Saturday, November 28, 2015

High Altitude- A Taste + Feel of Bogota, Colombia

Colombia’s capital city breaches the 10,000 foot elevation marker; my airliner descends zero feet to land. 
Zipping around Bogota's deserted streets well after midnight, my taxi plows through needless red lights instead of mindlessly waiting, to the soundtrack of my enthusiastic, yet exhausted, applause.
Though her roads are dimly lit, even with the beer goggles I took on loan from Aeromexico, I’d never so much as consider taking this city home. 
Bogota road
I arrive in the hip and affluent area of town- Chapinero (Chapi.) A doorman answers the bell, requesting my name through the bolted door, warily opening it once confirmed. Such security is in fact the bare minimum you’ll find in Colombia's wealthier neighborhoods.
Security in Colombia ain't no joke

golden funeral masks of Indian leaders
Despite residing so close to the equator Bogota’s mornings are crisp and chilly, a function of the high elevation. Soldiers armed with machine guns stand guard around the city, a reminder of battles with drug gangs, FARC, and the massive insecurity and instability the nation experienced not so long ago, where the wealthy often dared not step out of their heavily guarded homes.
Bortreo- Colombia's most famous artist paints
"volume"- aka fat people

I enter El Museo De Oro (the gold museum) Though at first compelling, eventually one shiny object blends into the other. Tiring of museums after Botrero (Colombia’s most famous painter of “volume”) I grab lunch- a thick, soupy porridge of rice, corn, and chicken. Being a vegetarian in this country I'd imagine more difficult than colonizing Mars; everything is “con carne” (with meat.) 
I take the cable car up to the peak of the mountains surrounding Bogota- Monserrato. For someone in such excellent shape, I notice how quickly winded I feel ascending a set of stairs. I can’t imagine climbing Everest. 

A view of sprawling Bogota- from halfway up Monserrato 

I discuss with my next taxi driver how it’s much easier to make money in America than here. On cue, he promptly hits the accelerator, peeling rubber as he makes off with my 50,000 peso bill as I haplessly wait for change on the sidewalk.

the walk to the church up at Monserrato
To the North is La Zona Rosa, the wealthiest area of Bogota and home to Cartier, Armani, Rolex, and other premier brands. I'm exploring the affluent neighborhood when it starts to pour thick buckets of rain, causing me to seek shelter as I watch the roads quickly flood. To cross the street right now is akin to wading though a small river.

Meeting two girls for drinks, our conversation picking up steam, I profess that I find the people here basically friendly and warm. They volley back that they are in fact more open to non-Colombians than their countrymen. In the not so distant past, giving your trust to a Colombian would quite possibly get you robbed, or kidnapped. Everyone here knows someone or has themselves personally experienced such trauma. Such strong associations, especially those regarding life or death, change slowly. 

Fortunately this evening, I am not a Colombian. It made for a warm departure from this chilly city amongst the clouds. 

here are some of the highlights and the look of Bogota