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Long route home Our trip all the way home, trying to catch no planes and stay on the ground like civilised people. It's taking us via India all the way to Europe from Japan, the furthest of the Far East...

First impressions

COLOMBIA | Monday, 30 April 2012 | Views [793]

Telling folk back home we were heading out on an adventure to Colombia brought two usual responses: a) "you'll get kidnapped" or b) "you'll get murdered".  Well, surprise surprise, IT'S NOT A WAR ZONE.  It's a perfectly civilised modern city with drinkable (actually damn delicious) water and everything.  Much like some areas of London are portrayed as no-go areas but in fact have perfectly pleasant populations, so Bogota seems fine.  Indeed, the only reason we've had to feel uncomfortable is that the reams of misinformation and hyped paranoia have accumulated to such an extent that we doubt the truth we can see with our own eyes.  Just round from our guesthouse is a pretty plaza (where Bogota was founded) filled with herds of students grazing on cheap booze and street food, muttering inanely at one another (some things are universal).  The atmosphere is less riot-in-waiting and more party-in-waiting.  EVEN AFTER DARK.  Anyway, the wearisome safety cliche out of the way, let's get to some travel cliches!

Exhausted as we were after the whirlwind of our departure parties, we spent much of the first weekend sleeping and adjusting to both the height (2600m) and the time.  When we did venture out with the caution the guidebooks had falsely instilled in us, we were left gasping, and not just from the altitude.  Elegant museums and galleries, bright and vivacious streets, stunning views.  It was all we wanted and more.  Bogota's Old Town, Candelaria, is beautiful, all bubblegum-bright buildings and characterful cobbled alleys.  However, unlike certain staid Old Towns (like that one just next to Bristol), this one bursts with explosions of new creativity.  Graffiti blooms in the city as easily as the forests do on the hills above, playful statues cavort atop buildings and little galleries of modern art hide coyly round every corner.  The rest of the city has sprung up North, West and South of the Old Town but the imposing peaks of the Eastern Andes hem the city in to the East.  One of the tireless thrills of the city is to glance East and see a misty mountain top at the end of the road, like a stairway to heaven.  At another half a click up, there's no danger at all of the city's bold new skyscrapers ruining the majestic natural vista.

Most of you reading this are fellow Brits so I should mention the weather.  It's been miserable a couple of days, glorious a few more and generally very unpredictable.  We learned pretty quickly to layer and to make sure we're always close to shelter.  With excellent coffee at 50p a cup in a range of charismatic cafes, hiding from a tropical downpour is a wholly agreeable experience.  The sun can feel quite intense up here, mainly because we're almost close enough to touch it, but sunburn doesn't look like being a worry.  Whilst Bogota is a lovely city with much to keep us entertained, it's certainly not set up for tourists in the way that much of Asia was.  We're redoubling our efforts with Spanish and muddling our way through.  Despite the lack of expat support, we're managing to sort out job interviews and apartments easily enough - this seems like a place where anything can be possible and there are opportunities rather than obstacles.  The whole city seems to be hurtling towards a bright future.  Life here looks like it'll be fun!

PS if you were waiting for a drug cliche, Emma did coke this afternoon.  I did a Sprite.  Enough cliches for now, more of the truth.

Tags: andes, bogota, candelaria, old town


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