06
Feb
09

Bogota – I Think Not

CandelariaAfter all was said and done, and all of my hopes and aspirations for the city, I must say that Bogota and I were just a short but torrid affair.  I had gotten in touch with Mauricio several weeks before I was even near arriving in Bogota and so he had plenty of warning before the chaos that is Paul arrived.  But then again, I shouldn’t really say that as, although we did have some fun and debaucherous nights out on the town, we also had some pleasantly domestic and politely elegant experiences as well.

It all began with sophisticated lunch at the country club.  I’m not sure if I was really ready for all this – and my wardrobe most certainly wasn’t – but hey, who can resist an opportunity to play high society for a day after eating tasteless almuerzos and sleeping in dives for the past sixth months.  So I did my best to dress myself up and off we went, dining like celebrities out on the back patio and chain smoking with my new buddies as though I couldn’t remember the last time I had touched one of the things.

And no, the afternoon didn’t end with me diving into the pool in my leopard print thong in front of the entire wealthy geriatric community of Bogota (although I do know of someone who did that at four in the morning in front of every campesiño in Baños…), but instead making plans for  big dinner with the society law queens of the city for that evening.  So after dwindling away a few hours in-between lunch and the dinner party, Mauricio and I dressed to impress and headed out to search for just the right bottle of wine for the occasion.

The Night the Lights Went OutAfter a fifteen minute drive with my new conservative buddy Mauricio biting his fingernails at the stress of city driving the whole way, we finally made it to the wine shop and I found myself, oddly, thanking my lucky stars for seven years in the restaurant biz.  After out-witting the (clueless) wine store attendant on random vineyard trivia, we’d finally made our purchase, wrapped up our controversial debate on bullfighting (no comment), and were ready to booze it up with the prosecution.

I have to admit that I didn’t understand everything that was going on during our evening of catty, but deliciously scandalous, conversation, but I loved every minute of it nonetheless.  We passed the wine and whisky till none but the fierce remained and then it was time for Mau and I to hit the road.  Well, not exactly the road, but the bars – to be more exact.

That was when we magically found ourselves going from the semi-sophisticated company of opinionated older gentlemen to the refreshingly mindless chaos of Téatron.  Cavernous, massive, endlessly tunneling – that was Téatron.  Mau and I bounced around for a while, exploring the fifty (or whatever) rooms of the massive club and searching for our right vibe – but then ending up back in the main theater.  We drank – too much – and had a festive evening of it, but then finally it was time to go, and it was past my bedtime.  As with getting older (I know!  I’m not even that old yet, why has it already happened to me??), there’s a certain point when it just ain’t fun anymore, and that was when it was time to go home.

The AuthoritiesNevertheless, my first day in Bogota was a huge success in my eyes, and I was ready to head out and discover what other cosmopolitan delights awaited me.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much.  I shouldn’t get down on it so much, the truth is that it just wasn’t my type of city (not much walking, not much admirable architecture and city planning, and about a mile short on that “it” charm), but in comparison with the other shady metropolises of Latin America, perhaps it isn’t really so bad.

That said, the truth is that the most memorable times I had in Bogota were, in fact, outside of Bogota.  After muddling about and searching for a job for several while at the same time learning about the intricacies of Colombian immigration laws, I was ready for a break from the rain and gray or the city.  So Mauricio, his little buddy (that’s my way of saying I couldn’t remember his name even if someone held a $100 bill in front of my face) and I decided a day in the country might do us all some good.

The itinerary was Zipaquira – and whatever else might find us between the journey there and back.  Zipaquira was basically a salt mine for many years which was then declared to be a holy cite and transformed into a massive subterranean salt cathedral.  Now, thanks to the endless tourist attractions that I have inevitably met during the course of this little journey of mine, I headed to Zipaquira with the eye of skepticism, but I must say that, at least for me, it did not disappoint.

ZipaquiraAfter about an hour-long road trip, leaving the bustle of the city behind, we were quickly out in the picturesque green plains around Bogota, and soon thereafter disembarking the the salt mine.  A single red steel-braced  tunnel led us onwards deep into the belly of the mountain, and as we went along our guide pointed our attention to the striking white salt walls around us.  Again, thats about as far as I got with the guide, as since my Spanish was still a little rusty at the time, I didn’t waste much time in tuning him out.

But the sights that awaited us were well worth the pittance of an entrance fee.  Plus, for the first time (in either Southeast Asia or Latin America) everything was actually done in tasteful lighting! (not hideous fluorescent mosquito-bulbs)  We plodded along the stations of the cross searching for random photo ops for some time before descending down into the caverns of the true cathedral.  Various rooms and carvings and statues greeted us along the way and, adding significant authenticity to the whole event, there was even a mass in progress during our visit.

An hour and a half later we were all salt mined out though, and we made our way back out to the car.  Despite my insistence on going to Panaca (since our Zipaquira tickets included free or reduced admission there too) and getting a picture of my riding a goat, the other boys vetoed that idea.  Nevertheless, there was another sweet surprise just around the corner, and although in a way completely different, it was still somewhat along that same line of live-stock thinking.

Andre's Carne de ResA half an hour later we were pulling up in front of the mob-scened Andre’s Carne de Res steakhouse.  I never could have imagined just what exactly awaited me within those doors and just why exactly this place was such a hit – even way out here beyond the city.  But it struck me the second I entered the building.

The place was an absolute zoo of insanity.  Giant bugs buzzed into people, drunken sailors serenaded young Bogoteña girls, and rainbow colored Bjorks on roller-skates danced precariously on table tops.  I wasn’t exactly sure if I’d come for lunch or for the show, but I’ll tell you what, either way I was up for a bit of lunacy.  Fortunately the steaks were quite sumptuous as well.

We spent the next two hours there at Andre’s, enjoying the food, the fun, and the beer, and finally knew that it was time to bid adieu to the action and head back to the grind of the city.  Well, not quite directly, but after a stop-over at a mall to watch – hold your breath – Mamma Mia…  Yes, that’s right, we did it.  But, there was one redeeming quality to this visit, and that was seeing the smelly, unwashed Bogoteños who’d been living in a Mini-Cooper for the past several months, sitting in the middle of the mall plaza (strange eh?  Funny what these Colombians do for a bit of diversion).

Bad Omen for BogotaAnd so that was my visit to Bogota.  Yeah, alright, so I was there for a week – but that’s what stuck with me!  Ok, I had a few pleasant walks through the Candelaria neighborhood (the quaint little historical district of the city) and a wonderful hike up to the ethereal monastery on Montserrate, but that’s not enough to make me want to live in a city.  It was just a tad to year-round overcast misery and showers to really lure me in, and mixed with the endless Trans-Millenio commuting (no, not the sequel to Trans-America) that life in Bogota would surely entail, I could already feel myself drifting back to the sweet sunshine and happy birdsong of Medellin.

Of course, no week-long friendly visit would be complete without unnecessary ridiculous drama, and so Mauricio and I made sure not to part without the complete experience (hehe, nope, no details) – but nonetheless it was a wonderful week together.  And so I headed back to the bus terminal from whence I came (or at least arrived) and popped my jagged little sleeper pill to to prepare me for the long journey back to Medellin… hoping to start the dream just a little bit early.

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1 Response to “Bogota – I Think Not”


  1. 1 David
    November 10, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    You obviously didn’t get to see the whole of the city. I’m from Florida and I enjoyed what the city had to offer. Great nightclubs, great bars. Where were you? Oh probably looking for work in the city’s outskirts.


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