Bienvenidos a Colombia

The first thing you notice when you arrive in a place like Colombia is the music. The salsa is everywhere! Airport terminal? Check. Taxi? Check. Hostel? Check. Even a trip to the supermarket has a soundtrack. You truly can’t get away from it, and I LOVE that. I’m sure I heard more salsa in my first morning in the country than in the previous couple of years combined. No complaints, though. Gotta love the hot rhythms of Latin America!

I quickly settled into a simple routine of waking up early, eating a tasty breakfast, reading (The Road to Fatima Gate, can highly recommend to anyone interested in understanding the geopolitical mess that is the Middle East), doing some work, grabbing lunch and then cracking on a bit more in the afternoon. I found a fantastic vegetarian restaurant (called Loto Azul – the blue lotus!) a few blocks from the hostel and went there almost every day. How could I not? You can get a very generous tasty meal for around 3€, which is an absolute steal! It was during one of my visits to the restaurant that – due to the thick accent of one of the waitresses – I ended up with a glass of tamarind juice to accompany my food. Now, I’ve got nothing against tamarind (had never even heard about it) but let me tell you… it’s definitely an acquired taste. And one I clearly still haven’t acquired! Do not recommend. Not without a lot of sugar, at least.

Feeding time at the zoo!

I also went on several walks around La Candelaria, where the effects of the altitude forced me to pretty much slow down from my usual fast pace. Not an easy feat, let me tell you, but  breathing while wearing a mask was proving to be quite challenging. It would actually take me a couple of days (and a few litres of water) before I could climb a flight of stairs and not feel a light shortness of breath. My walks were limited to La Candelaria, the very charming historic district, and surrounding areas – with plans do a more thorough visit upon my return in a few months. There are many museums (most of them free!), squares, and churches to explore. I can’t wait!

The colonial charm of La Candelaria.
Bustling Carrera 7, the heart of the downtown.

Before I left Portugal I was worried it would be cold in Bogotá because the weather forecast predicted lower temperatures than Lisbon and a huge chance of rain. However, the cold seemed pretty tame in comparison despite the altitude. Probably something to do with the fact Lisbon is “blessed” with a chilly Atlantic breeze? I’m no weather expert, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Either way, I mostly walked around in a long sleeve or light jacket and wasn’t cold once. It didn’t really rain during my stay except for the one time where it rained. Hard. Did I get caught in the middle of it? Of course I did! And I can assure you hilly cities with less-than-great drainage systems and torrential rains do not go hand in hand. My feet got soaked very quickly as I attempted to cross the flooded roads on my way back to the hostel.

When it rains, it pours.

When I woke up in Bogotá the morning after I arrived (and every morning after that) I felt inspired to make things happen, which was exactly what I’d been after – I felt rejuvenated, sort of. Walking around town and soaking up the atmosphere gave me an energy boost that allowed me not to lose my focus. I was in Colombia for a reason – no excuses this time around, right? Contrary to last time, I fell in love with the city right away. It welcomed me with open arms and made me feel part of it, which is something that doesn’t happen all the time. And when it does, I embrace it. I liked Bogotá so much I did wonder whether going to Santa Marta after a week was actually the right decision. But that’s a tale for another day!

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