Sun 19 Jan, 2003 11:36 pm
I made a trip to Bogota last week to renew my visa. I was the first one at the door of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at seven am but I still didn't get out until almost noon (closing time). When I called originally to enquire they told me to bring a book. I will do that for sure next year. It seemed to go well. I had the necessary papers in order and finally left with a new visa glued into my passport. When I got back to Cali a week later however I had a message waiting saying they'd overcharged me and to call to arrange a refund! So what now, I go back?!
While in Bogota I stayed in the Candalaria area at the world famous hostel Platypus. That part of Bogota can be dicey at night. It's said that if you don't give the beggars a coin they might stab you. Just carry a pocketful of hundred peso coins. Despite the risk the place is full of foreigners. I'm not kidding about the world famous. Owner Herman Escobar told me the place is in every guide book to Colombia save one published in Japan. It's even included in a Korean guide. It was really a lot of fun and cheap. Dormitory rooms with two bunk beds are $4 and a private room is $6.90. If you stay in a dorm room bring earplugs so
you can sleep through the late arrivals. The wooden bunks are pretty creeky. In the few days I stayed there I met (mostly young) backpacker travelers from England, Canada, Germany, Goa India, Switzerland, Scotland, Guyana, Venezuela, the US, France, Israel, Australia and Argentina. People were constantly arriving from and departing to all points. A Frenchman I talked to had just arrived in Bogota by bus from Argentina. A Scottish girl left on a night bus for a ten-hour trip to Bucaramanga where she has a teaching contract. An American who will
teach English in the city arrived by bus from Santa Marta. Another American, from NYC arrived the day before I left. He had traveled from NY to Panama on his BMW motorcycle and was awaiting its arrival in Bogota by air. I will see him in Cali in a few days on his way through South America to Tierra Del Fuego. Really crazy was a tall German in his early thirties who was on his way to the river Vaupes to travel by boat to Brazil. He WILL be traveling through guerrilla-controlled territory. There was a couple that, had they been from the US would defiantly have been "Rainbow Family" members. He is from Goa, India and
his young pregnant wife is Argentinean. They'd been living at the hostel for two months cooking and eating there and just hanging, hardly ever leaving the house. He was a bellicose know-it-all who most of the other travelers couldn't stand. He was nutty too. One afternoon when a group of us was sitting around he told me solemnly that Heineken beer contained a blood food. They finally received some money from her family in Ecuador and left town. He paid about $360 but stiffed Herman for the rest. Herman was so glad to get rid of them he said to hell with it. That night there was a big party at the hostel celebrating their departure. An friend from Bogota invited me to go visit Villa De Leva about three and a
half hours north of the city. It was a beautiful trip through a part of Colombia I hadn't seen yet. It's a long gentle climb up to the chilly city of Tunja where we changed from a big air-conditioned bus to a "colectivo" (van) then took a winding highway another hour down to the town of Villa De Leva. My friend has an aunt who recently moved there from Cali so we had a place to stay. The two-story house with three bathrooms and four bedrooms was gorgeous and I was amazed to learn they rent it for about $150 a month. Villa De Leva reminds me in many ways
of Aspen in the summer with cool evenings, warm sunny days and surrounded by mountains. I think just about any retired American couple used to North American standards of cleanliness etc. could be happy there. It's a colonial pueblo founded in the late fifteen hundreds (I think) and there are strict zoning. regulations that all structures new and old must maintain the colonial style. Therefore all the buildings, houses and stores are painted white and most of the houses have brilliantly colored bougainvillea spilling over their outer walls. It's the cleanest, most well kept town you'll find in Colombia due in part to the fact that it is a major tourist destination. There have even been commercial movies shot there and it's been visited by European princesses and princes and other international hoi poloi. I spoke to one old timer who told me it was extremely safe on all fronts and the general tranquility was due in part to the fact there is no nightlife. There's plenty to do in the daytime though with some great hikes to waterfalls and a big lake as well as museums. The valley was covered by sea at one time and it's an internationally famous site for marine marine life that grows along the coast. This also a major place to look for some. fossils many of which are in US collections (to the consternation of Colombians).
We returned to Bogota via a different route that took us through the city of Zipiquira where my friend has friends who live on a finca a half hour away. I found the idea of a finca there very tempting for the cool climate and attractive countryside. The drawback though is that due to that cool climate the vegetation is pretty much limited to eucalyptus and pine trees unlike the huge variety in the mountain forests of the Fallarones de Cali.
I'm enjoying the little stories, pitter. Tell them when you feel like it and I'll try to hold back the questions.
Roger I'm glad you enjoyed the little travelog but don't hold back if you have question. Interaction is why we're here.