December 24, 2010

Well, I thought I’d blog my adventures in Colombia partly so that those of you stuck in the snow can be jealous of my tropical location but also because it gives me something to do when I’m sat on my own in a cafe. I may also translate it into Spanish because, quite frankly, I need the practice.

Getting to Bogota was stress free and I arrived, got a secure taxi from the airport to the hotel (Abitaire56) and settled into my room pretty quickly. I was tired and it was cold, drizzly and dark so I decided to go to the nearest food place, eat and have an early night. Who knew that beansprouts would work on Pizza?

The next day I spent the morning talking to Kevin via the wonders of the internet, and found out that he wasn’t going to arrive in Bogota that afternoon. I left him looking at other options and went into town for lunch and a wander. The taxi driver that took me into town went the scenic route (which I didn’t really mind as it let me see more of the city) and chatted me up for the whole journey. My favourite part of the conversation went roughly like this;

Taxista: como te llamas?
Me: Cally
Taxista: Como la ciudad?
Me: Si
Taxista: Hermosa y llena de vida como tu!

Which I think beats the freckle comment but I’m not sure.

I enjoyed wandering round La Candalaria, it is pretty much the same as all of the other colonial areas you see in Latin America, but the Christmas lights were pretty and the place was heaving with people, street vendors, street performers and traffic that doesn’t feel the need to use the horn every second. It started raining so I took refuge in a cafe and had a very nice chichen and potato stew thing with choclo in it. Just what you need on a cold rainy day. I eventually stumbled upon the tourist information and found out that almost all of the museums in Bogota are closed on a Monday, the exception being the emerald museum. I went there and learned a lot of geology in a short space of time. The most interesting thing was that the reason that gems are cut in different shapes is to do with the refractive index of the mineral. This is why good emeralds are cut in rectangles. It brings out the best of the luminosity and colour. I was quite pleased that I understood the tour as it was in Spanish.

I learned a few things about Colombian Spanish in my wanderings – they talk funny for a start – there’s a little bit of a zzz sound to the esses and they don’t roll their r’s so much and they run words together. They also use different words and phrases. They say sigue instead of pasa for example. They don’t use the word botica either.

I then bought a guide book for Colombia and realised that I only had 5000 pesos left. I decided to go and get money out at the cash point, get some dinner and then get a taxi back to the hotel ready for an early night in preparation for my flight the following day. This is where the problem began. I went to the cashpoint and it wouldn’t let me have any money. ‘Never mind’ I thought ‘there was a BBVA next to the Emerald museum – I’ll go there and sort it out’ Little did I know that the banks in Bogota close at 4 pm. I thus found myself in central bogota with virtually no money. First I went to Tourist information, they seemed to think it was amusing that I thought there may be a bank open at 4.30 pm , didn’t know where I could change money (I had 43 dollars on me to, but you can’t spend them in Colombia like you can in Peru) and wouldn’t let me use his phone to call my bank. He did give me directions to a locutorio (place where you can make phonecalls) even though he knew I didn’t have enough money for the call. The woman in the locutorio did give me directions to where she thought there MAY be a casa de cambio and I left starting to feel a bit panicked and teary. The universe decided to cheer me up at this point by making a combi drive through a puddle right next to me and soaking me down one side. I had to laugh. I found the casa de cambio, changed my paltry dollars and arrived back with some money feeling slightly better about the situation. The man at BBVA seemed to think it was my own fault that they had failed to put a note on my account to the effect that I was in Colombia on holiday and would want to get cash out and put things on my credit card. Somehow me going into the bank, talking to the manager and filling in forms wasn’t enough – the manager should have told me to ring a number apparently. Still he got it sorted in the end and the call only cost me 8000 pesos. I went to get money out and make sure that he really had made the changes on the system and decided that after such stress I deserved a coffee and cake. Mmmmmm.

I decided I didn’t really need a main meal as I’d eaten lunch late so I got a typical (if strange) dish consisting of a hot chocolate, some normal bread, some maize bread and some cheese. It was better than it sounds! I used the time to work out where the nearest Transmetropolitano stop was and went off to get public transport home. It was surprisingly simple. The only problem were idiot commuters who, despite not wanting to get on the bus that was in the station, still stood in front of the doors so they didn’t lose their prime spot when their bus did come. They ignored polite requests to move and then glared at me when I just shoved past to get on the bus as the doors closed. Dimwits.

The next day I had a pleasant taxi ride to the airport and then a very confusing time trying to drop my bag off and find the right part of the airport. Things just weren’t sign posted. Obviously you are just supposed to know. I then sat in the lounge for AGES as the plane was delayed for a few hours. I read my book. Somehow the cheapest tickets I could buy turned out to be executive class so I watched an episode of Glee while I flew. Nice!


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