A new country, a new month and a fresh start. Leaving the frustrations of Ecuador behind us we began our Colombian adventure in Ipiales, a border town and home to nearby Las Lajas; a church built on the side of a cliff and over a valley. We caught a colectivo (a shared taxi) to the sanctuary and walked down the slope to the church. It was a hot and sunny day, the early hour meant that we had the area to ourselves and we relished the peace. As we walked down we noticed little inscriptions carved into the wall and in memoriam plaques, little clusters of bright flowers broke up the grey stone. The church was magnificent, perched on a bridge over the valley and seemingly clinging to one side of the cliff. The detail on the church was of a gothic style and along the bridge there were statues of angels holding instruments, trombone included. Craig walked to a nearby viewpoint while I sat in the warm sun watching tiny birds flutter. In the afternoon we booked our coach to Bogotá, Colombia's capital. The 22 hour journey meant that we'd skip a few noteworthy towns along the way but we were keen to travel to the north of the country and spend the majority of our time there.
After a long and uncomfortable overnight journey we arrived in Bogotá feeling groggy. The twisted roads wound around tiny villages, cliff edges and roadside food stalls causing some passengers to be sick. The situation wasn't helped by the drivers refusal to turn down the blaring music. Our hostel was based in La Candelaria, seemingly miles from the bus station. We struggled finding the correct bus but after asking locals managed to board the correct one. The heavy traffic meant it took ages to reach our district, we jumped off and proceeded to walk away from the chaos and into a visibly more artistic neighbourhood. Our hostel named Bella Vista was a cute place, tucked down an alley with locals and travellers alike selling jewellery and hippie merchandise on the street. After checking into our six bed dorm we went walking and found a local place to get some food. We attempted to find camera shops to buy a replacement DSLR but had no luck. In the evening Craig joined in with hostel-made cocktails while I attempted to help a Canadian girl learn a little basic Spanish before retreating to a quiet corner to pet the resident German Shepherd and do some journal writing.
The next morning we joined a very popular free graffiti tour, it was the biggest group we've ever seen or been part of. Our guide named Carlos was excellent and extremely knowledgable in the city's political history and the impact that that has had on the street art. The artists use their craft to comment on the country's leaders and its involvement in the notorious cartels. We learned of the tragedy of local homeless men being abducted, tortured and killed; they were presented as 'guerillas' and the killers were praised and given a monetary reward by the government, this act was represented in paint on the city's walls. The stories we heard were both heartbreaking and fascinating, the tour had been the best that we'd experienced in all of South America.
For lunch we popped into a Canadian fast food place selling poutine; French fries slathered in gravy and melted cheese. It was certainly a guilty pleasure but a welcome break from the similar fare that we'd been eating for the past several months. We met our buddy Carl after lunch who'd also just arrived in the city and we all took the cable car up to Monserrate Mountain which overlooks Bogotá and the miles around. The views were breathtaking, we sat by the church and watched the light change before exploring and enjoying a cake and a hot chocolate. As we descended the sun was setting which cast a vibrant orange glow over the buildings below.
Craig and I spent the next morning at the free Museo Botero named after Colombia's most famous artist. Botero paints his subject matter in a very particular way, every person he paints is made somewhat plumper, even his still life's seem chubbier than real life. His most famous painting is probably a recreation of Mona Lisa rendered in his signature style. The museum also houses impressionist work and sculpture as well as modern pieces. Craig's energy started to wane thanks to hunger so we left the galleries and met Carl at the square and had another helping of poutine before walking to Símon Bolívars house and garden.
I really enjoyed the gardens, there were narrow cobbled stone paths alongside beds bursting with all manner of plant life. The house itself was small and quaint, Craig and Carl were most interested in a famous sword that was at one point supposedly stolen by drug lord Pablo Escobar's cartel. A replica of the sword was on display but the original is said to be in Venezuela. Afterwards we squeezed in a visit to Museo del Oro, Bogotá's famous gold museum. The museum houses some of the finest examples of art made from gold; statuettes, fine jewellery and masks. The collection was in a wonderfully modern building with a basement level devoted to changing exhibitions. At the time of our visit we saw local handcrafted textiles. In the evening we ate at a burger restaurant next to an open fire and then popped to a cafe next door where a local live band were playing. The cafe was sweet and characterful, the waitresses were wearing puffy and colourful skirts while the men wore smart suits. We each enjoyed a drink while watching the band play, clapping the loudest at the end of each song.
🎥 Colombia video:
If you enjoyed reading then please click the heart at the bottom, share or better still leave me a comment, I love reading them.