Bienvenido a Bogota

To be honest we hadn’t really expected much from Bogota. We’d booked Alegria’s hostel mainly for its price point thinking we’d stay a night, two at the most. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

We arrived to the tiny international airport within an hour of each other and were in a cab by 11:30pm.

25 minutes later we were being greeted by Alegria, a petite Colombian with welcoming smile with only a hint of weariness from the day.

From the minute she said hola, she had a way about her that made you put complete faith in anything she said, a matter of factness mixed with a warmness that made you feel like you’d been friends for years.

We found ourselves being ushered into the best room in the house as all the other rooms were full. With huge windows on both sides we had a panoramic view of the city. That and a ticket to la villa, a bar about 15 min away in taxi.

It was midnight, I was dead tired not having slept for 2 days and to be honest going out was the last thing I wanted to see before a pillow, but how could I not rally with the woman who rose from the dregs of a Zanex induced coma in Bangkok the year before.

By 1 we had a cocktail and had already begun swapping stories with a few travelers from the hostel an some locals. A bottle of Johnny Walker red surfaced while a loose footed Colombian passed out shots. Thankfully, it was only a few hours before the lights came up signaling it was time to head back.

Not even 24 hours passes and I can’t help but remember te first lines of Charles dickens, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It started innocently enough. A leisurely walk through La Candeleria off carrera 2 we came across a lovely little vegetarian cafe called quinoa. Having no tables available we meandered on and found a typical columbian restaurant serving ajiola. A traditional Colombian dish made with shredded chicken in a potato broth topped with creme.

Sated and wanting to explore the city more we walked to the square off carrera 7. Llamas, ponies, Santa clause, shriek, and a grouping of protestors filled the square that seemed littered with pigeons. As the crowd seemed a little denser as we walked on, Emele warned me to put the camera on an inside pocket. Since we wanted easier access to it I told her to put it in her purse…well, it wouldn’t be a missadventure if it didn’t entail a robbery of sorts.

I turned around, seeing we’d passed our destination and looked back to hear Emele in the face of a Colombian woman yelling give me back my camera. I darted back and grabbed the thief’s wrist. Emele trying to open her jacket which she had zipped up and would not remove claiming she had no shirt on. She thrust her chest forward, but not wanting to grope the woman there was little left to do. She walked away just minutes before some police showed up.

Feeling bad for us the officer decided to give us an impromptu tour of the city enthusiastically pointing at sites of interest, concerned that we not leave bogota with a bad impression.

While Christmas is a great period to get vacation time, it’s also a time when crime is on the rise, the poor, struggling to make ends meet with the added burden of gift giving. Turns out we could consider ourselves the lucky ones as two Germans came back to the hostel after having been held up at gunpoint and machete, escaping with no violence but having lost all their valuables.

We arrived to the hostel with our evening plans set by Alegria who informed us that we’d be heading to a concert close by. What transpired was nothing short of magical. Each moment seamlessly flowing into the next. We walked into the concert and found ourselves on stage with the band a song later. The energy was palpable, intoxicating even.

Later we’d walk through candle lit streets dancing to a live Mexican mariachi band as Alegria passed out shots of aguardiente. More people joining the group as the night continued. An hour later and we were inside a bakery/market turned night club dancing salsa and ended early in the morning at a jam packed apartment of Cesar. Apparently everyone knows Cesar…

Muchas gracias a Alegria! Por un tiempo que no podemos olvidar.


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