Saturday, January 10, 2015

Goodbye Coast, Hello Mountains!

Reunion in Bogota and beyond! (Days 8-11)

Sofia and I met in Tibet. Luckily we got along very well since we were the only two on our tour and were with each other 24/7 for over a week. So, here we are reunioning in Sofia's home country and town, Bogota! She picked us up at the airport and was the most amazing host ever! We can't thank you enough.

Sofia and I drinking salpicon in San Bolivar Park. 
Salpicon was our favorite Colombian drink, and believe me, there was tough competition. It is watermelon or Colombian soda based with pineapple, strawberries, bananas and all sorts of yummy, chunks of goodness.
Library at San Bolivar Park. Great architecture.
This park is the closest Bogota has to Central Park. People go there to picnic and exercise and chill.

Fruit lesson at the store. Curuba is a tropical fruit unlike any in the US.
By now, we drank lots of tropical fruit drinks (curuba, lulo, zapote, nispero, moracuya, mango) but most of them we had no clue what they looked like or couldn't even pinpoint the flavor. So Sofia gave us a lesson on Colombian fruits. So delicious!

One of the many awesome breakfasts Sofia made for us. Fresh fruit (no that is not cucumber or squash), hot chocolate and other delicious treats. I recall Sofia talking about these meals in Tibet and now I finally get to enjoy them myself.
 Exploring La Candeleria: Old town (Day 9)
Plaza de Bolivar. Christmas decorations still everywhere!
Side street in Old Town with mountains in looming in the background. Bogota is at 2,600 m (yes, I'm totally in the metric system)

Traditional homey ajiaco soup (the one we are staring excitedly at), one of our most favorite meals in Colombia.

We had been waiting a whole week for this ajiaco soup made of chicken, corn, potatoes and cream. It's only in Bogota where the temp is a lot cooler than the Carribean Coast. Also beans/rice and a chicken soup. All with the largest avocados ever. So delicious!

Also note I am wearing some new travel clothes never seen before. That's because Shar actually overpacked warm clothes and I underpacked for cold weather. Thanks for the many loans, Sharlene!

Hitting up the museums
National Museum: 
new interactive exhibit with LCD screens and audio that more accurately portrays Colombia's recent past.

Museo Boteo, where everything is playfully plump, even the books and fruits.
Monkey! Our favorite at the top-rated museum in Bogota, Museo de Oro.
The Gold Museum was all right and worth checking out. It was a bit too crowded but the entrance fee was really low as Colombia is trying to encourage tourism.

Panoramic view from atop Monserrate
A must-see in Bogota is taking a cable car or furnicular up to this vista point. Mountains on one side and city on the other. We are looking south at the class 1-2 neighborhood in the distance. Sofia explained to us how the socio-economic levels break down. 1-2 is low income. 3-4 is middle income and 5-6 top income. Like all cities, there are wealthier and poorer areas. Overall, there has been a lot of theft in the city which makes Bogotanos always keenly aware for their belongings at all times.

Honoraries of Colombia! Thanks Ibraim for tracking down the restaurant workers to sash us.
We went to a branch of the famous Andres Carnes de Res restaurant for the "experience" as Ibraim said. And it was quite the experience. We saw Ghostbusters and zombies reenactments, lots of crowning of kings and queens and given our sashes above. Definitely unique. It was a first for all of us so we were celebrating just because!

Bussing to Zipaquira for the Salt Catedral (Day 10)
Thus far we had been sitting luxuriously in mini SUVs of Sofia's or her friends or in taxis which are relatively inexpensive. This day, we finally hopped on the amazing public transport called the Transmilenio. Bogota opened up these express bus lines which have their own lanes and platforms in the middle of major roads and freeways. Pretty ingenious. 

Salt Catedral of Zipaquira: A crazy labrynith of alters underground in a huge salt mine.           Perfect setting for a church rock concert as Sharlene noted! It was quite the production underground with Colombia's first 3D movie (so it was a bit off...) and a light show.
All time favorite pastry in Colombia called Milhojas. Neopolitan flakiness with custard goodness and arequipe (dulce de leche) sweetness. Yum!
New amigas: Sofia, me, Sharlene and Diana hanging out in suburbia Chia. Still enjoying the holiday decorations.

Exploring beyond Bogota (Day 11)

For our last day, Sofia arranged for us and her friends to check out Laguna and lake Guatavita and some small towns.
Posing at Laguna Guatavita, aka El Dorado. Do you see the gold?

One, two ... wait, is Diego jumping already?! Sandra and her baby are just chilling while we engage in our shenanigans. Fun with more new amigos.
We also hit up the town of Sueca where many people were rock climbing near the Virgin Mary.

Postres at the small town of Guatavita. Some were quite delicious!

Last stop, Lake Gautavita. What a fun day!

Good night Bogota! It was a splendid time

Another fantastic trip to South America. Another memorable adventure with Sharlene somewhere in the world. Good times with new friends in Colombia. And thanks again for Sofia hosting us and allowing us to crash with her. We got such a special glimpse of this beautiful country and met so many wonderful people. We are already plotting her and Ibraim's visit to California! Hopefully in the summer I can take them around my neck of the world. Until next time ...