Bogota – student protests in the capital

We arrived in Bogota after an overnight bus journey from Popayan, on which we had been pulled off the bus by two stern looking policemen with rather large guns, asking where our visas were. After politely explaining that we were English and therefore didn’t require visas, they let us back on the bus with a smile and a handshake and we were back on our merry way.

Pulling into the bus station at 9am, we joined the long line of people waiting for taxis. There were hundreds of cabs, but unfortunately the system of asking each passenger where they were going and presenting them with a cost and receipt before getting in the car made things achingly slow and it was a good half an hour before we actually set off for our hostel in Candelaria.

Cute houses in La Candelaria

We’d struggled to find a hostel with half decent reviews and private rooms but had opted for the AlterEgo. Whilst there was nothing wrong with it, there were only a few guests staying there and the atmosphere was somewhat lacking to say the least. We did consider moving to one of the livelier hostels nearby but unfortunately Rich got ill so we decided to stay put in the end.  Still, it was centrally located, cheap, and we had a private bathroom, so I’m not complaining too much.

Student protest banners

On the day we arrived, there were student protests going on, pretty much the same kind of issues as in the UK as far as we could work out. The mood was fairly friendly from what we could tell, but the riot police were out in force and we witnessed the aftermath the next morning when we visited the central square. All the government buildings had been paint bombed, and the walls were littered with graffiti. The statue of Simon Bolivar had been defaced, and a paintbrush strapped to his hand. In the centre of the square hung dozens of protest banners. Apparently the students had been planning to camp out for the night but a rainstorm had quashed those ideas.

Simon Bolivar, complete with paintbrush in hand

We spent the rest of the day exploring the Candelaria area and a few of its museums, including the military museum and the Botero museum, which has a large collection of paintings and sculptures from the artist, who likes to paint everything and everyone fat, including the Mona Lisa, as well as a pretty decent collection of mainly modern art, including works by Picasso, Monet, Dali and Degas. Afterwards, we decided to sample some local cuisine and shared a bean casserole and an ajiaco, a potato soup with corn, chicken, capers, avocado and sour cream.

That evening, we headed first to a bar in Candelaria, Yumi Yumi, for a couple of delicious cocktails, then caught a cab up the Zona Rosa for a few more drinks. We were supposed to meet a friend of a friend but unfortunately the bar was so packed it impossible to find him, especially as we had never met before and so didn’t really know what he looked like! It wasn’t a late one, as we had booked ourselves onto a trip to Andres Carne de Res, a restaurant -bar-nightclub that we had read about in the guidebook which sounded like a lot of fun. We were really looking forward to a big night in a big city so we didn’t want to be hung over.

The streets of Bogota

The next day and Richard woke up in a bit of a state. He spent most of the morning throwing up and the rest of the day in bed and by evening he was still feeling rough so we decided to cancel our night out. We were both disappointed but as it was an organised night out there would be no chance of us coming home early if Rich felt ill, plus it wasn’t cheap so we didn’t want to waste our money if we weren’t both going to fully enjoy it. It’s a shame we didn’t get to fully sample Bogota’s nightlife as we’ve heard it’s great fun but what can you do?

The main plaza in La Candelaria

The following afternoon and it was off to the airport for a short flight to Santa Marta, to hit the beaches in Taganga and Tayrona National Park. We’d had an enjoyable, if a little quiet couple of days in Bogota. It’s certainly not as raw as I had expected – it’s definitely not as grey or edgy as Sao Paulo for instance – but for a capital city there’s surprisingly little to do there. We pretty much saw everything we wanted to see in a day, and apart from nightlife, the city doesn’t have much to keep you entertained. Still, we had fun and now it was off to the coast for some much awaited sun. At last.