collectivo Bogota Colombia

We’re Off the Map

Sunday September 15, 2013


I’m pretty sure we slept like the dead last night.  Even though our hostel had temporarily been turned into a discoteca, it wasn’t hard to fall into a deep slumber with the beats of Rhianna pumping through the wall.  They may have actually even helped a little, reminiscent of the days when we used to enjoy a Saturday afternoon nap at our old home, techno beats pulsing from our television and lulling us to sleep.  In the morning we spent a little time enjoying our luxurious hotel like hostel, and chatting with the young owners about things to do and see.

We happened to be there just in time for an event held every Sunday in Bogota called Ciclovia.  Certain main streets are blocked off to cars, leaving wide open spaces for people to cycle, run, rollerblade, or just walk in the street.  We were tempted to rent bikes ourselves, but the dark clouds and threat of rain had us putting off this plan since if we had to retreat into a building due to a downpour, there was no way to lock up our rental bikes.  We decided to explore by foot instead.  The hostel owners gave us a very detailed map and marked points of interest for us to see.  That day, we were nudged into going to an area called Usaquén.  There was a great outdoor market that was held on weekends only.

The walk may have been a little longer than we had intended, about 3-4 miles through on and off rain, but the neighborhood was well worth getting to.  Two square blocks were dedicated to vendors with tables set up containing jewelry, bags, jams, paintings, and many other items.  The neighborhood was very modern, and a stark contrast to the either historic or worn buildings of Peru.  For a few hours we strolled the streets and looked at the good, much too aware this time that nothing could be purchased though since it won’t fit in our bags.  I had been on the hunt for good Colombian coffee.  I was turned down.

art vendor in Usaquen, Bogota, Colombia

living statue, Usaquen, Bogota, Colombia

Once it was time to head back to the hostel, we realized we did not want to do that walk twice.  The guys from the hostel told us that there were collectivos constantly running up and down the main street we had taken, and it would only cost us a dollar or two to ride it there or back.  Even though we had just gotten off a 54 hour bus ride, we had no problem hopping back on one.  We thought it would be as simple and crossing to the side of the road we wanted to head down, flag a collectivo, and wait to be dropped off a block from our hostel.  Which are exactly the steps we took, but it didn’t quite turn out as we hoped.

We paid the fee of 1,500 Colombian pesos each, and took a seat as the bus jaunted forward.  Then Matt turned to me and whispered, “I hope this takes us where we need to go”.  We had never even considered the fact until after we had boarded one of the collectivos that they may venture down different streets than the one we were on.  And as soon as we realized that, the bus turned down a side road and further away from where we wanted to be.  I kept hoping, waiting for it to make a left turn, and starting taking us back in the direction we wanted to go.  It never did, and when we realized it probably wasn’t going to, we had gone far enough that we weren’t sure we wanted to walk back.

Then not only did distance become an issue, but the neighborhoods did as well.  Our thoughts went from ‘I don’t want to walk back that far’ to ‘This neighborhood looks a little dodgier than the last’ to ‘We are not getting off here, put the windows up and lock the doors’.  At this point we were no longer even on the incredibly huge map we were given, meaning that we were probably in a part of town not seen by many tourist.  We were positive that eventually it would turn around and end back up at the place we had started, and we didn’t even mind having to pay the fare again to hop on a new one heading the right direction.

Soon, every passenger had gotten off and it was only us and the driver remaining.  He turned the bus around and began heading down a street we had just come from, and Matt and I let out a collective sigh as we thought that meant we were now returning to Usaquen.  We were not.  Just outside one of the not so great neighborhoods he pulled to a stop in front of a bus depot and made it clear that this was the end of the line.  This collectivo would be going no further.  Luckily we were on a major road where there weren’t dark alleys and the though of something seedy happening to us was less likely, but those seedy neighborhoods are what we would need to walk through to get back to the other main road which would lead us to our hostel.

Just as we were about to break down and hail a cab for the $20 ride back, I saw a collectivo whiz by that had the name of our neighborhood printed on it’s front window.  It seemed safe enough to wait at least 10-15 minutes for another one to hopefully come by, so this is what we did.  Scanning the windows of each collectivo that passed, we finally saw another one after lots of squinting and two accidental flag downs of wrong ones.  It appeared as if our neighborhood was the last stop of this bus, and two hours after we originally boarded our first collectivo that day, we were dropped off two blocks from our hostel.  I think it is safe to say, we have seen this city.

collectivo Bogota Colombia

 Arriving back at the hostel, I had just enough time to whip out my computer and check emails before finding out that our friend Nicolas that we had met back in Peru, the one who went surfing with us, was looking forward to getting together that night.  Giving us the name of a bar/restaurant and the name of the street it was on, we were off once again, barely an hour after we had just gotten back.  There was going to be no chancing it with collectivos this time, we were taking a cab.  Which led to us getting lost.  Again.  I had written down the name of the bar, the street it was on, and handed him my map, yet it all must have been too confusing to him.  Not wanting to rack up a giant taxi fare, we got out in the general vicinity and started walking from that point.

To our delight, we finally found the bar after about fifteen minutes of searching….only to find out it was the wrong one.  The place we were meeting was called Bogota Beer Company, and apparently it’s as big of a chain there as TGI Fridays back in the states.  We ended up at the one two miles away from where we should have been, apparently back in Usaquen where we had been that morning.  Thankfully there was a young bilingual Colombian girl that took pity on us and called us a secure taxi which she put us in herself and then gave very direct instructions to the driver.  If it was not for her, I think we would have been wandering the streets of Bogota all night.

Finally finding Nicolas, we also found out that he was with his girlfriend and another friend and everyone was at another bar up the road.  Grateful to sit down and order a drink, our group squeezed around a low table as a hookah was placed in front of us, and the next hour flew by as we talked about life and travel.

Nicolas and Diana

Kathmandu, Bogota, Colombia

Matt with hookah, Kathmandu, Bogota, Colombia

 The party wasn’t as long as we’d hoped since, for a few of the people at the table, there was still work the next day.  We said goodbye to Diana and her friend, while we continued back to Bogota Beer Company with Nicolas so we could finally taste what all the raving was about.  Not only had this place been mentioned in our guide, but the guys back at the hostel also gave us an indication of the wide variety of beers they offered.  By this time though, Matt and I were ravenous.  Neither of us had eaten for hours and were getting delirious to the point that when we passed by a McDonald’s we couldn’t even remember the name of their signature burger.

“It’s a Mc Whopper!”

“No, that’s not it…..Mc Whopper?”

“It’s a Mc something…..   Whatever, I’m just going to go in and order a Mc Whopper.”

We promised ourselves we’d visit there after having one more beer with Nicolas at BBC.  One beer, which turned into a beer tower.

beer tower, Bogota Beer Company

 And over that one beer (tower) we all decided that it was way too early for Diana to be heading home for the night, and we needed to meet her back at her apartment so that we could drag her out for…more beer.  Which is exactly what we did.  I never did get my Mc Whopper, or any dinner really, which is probably why I have a photo album of the night which looks like this:

beer bottles at Bogota Beer Company

art on wall, Bogota Beer Companyglasses drying, Bogota Beer Companysign, Bogota Beer Company

Someone should have put me on a leash or placed me in a high chair, because I’m pretty sure the staff there thought I was mental for photographing everything.  I even have photos of the bathroom.  All beer & no food = silly Jessica.  That’s ok, a great night was had by all, and these are the things memories are made of, right?  I’m just not looking forward to the headache tomorrow is going to bring.

group shot at Bogota Beer Company