 by an elite armed unit known as the Search Block.

The actual museum is nothing fancy but houses Escobar┬┤s Harley Davidson which I think is worth around 200million CO Pesos, his jacket he wore when he was killed, the original ┬┤wanted┬┤posters for his capture and what looks now like very antiquated tracking equipment which was used to find him after his escape from jail.

The museum also shows you photos of all those working for Escobar along with pictures of the killings of each of the leaders – a bit gruesome but guess they want to prove that they actually killed these people.

Plaza Bolivar
I was also there to witness a day of remembrance for all the people that died on the 9th April following the assassination of the most popular politician Jore Eliecer Gaitan. Bolivar Plaza – normally known to be filled with pigeons was also covered in white bricks each symbolising a person that had died (I do apologise if some facts here are not too accurate – my Spanish is not that perfect yet).

A 400-year old town
Leaving Bogota behind I continued my journey to the peaceful and friendly town of Villa de Leyva, about a 4 hour drive from the city, if your bus doesn’t break down that is…

The town is Spanish looking with lots of friendly people. Everywhere you walk you are greeted by the locals with a nod of the head, a smile or a just a simple ┬┤Hola` and it certainly makes you feel very safe to just wonder around.

It also meant that I felt confident enough to walk on my own to find one of the local vineyards some 20 minutes away. It was my first wine tasting/tour in Spanish which was quite a challenge but as the Guanani Vineyard is quite small I was able to grasp the main points and find out that the vineyard only had 5 members of staff with most of the work still done by hand. I got to sample some very tasty wines as well as a fruit wine made from a tropical sweet and sour fruit called Fei-Joa.

I was sad to leave the cosy town of Villa de Leyva and even more sad to have to leave Colombia all together. I do hope to return someday (when I have some more money) to visit more beautiful places like San Andres and Santa Martha.


 

Local buses, white sand and a colonial town

Cartagena, Colombia

 


I fell in love with Colombia the moment I landed at the airport. Strange – yes, but everyone was so friendly and full of smiles that it was hard not too – a total contrast to the Venezuela.

I caught a connecting flight from Bogota to Cartagena, a beautiful colonial town where the warmth of the people is highlighted together with earthy tones of mustard, terracotta and pine green painted houses and shops. You could certainly get caught up for days wondering the streets, indulging indulging in numerous cups of coffee in the many plazas but a trip to Cartagena is not complete without a visit to Playa Blanca – (translated as White Beach.)

To reach Playa Blanca you can take the tourist route by hopping on a boat for about 15,000 CO Pesos each way but what they don’t tell you is that you can also reach the beach by taking the bus from the local market. This would be the local peoples` preference as it is obviously cheaper even though it is a longer journey.

I was more interested in riding along with the locals to the beach so four us decided to hop on the bus and see where it took us. It was not too straight forward – it took a bus, a ride on a ferry across the river and then another bus along a windy, sand road. I was at one stage wondering if we were indeed heading for the beach but decided that because everyone seemed really happy and having fun on the journey that if we did not get to Playa Blanca then at least it would be an interesting place.

I was not too be disappointed as I was greeted at the end of my journey by a exquisitely beautiful white sandy beach and a calm turquoise and blue sea – I certainly felt like I was in heaven. As it turned out the day got better and better the longer I lay on the beach.

My highlights include

  • Practicing my Spanish with the local artists trying to sell their wares and been told that I spoke very well
  • Receiving a massage
  • Being given a free necklace to wear by a local artist just because I was his new friend
  • Playing with five young Colombian girls on the beach and hearing all about their lives away from their home in Bogota and their love of music
  • Receiving a friendship bracelet from the young budding musicians
  • Chatting with the local students both local and foreign AND the best of all
  • Getting a free ride home on the bus with our new friends Jorge and Carlos. The free ride home on the bus was just fantastic. It was absolutely packed with people and scorching hot but I soon forgot all about it when the bus driver cranked up the music and everyone began to sing and exchange lots of laughs.

I have tried to capture some of my journey on video so that you can too experience what I did – it is not the greatest footage as the road was extremely bumpy. It should have taken us about 1┬Ż hours to get back to the city but as we had a mini breakdown (typical in South America) it took us closer to three hours.

I could not complain as the entertainment was first class and a typical reflection of the Colombian people. My perfect day extended into the night with our new friends as we joined them in having a drink and a lesson in some new salsa moves.