Tag Archives: bogota

Back in the States

I flew back into the States from Bogota, Colombia after almost a full year of traveling between Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.  I had spent most of my time in Costa Rica in the sleepy small Caribbean town of Puerto Viejo on the Southern Caribbean coast.  Coming back to the States was a bit of a shell shocker from a few perspectives.  First the amount of technology blaring in your face in the form of TVs was one thing I definitely noticed that took some getting used to again.  The second thing was the blinders were put back on.  You know, those blinders we tend to put on walking down the street, not saying hi to a soul unless you know them.  Not being present to the outside world while moving through it yet just keeping to your own world.  Those blinders… When first going to Costa Rica it literally shocked me that people would say good morning to me and acknowledge me as I walked down the streets.  Then I got used to doing the same to others as I went from place to place.  Then back in the States at first I kept my newly adopted persona of acknowledging people but was met with strange looks and no responses or people literally making a wider gap around me as they walked past.  So eventually the blinders went back on… Oh well…

Coming back to the States was a choice I made primarily because the bank account was starting to get a little low and because where I had been traveling in Colombia was getting too cold for my taste and the travel enthusiasm was just dwindling.  I went back to Houston to help house-sit my sisters place (and her two adorable dogs) as she was away quite often.  I got a job there as a bartender and server (a trade I picked up for the first time ever in Costa Rica) and stayed about 6 months or so.  Once my sister was back from her work obligations and I was no longer needed as a dog/house sitter, I moved to Key West, Florida.

I lived and worked in Key West for 10 months, saving all my pennies as much as possible (though of course I did have a little bit of a life too!) and then packed it all up and headed out traveling again.  This time the destination was Europe.  My time in Key West I’ll never forget.  And who knows, one day I may still return.  Though it isn’t the kind of place I could see myself living at permanently (there are no beaches on the island itself and it’s a little too much of a party town for my taste… If you don’t like to drink to oblivion on an almost daily basis there’s not much of a life to be had there really) I had so many amazing opportunities and met many people I consider life-long friends. It took a while to find some of these people, but I’m blessed that I did.

Key West really is a drinking town with a fishing problem.  It’s no wonder people get way too carried away there.  Tourists come for the party and as a person in the service industry we were there to provide it.  Mind you, we only dealt in the LEGAL party!  Though many tourists did come to Key West literally thinking they could do anything (it’s amazing, I seriously think people thought Key West was no longer part of the States and they could do whatever they wanted!!) and we were sometimes asked for drugs at my work from tourists, but they were always turned away.  Yes, Key West also has lots of drugs.  Go figure.  Until having lived in Costa Rica I never really realized how prevalent drugs really are.  Then from there on they literally seemed to be everywhere.  Sometimes I miss my rose colored glasses, but just like everything else in life, you can choose to be involved or you can choose not to be involved.  Everyone has a choice.

You know, as I type this up I can’t help but think that even though I really couldn’t wait to get out of Key West at the time (since there were a number of things I didn’t really like about it) it somehow grew on me and now I can say I have a little strange spot in my heart for the place.  Perhaps its also because I really enjoyed my job.  I know that’s an odd thing to say, but I really enjoyed bartending and serving; creating a positive vacation experience for tourists and such.  Anyway… that’s enough nostalgia for now!

So after leaving Key West, surprising my mom in Houston for her birthday, taking a trip out West to see family and friends in Arizona and New Mexico, then a trip to Mexico (Puerto Penasco aka Rocky Point) with my mom and finally seeing my Tennessee family back in Houston, it was time to hit the road again.  July 30th, 2014 I landed in Heathrow airport in London…

 

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Bogota

After yet another long and exhausting day on a bus (you’d think by now I would have just caved in and sought alternate transportation between cities!!  Then again I would have missed really seeing the countryside…) I arrived in Bogota.  If I thought Medellin was large, well it was quite small compared to Bogota!!  I had to take a 20 minute cab ride to an area of town that was somewhat central and more well known for having hostels in the area.

No, I once again didn’t book any hostel in advance, but rather was dropped off and walked around until I found something.  At least this time there was still light in the day left!  Anyway, I wandered up and down several streets in what was kinda the chic area of town it seemed, and settled on one hostel (Hostel Platypus if memory serves…) for the night.

“Funny” story here, my roommate for the night was an older woman, probably in her 40’s to 50’s who was from England, yet had apparently been living in Ecuador for the past 11 years… She was at the time just traveling around (I believe Venezuela was her next stop) but what I found particularly funny… Or rather quite disturbing really, is that she didn’t speak a lick of Spanish!!!  Not two words!!  AND she would even say “Hola” pronouncing the H!!!!!  She was also in a strange way oddly proud that she didn’t speak the language even though she lived in a Latin American Country!!!  I found this honestly quite disgusting, really.  In my opinion if you are going to live in another country that isn’t your original country, the least you can do is show some sort of respect to the new country by learning their language and something about their culture!  This applies to visitors too in my book, though I know it’s not so easy to try and pick up a language during a 2 week vacation…

Needless to say, knowing she was going to be staying in that same hostel for several nights, I checked out the next day and found somewhere new to sleep as I couldn’t tolerate such blatant ignorance and disrespect to another culture!!

