It's Colombia, Not Columbia.

The last time I had seen my best friend Lina was almost a year ago in June of 2016 before she moved back to Colombia from Chicago. I am extremely grateful for the friendship that we have had since our first year in college because she has been and still is one of the most important, supportive, and genuine people in my life. Even being in separate countries she manages to support all of my decisions and laugh at the same stupid things we send to each other. 

I missed her.

After years of talks of visiting Colombia, I recently decided somewhat on a whim that this was time to do it. I had been talking to her about trying to visit in June, but by the end of our conversation though it was decided that it would be easier, cheaper, and just more exciting for me to visit much sooner.

One week later I booked a flight.

One more week later I was on that flight. 

Sunday March 19

11:00 am Chicago >> Atlanta >> 10:00 pm Bogotá. 

I landed at about 10:00 pm. Lina picked me up from the airport and brought me to her place where her family gave me such a warm welcome with traditional Colombian music playing in the background. After a long day of travelling they fed me tamal and (hot) chocolate. After, we went to her friend Andrés' for his birthday to drink. I had met Andrés and Marianna previously in Chicago so it was good to see familiar faces. At 2:30 am I was dead tired and ready for bed.

Monday March 20

My first full day in Colombia Lina and I picked up our friend Cata, who also went to school with us, and drove up to Zipaquirá to see Catedral de Sal (Cathedral of Salt). We took a guided tour of the Salt Mines and walked through the salt mines 220 yds underground that contains a Stations of the Cross and the Salt Cathedral. It was incredible seeing how big the mines were and hearing about the different processes used to actually mine the salt. 

When we got back from Zipaquirá we drove straight to a mall and watched La Bella Y La Bestia (Beauty and the Beast). Solid 5/5

Tuesday March 21

Lina and I headed to downtown Bogotá. There is no subway system but they do have a bus system called the Transmilenio. During rush periods the buses can get packed to the point people will push in further in just to get into the bus also. Luckily, we weren't on it during a rush period.

Our first stop was El Museo de Oro (Museum of Gold). With the largest collection of gold in the world, the museum displays pre Colombian gold and other metal alloys. We learned a lot about the indegenous rituals that involved these metals as well as the role of the coca plants* (cocaine plants) in the shaman's religious rituals. Among the history of the different indigenous groups was the Muisca. If you've ever seen the movie Road to El Dorado, it is (very) roughly based on the tradition of the Muisca people in that they would throw gold into the lagoon (Laguna de Guatavita) as tribute to the gods. 

After the museum we headed to Plaza de Bolivar which is the heart of the historical Bogotá. Each city in Colombia is based on a plaza which has a cathedral. We saw this in many different parts of Colombia. The plaza has a monument to Simón Bolívar who is known as El Libertador because of his important role in the independence of many countries including Colombia. As well as the monument we went to Casa del Florero which has a vase that is said to have been the object that stared the independence movement in Colombia. 

Walking around we saw Casa de Nariño (presidential residence) and ate at Crepes & Waffles - which is amazing. (We went 4 times during my week in Colombia).

After dinner we headed to Monserrate which is a mountain in the center of Bogotá. It rises approximately 2 miles above sea level and you can take the teleférico (a cable car)  to the top where there is a church with a shrine, devoted to El Señor Caído. When we got to the top there was cloud cover throughout so we couldn't really see the city. As it got darker out the clouds cleared up a little bit and we were able to see the city more easily. As adventurous I like to think that I am, I am actually pretty scared of heights and being on a cable car with glass walls all around made me remember that. However the view was well worth the risk of falling to my death.

 

*As you can already see there is so much more to Colombia than the cocaine production that it had been notorious for. Although Narcos is an engaging show, the recent popularization and celebration of Pablo Escobar is to celebrate a man who is responsible for 5,000 people's deaths. 

Wednesday March 22

Throughout the week Lina and I had been trying to wake up early and get a head start on our days, but we just aren't the type. So finally on this day when we had to drive about two hours up north to Villa de Leyva, we woke up and were ready by 9 in the morning. Unfortunately Cata said her mom told us that we should wait since the traffic to leave the city was pretty heavy due to Estereopicnic, a huge music festival taking place in Bogotá.

Eventually we did get on the road and of course it was raining on and off.  A majority of my photos from this mini roadtrip were taken from the passenger seat of a car, but the view from really anywhere was always incredible. The mountains were always in sight and it was unexpectedly comforting. We stopped at Puente de Boyaca which was a bridge where a decisive battle in the liberation of Colombia occured. 

Near Villa de Leyva was Museo del Fosil that houses the skeleton of a Kronosaurus, a giant sea creature that dates about 110-115 million years old. Although they had a bunch of other fossils, they were underwhelming compared to the Kronosaurus. 

Thursday  March 23

The next morning we headed to Pueblito Boyacense which is a small town that mimics many of the other cities in Boyocá. Each block represents the other cities with its architecture and layout. It was really cool to see this type of architecture all in one small place. It took probably less than an hour to walk through and see everything. The colors were especially incredible to see on the buildings all next to each other. 

After Pueblito Boycense we headed toward Lago de Tota. This drive was insane. Apparently Waze had taken us through a road that was not the main road to get in. Our path was a narrow, steep, muddy, road on the side of the mountain that could barely fit two car widths. On top of that it was raining the entire time. When we eventually did get to Playa Blanca (White Beach) the man at the entrance told us it was still open, but he wasn't sure if our car would make it back up the muddy path to and from the beach. He said if we went that it wouldn't be his fault if we didn't make it out. 

