Our first hostel, Fernweh Photography Hostel, was well chosen and set the standard pretty high for the trip. It was based in an area in Bogota called La Candelaria, which is popular for hostels but I understand is not the nicest part of Bogota. The couple who ran the hostel were so helpful in every way, but particularly with regard to the luggage situation. Our first impressions of Bogota itself from the view of our taxi however were a bit less enthusiastic. Bearing in mind that it was after midnight but all we saw was armed police, stray dogs and homeless people sleeping on the streets.
Jet lag had us awake at dawn for our first day exploring the city and we were keen to see it in daylight and rectify the views we had from the night before. Determined not to let the lack of luggage hold us back, I was patting myself on the back for packing an emergency change of clothes in my carry-on bag. We walked in silence, taking everything in, towards the main square and continued to walk and walk to be greeted with a city that looked derelict and shut down. When we finally found a cafe that was open, we were going to eat whatever they served, regardless of what it was at that point! It turned out to be a Parisian cafe…sure while in Colombia eat French food for breakfast!!
We had information from our hostel about bike tours which are popular in Bogota so that was our next stop. The first thing we learned from our guide was that Monday, January 9th is the feast of the Epiphany. He explained that Colombia is a very catholic and religious place. Gav and I exchanged a look of understanding…the city wasn’t shut down we just happened to arrive on one of their biggest holidays and hadn’t known any different.
This turned to work in our favour as the ciclovia (cycle track) was open and the roads closed to traffic which made the bike tour super easy. We were treated to some entertainment along the way including some Colombian dancing lessons on the closed streets!
We cycled 20km in total with an amazing guide who gave us a real feel for Bogota, our first impressions had quickly been reversed. We saw Bolivar square (the heart of the historical centre), the largest and most famous church in Bogota (cathedral Primada), the famous palace of Justice building which is featured on the Narcos introduction, the gold museum, Simon Bolivar park, and all with the surrounding mountains in background. One thing that caught our eye was the street art, there is graffiti everywhere. Strangely enough we learned that graffiti was legalised in Bogota by Justin Bieber! He had police protection while doing his street art for a photo-shoot and the locals objected that if he was allowed then they should be too – and so they are!
As the afternoon approached the bike tour was interrupted with some extremely heavy rainfall! Coming from Ireland we should have been used to this but it was torrential!! They provided rain ponchos and as a interim took us to a Colombian coffee factory and cafe which was sheltered. We learned about how the coffee beans are roasted in the cafe. Later in our trip we will visit the coffee region of Colombia. The break didn’t even work and it looked like the rain was here to stay…by the time the tour finished we were soaking head to toe. The only option was a swift return to the hostel and instant shower, we crossed everything that our bags would be waiting for us but no such luck. So there we are, day one in Colombia with one of our only two clothing options, and only pair of shoes, absolutely soaking and totally unwearable! Luck would have it that our hostel hosts sorted us with towels, drying facilities, and newspaper to dry the runners! We were hostel bound for the evening as a result and sat eagerly watching the door every time it buzzed…still no luggage.