Long post, sorry!
Why Colombia, you might ask? Well, Kevin had business there, and the airfare for me to come for a long weekend was priced just right. I had planned some time off for October anyway, so why the heck not? It’s not every day you can add another continent to your “places traveled” list (still missing: Australia & Antarctica).
The weekend was a very different travel experience than our usual — no sailing was involved, for one thing (it’s a bit hard when the city you’re visiting is nowhere near the coast!). We were essentially the guests of Kevin’s business contact so our autonomy was seriously curtailed. This was good and bad — on the one hand, we were taken care of — lodging, meals, transportation, everything was provided for us and we didn’t have to plan for ourselves. On the other hand, we were tied to the schedules/agendas of our hosts, and so didn’t have as much of a chance to see a lot. Still, spending the weekend at our host’s country home outside of Bogota was restful, relaxing and restorative!
Telling folks we were going to Colombia got many of raised eyebrows among the enthusiasm for another crazy place the two of us were going. It’s surely gotten a bad rap for the internal unrest that has plagued the country for so many years. There’s a layer of security there that thankfully we don’t run into every day here at home, even in DC, where so many things are barricaded. Driving to the city? Need to park in a garage? Before you get your ticket, be sure to open your trunk and let the bomb/explosives sniffing dog do his thing. Riding a motorcycle? Make sure you’re wearing the vest with the licence plate info or else you may be suspected of being an assassin. The police have the right to stop & search you at any time, on a whim if they so choose. Probable cause? whatever. So yeah, having an escort felt better than us being totally on our own.
We did wander a bit on Sunday morning, checking out the Plaza Major, a couple of churches and a market. While I didn’t totally stand out as a foreigner, Kevin, being so tall and definitely not Latin American-looking, did. We felt it best not to attract attention to ourselves and so I kept the camera in my bag unless there were loads of others snapping photos. And, since most of the people we encountered were locals going about their daily business and not tourists, sadly, there are few photos. Ah, well, we’ll just have to go back!
And I think we would go back. There are things I want to see, like the church at Monserrate, which is high above, looking over the city like a sentinel. There are neighborhoods we drove through (lots of car time! and let me tell you, no matter how bad the driving is where you live, it’s worse in Bogota — visitors are told NOT to rent a car as accidents are so frequent) that had amazing little restaurants and shops and looked so vibrant that I want to explore. Places we did get to see: the Museo del Oro — the gold museum — where yes, most everything is gold. Lots of it, from the native inhabitants of that region of South America (north of the Inca, south of the Aztec & Mayan, the Muisca tribe was the most prevalent in Colombia). Also, the Mueso Nacional (uh, National Museum), where there are rooms dedicated to Simon Bolivar, Christopher Columbus, and Fernando Botero. We did a little emerald shopping, too, although we didn’t buy any (I’ve told Kevin he needs to fix that on his next visit!)
The countryside is beautiful, too. Did you know that Colombia, and the region around Bogota (which in its original form means “planted fields”) in particular, is where much of the flowers you get from florists are grown? The temperature is extremely constant — they say Bogota has only one season — highs in the 60s, lows in the 50s (the highest recorded temperature in Bogota? 77.). All year round. Perfect for growing things! And yet, if you go about an hour away, down the mountain, you’re know you’re near the equator. (This might be the perfect place for Kevin and me, as I love cool temperatures, and he keeps wanting us to move to Miami!)
We stayed Saturday and Sunday with our host at his country home, which has been in his family for generations. Set back from the main road by a 20 minute dirt road drive, it is remote and quiet and lovely. His mother visits often and was there all weekend – the consummate hostess, although our conversation was limited to our very poor Spanish and hand signs! She is an avid gardener and the property was lush with all sorts of flowers and plants. I think we spent almost all weekend outside – with the temperate climate all day and a bonfire at night, there was no need to go inside.
So that was our trip in a nutshell. I was back before some people even knew I left! It kind of feels like a blip – this random trip to another culture, and then just a couple plane rides later back in my own bed and nothing has changed. But I think every trip we take changes us a little, even if we don’t leave much of a mark on the place we just visited.