Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Bogotá was better than I thought it might be. Mostly it was made enjoyable by meeting up and sharing meals with some nice people. I am becoming more used to navigating Couchsurfers and before coming to Bogotá I had posted my interest in meeting people for language/cultural exchange.To be honest the couchsurfer website is mega clunky and I have been unable to become a 'verified member' not withstanding that I paid for this status - no one takes responsibility for sorting out problems and it feels like virtual anarchy. Well anyway, I now have several good notes on my profile and in the end I received 4 offers for meetups but only had time to meet up with Myriam an  HR manager at a university department offering degrees for doctors and musicians. As a  cyclist and salsa fan, so she seemed like a good bet for a nice conversation. She was very kind in picking me up from the hotel in her car and we went to the unimaginetavely named Zona G which is mostly bars and restaurants where we had a nice dinner of pasta and later checked out a salsa venue, Bar Cubano  but it was pretty empty so we had one dance and left it at that. 

During the day I headed for the Candalaria district in the old part of central Bogota. Basically it comprises a mixture of well maintained and refurbished colonial buildings and others less tidy or in the process of gentrification. There are some nice looking restaurants and coffee bars and the area sits alongside the main State buildings, Presidential Palace and Plaza Bolivar the seat of Colombia's independence. It all has a relaxed feel and the area contains a number of universities and therefore a many young people hanging out between lectures. I walked up through the pretty gardens of one University to get a good view of the city. I was surprised by how quickly the cityscape gives way to small holdings and farms stretching up and beyond the its limits.

The next day I made visiting the national museum the main focus. It was rather disappointing and apart from its setting, an old prison it seemed poorly archived and failed to tell a coherent historical story of Colombia's development. That evening I met up with Ana who had been a member of the Croydon-Spanish group. She took me to a nice part of town and we had a Cauca Valley style meal, a sort of pizza but on a base of Platano

Probably I didn't do Bogota justice - I noticed some quite cool areas and felt that it would be a city worth exploring further - maybe I'll spend a few more days there when I leave.


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Medellin - getting there again

Don't you love travelling? On balance I love it but there are some minor annoyances like the man sitting at the next table at Pret a Manger in Madrid airport, sipping San Miguel whilst playing loudly local news on his portable radio. 

Erring on the side of caution I arrived somewhat early at Heathrow airport. Have you noticed the flawed advice to arrive at least 3 hours prior to international flights but bag drop-off only commences 2 hours before at 5 am. I had a pretty clear taxi run to the airport, the M25 as one might hopefully imagine it. my driver, a Romanian from Transylvania offered me a lesson in Balkan history and Dacian culture and then complained that his profession is unregulated with his cab company owner/boss selling unlimited £200/week contracts to drivers willing to work unspecified hours - no onerous EU regulation or lack of business freedom there then.

Ah well, finding a perch I zoned out and fiddled with modern challenges like pairing my iPhone and Mini iPad and settling to listen to a podcast of the sexiest voice on radio, Kirsty Young interviewing Aung San Suu Kyii on Desert Island Disc. The music selection was uninspired but the resilience of her subject was impressive.

Anyway, I manage to sleep for an hour on an uneventful journey to Madrid. On disembarking passengers were divided and I left with the back exit cohort feeling sorry for an elderly South American grandmother who couldn't work out the ebb and flow and was patiently tolerated by most but scolded by her husband. Once off the plane we boarded a bendy bus, no doubt donated by the London mayor and we skirted the runways with unnecessary urgency fighting centrifugal forces to remain upright. 

Paying €7 for coffee and orange juice staved my hunger until we boarded our Iberia flight. It was so sparsely populated that I am unsurprised that the ex national carrier is the loss making component of BA. At the last minute we were joined by 2 police escorted Colombians presumably being repatriated and who were sat at the back of the plane where I suppose there is little chance of them mounting a realistic challenge to land elsewhere. Lunch was served, overly salty moussaka with 37cl of 14% Tempranillo - this is the Iberia way of applying sufficient tranquilliser to guarantee a quiet ship until dinner - so compliantly I submitted to siesta - when in Rome (or in this case mid Atlantic) .........

Arriving on time we disembarked and went quickly and without problem through customs and immigration. I west to the cash machine then caught a cab to the hotel about 20 minutes away.  I tried to stave off sleep for a while but succumbed around 9 and slept through until 4am waking with a travel and altitude headache but ready to explore.