I am presently sitting in a hostel in Manizales, a major city in the coffee region. But before that I stayed in Bogotá until this past monday.
In Bogotá, I hung out with my friend Adam, from England. I met Adam about 2 years ago during my first big trip alone in Ecuador. We met up later in Colombia on that same trip and have kept in touch ever since. Adam has been back in Colombia for more than 5 months now. The reason he is here is thanks to me. I introduced him to his current girlfriend one night and they have been together ever since.
While waiting at the bus stop for Adam, i started chatting with an old man sitting on the bench doing nothing. I think this is a worldwide phenomenon; old men sitting on benches.
After lunch with Adam, we walked back to the hostel for a few beers. Thats when I saw another Israeli traveler I met on my first trip 2 years ago, a Colombian traveler I met 2 years ago, and a former hostel worker randomly in the streets. Why am I telling you this?
I want to show you that Colombia is that one country that gives so much reason to return. Many of the travelers I meet are here in Colombia for a second time. Its just the way it is.
My days in Bogota consisted of walking, drinking coffee, and people watching. I often walked for hours each day exploring familiar and unfamiliar parts of Bogotá. I average nearly 5 cups of coffee a day. Whether drinking coffee provided by the hostel or from Juan Valdez. Oma, or a random cafe; the coffee is delicious and very strong. I like to sit in plazas when I tire from walking, watching the many people of Bogotá.
Another beauty of Bogota
Walkin’ the streets
One day in Bogota, a new Australian friend of mine names Heather and I went on an adventure with a goal of having someone shoot us in our chests with a gun! No really, I am serious. See, there’s this famous clothing company called Miguel Cabellero. This company manufactures and sells bulletproof clothing to politicians, celebrities, and those quiet but important people. The bulletproof clothing is unique because it is handcrafted into stylish suits, polo shirts, dress pants, etc. Sort of like urban camouflage. Miguel Cabellero has retail stores worldwide, even in Harrods department store in London.
Heather and I rode the Transmilenio down to Chapinero. The Transmilenio is like a poor man’s subway. Its actually a very complicated system of buses with its own lanes that go throughout the city, stopping at terminals that you would enter just like a subway in NYC.
at the Miguel Cabellero factory, we attempted to smooth talk the secretary into letting us tour the factory. “Yes, we really did fly all the way to Colombia just to see this factory. Its a fascinating story and we would love to see the inner workings of the company.” We got close, but unfortunately there was nobody available to show us around. We didn’t even get a chance to ask if they could shoot us wearing a bulletproof article of clothing.
I have gone bungee jumping, skydiving, paragliding, been jumped, and many other adventure activities. What else is left, other than getting shot in the stomach? At least we got to see them unloading the fabric into the factory I guess.
We waited on the street in some random part of the city and within minutes found a collectivo van going to the area of out hostel. Public transportation is excellent in Colombia. Wherever you are, there is either a taxi, van, bus, subway like system and its all so cheap. Although bus stops exist, flagging down a bus is more common and saying “por aqui” will get any bus to let you off anywhere.
Back in our neighborhood, we searched for a particular seafood restaurant. You see, I ate at this restaurant on my first trip to Colombia and could never find it again. Until a few days ago I randomly found it just by wandering the streets. This restaurant has character. The wooden floorboards creek, its always, packed, pictures of MLK, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, and other line the walls. The owner is a friendly guy who enjoys practicing his limited English. Best of all, their coconut rice is incredibly tasty with a sweet but spicy flavor. For just $3.50, I got a big bowl of soup, a whole fish, salad, coconut rice, fried banana, and freshly squeezed juice.
Unfortunately, Heather and I could not find it again after wandering for nearly an hour and had to settle on eating fried chicken with gloves.
The hostel is a great place to meet people. Unlike in other countries, I can easily say that 75% of the travelers here in Colombia came alone. This makes for a great environment where everyone is looking to socialize and make new friends.
One interesting guy I met is a Navy veteran. He’s no more than 24 years old and was medically discharged after serving just 6 months. He started telling me that he has no intention of ever paying back his student loans.
“You know, they are going to garnish your wages if you don’t pay them back”, I said.
“That won’t really matter because I never plan on working again in my life”
Turns out he is receiving a pension from the Navy for the rest of his life. After working for just 6 months, he is retired at 24. That must be some kind of record.
Thats not all though. Before the pension kicked in, he went traveling and ran out of money. In order to continue traveling, he joined the French Foreign Legion. He trained again for 6 months and was eventually discharged for medical reasons. Nuts!
Random llamas in Bogota
But like I said, there are always people to meet and hang out with. One night, I went out with Roger, an electrician from London. One interesting thing he mentioned about Americans that he meets in hostels is that Americans will tell people their life story within a minute of meeting someone, and then won’t even say hello when walking past that person the next day.
It reminds me of this annoying woman from Atlanta who did just that. I could tell you everything about her life. I won’t because she is not a very interesting person. She’s the type of person who brags hanging out with a local or taking a “dangerous” bus route that everyone she is talking to has also done.
Like Roger said, she barely acknowledged me the next morning.
I left Bogotá very spur of the moment on Monday night after spending some more time with Adam. I really enjoyed my time there and look forward to returning in a month of so.