I found a lovely hostel just a few blocks away called Hostal Casu.  Located above a restaurant on the corner of Carrera 3 and Calle 15A, Hostal Casu became my home for the next week.  I had a private room with a shared bathroom and negotiated a good price for each night since I was going to be staying for the week.  Again, the reason I had come to Bogota was to see my brother who happened to also be there around the same time.  Traveling down to see him however, with the changes in the weather and the bank account slowly draining, I made the decision to go back to the States so I could get a solid job, refill the coffers and head out again to travel.  So staying in Bogota a week really served 2 purposes.  First it gave me a week to see my brother and second I was flying out of Bogota back to Houston, and my flight was simply in a week.

The area of town that I was in I really liked.  It was nestled at the foothills of basically a national park, at the top of which was a lovely church.  The area had a young hip, artsy vibe to it that I really liked as well.  I felt safe there and have no complaints of the area… Except the weather!!  I know I keep saying this, and I know I’m a total wimp, but to me it was soooo cold day after day there!!!  Bogota is 8,660 feet(2,640 meters) above sea level so you would think I would have realized it would be cold, but again, since I rarely researched anything about where I was going and just preferred to figure things out once I got there, this aspect of Bogota was a shock to me.  And once again it was uninspiring!!  Though I did get out daily to walk for several hours to get in my exercise and to eat, that was about the extent of my drive to do anything!

Even going to see my brother turned out to be a total bust as he was apparently tied up with work things day after day of my being there, and we were only able to get together for an afternoon the night before he left the country himself.  We were to meet at the very opposite of Bogota from where I was, basically due North from where I was so as usual I opted to walk there, and after about 40 minutes and 70 or so blocks later with my little map in tow I found him at the eatery that we planned to meet at and we spent the evening wandering the area with one of his coworkers in tow.  We ate a lovely meal at one of the local restaurants and then parted ways.  I opted on the way back to take a cab as I was a wee bit too intoxicated by this point to try and walk my way back!  Plus, it was starting to get dark and it just wouldn’t have been a sound choice to try and walk back.

So all in all, my time in Bogota wasn’t terribly eventful, but it was quite relaxing and a nice place to try and transition going back to the States.  Before making the decision to go back to the States, I did wrestle with the idea of going back to the Caribbean coast of Columbia, like the Cartagena area, but the thought of traveling there by bus just jangled my bones in thinking of it!  And the flight would have been a bit out of my price range.  So I opted to stick with my plans of going back to the States.

Part of me is bummed that I didn’t go to Cartagena and even to Armenia since after all I was in the country already!  And honestly had I known that I would have only had an afternoon to get to see my brother, I would have gone to Cartagena first, then perhaps made my way to the Bogota area instead of rushing to Bogota to try and see him, but as they say everything happens for a reason and as it should.  And as I’ve already mentioned before, I plan on going back to Columbia to explore more of the country and less of the cities!  Though the actual physical riding in the bus from place to place was quite hard on the body (due to road conditions) the sights were unbeatable and absolutely beautiful!!  I loved the nature of the countryside’s and can’t wait to be able to see more!

 

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Manizales

Though not terribly far from Medellin, once again it took several hours winding in and out and up and down mountain range after mountain range to get to my next destination.  Manizales is itself situated on the top of a mountain and you either need a car, a cab or most popular, a tram to the town!  It was much smaller than Medellin but had a lot of character as well.  It was also quite a bit colder than Medellin…  I took the tram to the town and found a hostel again right on the main strip, though a little toward the end.  I was basically one of the only ones in the hostel leading me to think that that particular time of year was simply out of season.  The hostel was quite nice, so I couldn’t think of any other reason it would have been so slow.  Perhaps it was the cold that drove others away too;)

Two things I noticed specifically in Manizales: #1 the HUGE amount of candy, cake, bakery, sweet shops, and ice cream shops!!  Literally every other store had something to do with selling a sugar based treat to eat.  I’d never seen so many sweet shops in such a small amount of space.  And what stores, you may ask, were in between each of the sweet shops?  Well, that would be #2, the SHOE shops!!  Manizales would definitely be the dream place for any shoe enthusiast.  From boots to heels to stilettos, Manizales had every shoe possible and catered quite strongly to women.  The amazing thing to me was that the majority of women were wearing stiletto heels and walked the streets as if walking down the red carpet or a runway!!  I mean they worked it and made it look so natural and easy!  Now, I myself have been known to rock a heel shoe, but what made the Colombian women wearing stilettos so impressive is the quality of the roads!!  They were walking in stilettos as if the roads and sidewalks were perfectly paved without a hint of a defect anywhere.  The reality however was far from this as the roads and side walks left quite a lot to be desired!  And many of the little roads were made of brick, so the spaces in between each brick…. I’ve no idea how they didn’t break their ankles on a regular basis!

Anyway, I stayed in Manizales for only a couple of days.  And honestly, because of the weather mainly (I’m seriously a wimp in cold weather) I was just uninspired to do anything!  Not to say there wasn’t anything to do in Manizales, but the cold just made me want to curl up with a blanket and a little fire.  Plus, I was still trying to make sure that I got to Bogota in plenty of time to see my brother, so that too cut my time there to just a few days.

View from Hostel Rooftop_4

Had I had more time to explore that are however, I would have absolutely (and I do plan to still check this area out) gone to the coffee region of Colombia, one of the more famous spots: Armenia.  I’ve heard a lot about this area from fellow travelers and from some who are from the area and have heard of nothing but fabulous reviews.  Perhaps once I get there I will have found a spot in Colombia with awesome coffee and where they drink it not only at breakfast;)  Seriously, it was shocking to me how unimpressed I was by coffee in the areas I did travel of Colombia.  It was as if they saved the best coffee to be exported elsewhere or something, lol!!

 

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