Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Colombian Big 3

We decided that since we are in Colombia, we might as well see the 3 biggest cities, Bogotá, Medellín and Calí.  Bogotá is huge with over 7 million people.  We drove something like 15 miles on the highway through the city before we got to La Candelaria, the neighborhood we stayed in.  La Candelaria is old town, with lots of tourist attractions, tons of restaurants and hostels, and nice parks, plazas and churches.  We stayed at Musicology Hostel.  We were able to park the bike in the smoking area out front (2 bikes would not be feasible here), the staff was nice (there was even a crazy ER doctor from Denver/Boulder who was working reception when we checked in), and the best thing was that both breakfast and dinner were included in the dorm rate (only dorm beds), and the dinner was actually pretty good and filling.  It was definitely a party hostel and there was a steady flow of gringos checking in and out.  It was actually nice to have so many people to talk to for a few days, and we enjoyed partying in the hostel a couple of nights.  Which led to a walking tour of Bogota at 3am, followed by a day of watching Will Farrell movies on the hostel big screen.

We weren't complete bums though, we did get caught up on blogs and emails and were able to make it to the Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum), which has a huge amount of gold artifacts.  We also went to the Botero museum, which is completely free and has a large amount of Botero's work but also has the works of Picasso, Dali, Degas, Monet,....

The Mona Lisa by Botero in the Botero Museum in Bogota, Colombia
(The Mona Lisa, by Botero. Botero is a famous Colombian artist who specializes in making art of fat people.)

Picassos in the Botero Museum in Bogota, Colombia
(some of Picasso's work)

Salvador Dali's work in the Botero Museum in Bogota, Colombia
(and Dalí's)

We also happened upon a parade with a huge amount of spectators for the recently returned Olympic Athletes.  Medalists got to ride on top of the firetruck while everybody else got pulled behind the firetruck on a trailer. 

Waiting to see the Olympic athletes in Bogota, Colombia
(Waiting for the athletes to arrive)

The Colombian Olympic medalists in Bogota, Colombia
(the winners, a Colombian won gold in the women's BMX, along with 7 other medalists)

It was really nice be able to find whatever kind of food we wanted to eat for super cheap.  All in all, Bogotá was a pretty cool city, but the weather was enough to deter us from wanting to stay too long.  Every day was either rainy or overcast and cool to cold.  According to locals, it is like that all year.  Another disappointment was that we took our laundry to a local lavanderia and the owner lost Jill's riding socks and Mike's t-shirt.  She found the socks, but was never able to find the shirt.  Which is sad because Mike only had 4 shirts to start with.

Here are a few more pics from Bogotá.

More graffiti in Bogota, Colombia

Bogota graffiti
(Graffiti seems very popular in the city, and the artists were amazing)

Llama rides in Bogota, Colombia
(If you want to go on a llama ride or get your picture taken with pigeons (see lady with pigeons on her arms and head), this is the plaza to do it.)

On a movie set in Bogota, Colombia
(We also happened upon a movie set while walking around the area)

Bogota, Colombia

We took 2 days to get to Medellín.  The drive to Medellín from Bogotá isn't very impressive and there are massive amounts of diesel trucks (mainly gasoline trucks for some reason) going up and down the mountain passes, which makes for some slow traveling. 

This truck lost its berries on the way to Medellin, Colombia
(this truck lost its berries, possibly the most exciting thing we saw on the way)

We arrived in Medellín during rush hour and the traffic was pretty crazy.  We had planned on couchsurfing, but only had our host's phone number.  So, we stopped to call her but were unable to get ahold of her.  So we checked email and found out that she would not be able to host us until the next day.  We wrote down a couple of hostel addresses and tried to find somewhere to stay.  Even with the correct address it took us about 2 hours to find the hostel we were looking for, and we only found it because the man we asked on the street physically led us to the right place by walking us there (have we mentioned that Colombians are extremely nice people?).  As luck would have it, we arrived on a Friday of a long weekend and the hostel was sold out.  But, they were able to point us in the direction of Kiwi Hostel, which was in a very nice area of town called El Poblado and had a really nice setup, although it was a little noisy to sleep.  The next morning our host, Diana, came to get us and took us to a really nice vegetarian restaurant (that we greatly appreciated as all we have been eating lately is meat plates).  Diana lived in a suburb just south of the city called Sabaneta.  We actually really liked Sabaneta as it still has a very traditional old town feel to it, but also is developing with tons of new high rise condos.  Diana is working a lot, but we still got to hang out quite a bit.  The Metro station was easily accessible from Diana's house so we went downtown a couple of days and checked out the Botanic Gardens and walked from there through varying levels of sketchiness to Botero Park and Parque Bolivar.

With our couchsurfing host, Diana, in Sabaneta, Colombia
(us with Diana in Sabaneta)

View of Medellin, Colombia
(View of Medellín)

This little girl had six people posing her for pictures in the Botanical Gardens in Medellin, Colombia
(The Botanical Gardens were very nice. So nice that apparently small children get dressed up to have photo shoots there on a regular basis.  We saw 4 in our short time there)

Statue for women's rights in Medellin, Colombia
(Statue commemorating women's rights)

A Botero backside in Medellin, Colombia
(A Botero backside)

Cat in Botero Park in Medellin, Colombia
(A fat cat in Botero Park)

Medellin, Colombia
(Another crazy church)

South of Medellín is what is called the coffee triangle. Manizales is one of the points in the triangle. We had been invited to stay by there by a couchsurfer, but once we arrived we discovered that he could not host us because his grandmother had been in an accident. Everyone will be fine, but we ended up only staying in Manizales for a night before heading to Calí. It seemed like a decent town, and we took the cable car from our hotel to the bustling center of town.

Manizales, Colombia

Manizales, Colombia

In Cali we stayed at the Casa Blanca Hostel, owned by a Danish motorcyclist. The hostel is very motorcycle frendly, with a wall of photos of motorcycle travelers. It is also 2 blocks away from the reputable big bike shop Asturias. Mike was able to find garage space to work for a couple of days and help was always close by if he needed it. He was just doing some maintenance, and getting new sprockets (the ones from Manaus were already shot), but Jorge's shop Asturias is highly recommended if you need any work done.

Calí is known for being the salsa capital of the world and also for being a bit of a dangerous city. Since neither of us are any good at, nor enjoy dancing, we missed out on the salsa scene. We walked around town on a Sunday, when most shops are closed, and we quickly felt that the city could definitely get dodgy quickly. We were even warned by a nice woman to get out of the area we were approaching. All in all, we were happy to have found a good shop to work on the bike, and a good place to stay, but we were ready to get out of the city and cities in general. It is time for us to get back to some rural areas.

(Calí is also known for its cholados, shaved ice with lots of flavoring, fruit, and toppings)

(One of the theatres)

(Outside of Casa Blanca with our new friend Gabriel)

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