Obviously frustrated we drove away and decided to stop at a small random restaurant/convenient stop near the entrance. While deciding what we wanted to do we began talking with the people there when they told us that they had a path/stairway that we could take down to the beach. After driving on the road that we did to get to the beach we decided we would do it. As it rained the rock/dirt path we took was not as easy as they made it sound to get down to the beach. When we finally got down there it was beautiful and well worth the work. 

Friday March 24

We woke up early on Friday morning to get to Laguna de Guatavita in hopes of getting back to Bogotá before Pico Y Placa (Peak & Plate) started which is a rush hour rule restricting cars ending in an odd or even number from being on the road in Bogotá between 6 am - 8:30 amand 3 pm - 8 pm to help alleviate traffic.

When we got to Laguna de Guatavita we had to hike up to the top where the view of the Laguna was incredible. The hike was steeper, farther as well as uphill compared to the hike to Playa Blanca. Like Playa Blanca, the hike was well worth the view. There were three different stops where you could see the lake from. The furthest one was obviously the best view. Luckily it wasn't raining as we were hiking up and the sun even came out for a bit. 

I loved learning about the history of Laguna de Guatavita. Guatavita is derived from the language of the Muisca people and means high or elevated - Elevated lagoon. The Muisca people are where the legend of El Dorado comes from. The people would hold a ritual where the new king called el Dorado - The Golden One - would be covered in gold dust. He would then be sent on a raft to the center of the lake and dive in to wash off the gold. The people would then throw gold ornaments and trinkets into the lake as tribute to the gods. This is where most of the gold from El Museo de Oro had come from. Although not visible from my pictures, there is a large gap in the side of the mountain where the Spanish attemped to drain the water through in hopes of harvesting all the gold thrown in to the lake. Before that happened, the water level used to be much higher. 

After we got back down from the hike we had 3 hours to do a 2:45 hour drive. We had high hopes of making it back and getting a glorious burger from El Corral back in Bogotá. 20 minutes into the drive we hit construction and had to stop and sit for 15 mintues. We would just make it as long as the rest of the drive went without anymore delays. Unfortunately that's all there was. "Obra en la vía" after "Obra en la vía" (Work on the road). We were about an hour away from Bogotá still when 3 o'clock hit. After not having eaten since 8 am, driving, hiking, and more driving, we were all very irritated and hangry. With no other option we drove an hour back the way we came to still get El Corral. After finally eating, we felt a little better, but still frustrated that we were not near home. Still having an hour to wait until we could get back into Bogotá, we went to Crepes & Waffles for dessert. We felt much much better after that and were able to drive into the city. We got back at about 9 pm that night and did not want to do anything. 

Saturday March 25

After the trip we had and especially the delays for getting home we didn't make too many plans for Saturday. We went to a mall, had coffee, and got souvenirs (mostly just coffee beans). That night, Lina's friend Claro as well as Cata came and we went to Andres DC: a 4 level restaurant that turns into a club at night. We had planned on going to the one in Chia the night before because of the graduation celebrations that were happening, but after the day we had, none of us felt like going back out there. I got a sash that said "Bienvenido a la tierra."

We were out until 3 am. It was a good time.

 

Sunday March 26

Didn't wake up hungover so that was great, especially considering I met some of Lina's extended family that was excited to meet me.

In the morning Lina's parents took us to their office and the flea market right next to it. The market took up blocks and had a bunch of cool things like coffee, clothes, books, jewelry, art, etc. After walking through the market, Lina's uncle who I had met at our graduation came to meet us for lunch.

We went to a restaurant called Santa Costilla, a gourmet steakhouse owned by a famous soccer announcer. The food was fingerlicking good, of course. Lina and I split an order of the "Picada para chuparse los dedos (para dos)" which had chata, pechuga de pollo, costillitas, chicharrón, chorizo, morcilla, y papa criolla; basically a platter of meat for two with potatoes. Obviousy we had dessert after and I had Trés Leches with an espresso - also amazing.

Recovering from a food coma, Lina and I just watched more Black Mirror for the rest of the night. (That show messes me up).

Monday March 27

Our last day we just hungout for the most part. We went to get more souvenirs for me to take home. Lina lives near a market that sells mostly produce. She wanted me to try the fruits from Colombia so we got a couple different kinds that Colombia has to offer. The fruit also is much cheaper and a whole basket came out to be about $3.50, which is less than 2 avocados here in the US. The fruits we had were granadilla, uchuva, ciruela, feijoa, pitaya, carambola, and guayaba. 

Later that night we parked the car at her dad's office and I said goodbye to him since I would be leaving early the next morning. We met up with Cata again and our friend Claudia who also went to school with us. We ate at a restaurant called Conosur where they serve handrolls of sushi or plantain cones. I stuck to the sushi rolls but the plantain cones were also good too. For dessert, none other than Crepes & Waffles. After dessert we saw Power Rangers which I would rate a solid 3/5. 

Lina and I got back at about 12:30 am and we had to leave for the airport by 3:45 am. We stayed up until 2:45 watching more Black Mirror and took a short nap. Originally we planned on just staying up the entire night, but our college days were farther from us than we thought. 

Tuesday March 28

Lina's mom woke up briefly and hugged me goodbye. We got to the airport at 4 am and of course went one last time to Crepes & Waffles for breakfast. At 5 am I said my last goodbye to my friend Lina and headed through securtiy. I landed back in Chicago at 5 pm and slept forever until the next morning.

Thank you Sr. & Sra. Rodriguez for welcoming me into your home for a week.
Thank you Lina & Cata for showing me around your beautiful homecountry. I'll be back soon!