You have to take what people say about anywhere with a grain of salt. No matter how similar you are to someone, personal preference and experience will dictate how one views somewhere. Listen, and take note, but ideally its about forming your own opinion by experiencing the place first hand. I had initially avoided the capital of Colombia, Bogota, my first time around because of two factors. A persons review, and lack of time. That was not going to happen this trip.
The last night before leaving for another overnight bus, this time to Bogota, I was at Casa Kiwi, and really missing some hockey. I hopped on the computers they have for free internet use, and went to NHL.com to stream whoever was playing. It ended up being The Habs and The Lightning, and as I was watching, a Finnish guy poked his head around and said “whos playing?” The whole time I had just assumed this guy was Australian, and we got chatting about puck. The next day we both had plans to leave to Bogota, so we gathered a small crew to split the taxi to the terminal and bid farewell to Casa Kiwi, and Medellin, and headed out, a little sad but excited. After another long but comfortable overnight bus we arrived in the capital of Bogota, hopped into a taxi, and the Finnish guy (Olli Hekkala) and I cruised to La Candelaria district of Bogota. Riding through the city, you really get a sense of how dense it is, as it seems to be interlocking streets that just sprawl forever. Eventually we saw a mountain rise up in the distance and we had arrived at our hostel.
View from Mount Monserrate in Bogota, Colombia
Hostal Sue Candelaria is in the south east portion of Bogota, sitting just under the Monserrate Mountain. Its a nice older building with a beautiful courtyard out the back, with a good little kitchen, a great bar connecting to the reception, comfortable rooms, and what would seem to be a re-occuring theme, a ping pong table! We settled in, went for a stroll through town and decided to check out El Museo D´oro (Museum of Gold) which I must say is quite cool if you like the historic thing, which I do, but gets a bit repetitive quite quickly. As the night rolled around, exhausted from another over night bus lack of sleep, we turned in for some much needed rest, ready to tackle Mount Monserrate the next day.
View over Bogota, Colombia from Monserrate
Mount Monseratte, which is walking distance from Hostal Sue, just pops up behind the buildings as you pass through openings in the streets. Bogota is a giant city, covering a huge area, but to the east of it, lies a big mountain range shielding the city. You can choose to take the cable car up, or at certain hours you are allowed to walk the billion stairs to get to the top. We had plans to find a gym later that evening, so we decided to save our legs and take the gondola. A steep ascent takes you what feels like directly up, and a few minutes later you arrive and step out at the top. The incredible view you get from the top shows the huge expanse of the city. However, the most incredible thing about Monseratte, is that as you look out towards Bogota, it never seems to end, yet if you turn around, its just green and jungle. If you were facing towards the green lush jungle, you would never in your wildest dreams imagine that the huge capital city would be sitting right behind you. In fact, if you trekked out over the greenery out the back, the rolling hills are only interrupted by a couple small towns, all the way over half of the country, to the border of Venezuela. Its an eerie feeling I must say, almost lonely. At the top they have developed a very cool garden, pathways, little artisan shops and even a church at the top of the ridge. For the cheap price to get up to the top, or even less if you walk it, Monseratte is a great way to get an idea of the magnitude of Bogota and the surrounding area.
Where real, and concrete jungle meet up Monserrate, Colombia
Luckily, Olli was in terrific shape, and was a gym guy as well, so that afternoon, after a couple cold cups of java and a few heated games of pong, we took a hostel map and walked toward the circle. The lady at the front desk wasnt sure of where a gym was exactly, but did a big circle on the map covering a couple blocks, and was pretty certain there was one in the area. We headed that way, and around the first corner we spotted easily a big sign saying Gimnasio. Its almost a workout in itself getting up the stairs to the gym but you are rewarded with a very well equipped workout facility!
All in all, a very good start to our stay in the capital city as I had previously not heard great things about Bogota. Goes to show that you will meet many people along your travels, and you have to take advice and experiences but make your own decisions. This was a good one.