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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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Favorite things…

Again, because I lived in Puerto Viejo for an extended period of time, it’s hard to recall everything, so on this page I will simply mention my favorite things about Puerto Viejo and why I lived there for as long as I did…  The below is in no particular order..

Cabinas Garibaldi

  • Absolutely my favorite place to live!   Just down the street from Tasty Waves in Cocles beach, Cabinas Garibaldi was absolutely fantastic!!!!  I can’t say enough about this place!!!  They have short and long term rentals available and the family that owns the land and properties lives on site!  Mancho (aka Martin) is the son of the elder woman Dona Rosa who originally owned the place.  Martin along with his mom and wife take care of the property and no one messes with Martin!  He once noticed someone trying to break into one of the bungalows and he chased him down with a machete in hand!  No one since that event has tried to rob any of the places in Cabinas Garibaldi since:)  Why do I love the place so much??  Simple: private apartment with kitchen, bathroom, hot water, WiFi, across the street from beach (literally) all for about $260 a month!!!!!  The people were fantastic, my neighbors were great!  Dona Rosa even did our bed laundry weekly… just superior and super place!!!

 

Wildlife

  • Howler monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins,  toucans, sloths, agouti, iguanas… Literally everywhere you looked nature was alive and beautiful around you!!  Puerto Viejo literally was the perfect blend of beach and Jungle right at your finger tips… The nature there is just so captivatingly beautiful and alive!  So splendid!

Beaches

  • Just north of Puerto Viejo was playa negra, the black beach, and as you moved into town the sand turned white all the way down the coast line to Manzanillo, the town furthest south in Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast.  The sands were wonderful and the water was always warm!!  Great snorkeling and scuba diving areas too!  Only word of warning: beware the currents as they could be quite strong!  Oh and lots of great surfing for those who enjoy either surfing or watching the hot bodies of surfers;)

Riding Bikes

  • Everything was accessible by bike or public bus!!  I never for one second missed having to drive a car anywhere!!  I loved simply riding around town, to and from work, etc on a bike!  And for those times where I needed to get out of town, public busses did the trick.

Caribe del Sol

  • Located just outside my house in Cabinas Garibaldi (aka Anna’s front yard) was the best restaurant Caribe del Sol!!  Great Italian cuisine and local casado menu!!  The floor of the place was all sand so it felt as if you were just dining on the beach with a view of the beach while not getting soaked by sea spray:)  The people were great and actually I just heard that the owner of the place married his long-time girlfriend (my friend as well) and moved to the States!  So hopefully the place is still as tasty as I recall it being!

Caribe horses

  • I spent some time riding with the Caribe horse club and loved every second of it!   You just simply can’t beat the views from horseback and the places you can get from the seat of a horse!  Great jungle and beach riding on safe and fun horses!!

Dogs, dogs and more dogs!!

  • Ah, I LOVE animals!!  So to live in a place where all animals basically were wild and free, I absolutely adored it even more!!  You see, while each dog had an owner, they were allowed to run free daily and do whatever they pleased!  Run along the beach, beg for food, run rampant on the streets, etc.  At night however, they all always seemed to simply disappear since most had an actual home where they would stay at during the night.  Or if the owners were going into town, the dogs would accompany them and chill with them in town before turning in for the night!  Each dog had their own personality and name of course, and you literally greeted them as if they were people wandering around town!  Now of course, this kind of life for dogs while great was also rough… Many did get hit by cars, damaged by other dogs, get mange attacks, etc. and they were treated as dogs, not necessarily as family members as we tend to do in the States.  So if an animal was injured, they wouldn’t necessarily be taken to the vet.  It was just part of the jungle life!

“Jungle”

  • Ok, now the following is not in any way intended to be racist, so I don’t want to hear about people complaining about it being so!  If anything didn’t work well or wasn’t quite working as it should, it was called “Jungle”… For example, the pool table in Tasty Waves was called a “jungle table” since it wasn’t quite level.  “Jungle coffee” referred to coffee made in the morning that had floating ants in it because I forgot to put the sugar away in the fridge! (First time that happened I was appalled!  Second and subsequent times I simply scooped the little buggers out and enjoyed my coffee:) Plumbing issues? “Jungle plumbing”…. you get the point!

Lazy Mon Sundays

  • I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere else already how every night was a different businesses night to draw in the tourists and crowds.  Well Sunday night was dedicated to the Lazy Mon hostel and restaurant almost smack “downtown” Puerto Viejo.  It is basically an open-mic night where people can come to perform.  Truth be told, it’s really more of a usual crew that come and perform for the tourists and my absolute favorite part of that show is the fire show!!!  Several men and women dancing to music while twirling various objects on fire!  Absolutely mesmerizing and was always a thrill to watch!!

A REAL community

  • People took care of each other in Puerto Viejo in a way that I hadn’t yet experienced.  People supported each other, their businesses, causes, etc.  You really couldn’t get away with much!  If you were a bad customer, didn’t pay your bill (many places allowed locals to run tabs and pay at later dates) or tabs or tried to screw someone over, everyone heard about it immediately and you would be shut out just as fast.  Of course not every society is perfect, but the people were always friendly.  People would look you in the eye and say good morning to you daily (imagine!!)!!  The sense of community there was brilliant.  You felt as part of something, and you did your part to take care of others as they did for you

Ahora…

  • “Ahora” in Spanish means “right now”… This is a very general term in Puerto Viejo and really Costa Rica in general… If you want something done or are waiting for the bus and ask “when will xyz happen?” and are told “hora”… that could be anywhere from “now” to two weeks from now… if you are told “ahora” it could be anywhere from “right now” to about a day from now… Love that relaxed nature!!

STREET MEAT!!!

  • I don’t know what the heck they do to their meat but MAN, I absolutely LOVE street meat!!!  Mind you, the street meat vendors only come out on the street as the sun starts to set because lord knows it’s way too hot to stand over a BBQ in the heat of the day, and luckily they stay open until the wee hours of the morning for all those stumbling out of the bars in search of something yummy to eat.  Basically they only sell chicken or beef on a skewer.  Sounds super simple, I know, but the spicy sauce they put on it is absolutely to die for!!  You can get it extra spicy or just regular spicy (I always got it extra spicy!!)!!  And I promise this basis of critique on the food is not because I was always drunk when eating!!  There were in fact several times that I went into town just to purchase a couple skewers of street meat spicy chicken for my dinner completely sober!!  My mouth is salivating at the very thought…

 

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