Watching Narcos, the Netflix mini-series about Pablo Escobar, while in Colombia is both a really good idea and quite a bad one. Colombia has been working hard to shed the 1990s image of drug wars, assassinations and corruption. On more than multiple occasions I had to pause the episode to check whether the fantastical events really happened and they did. The producers didn’t need to dramatise whatsoever.
Bogota these days is quite different – cosmopolitan with artistic areas, cafes and the like sprinkled around the Candelaria area and further North.
That said our first two stops on the four hour Bogota Bike Tour involved deaths of key politicians which prompted one bike rider to ask if every stop involved an assassination!
Suitably assured we pressed on to the high end mansion area, built for BP managers back in the day, which wouldn’t look out of place in Hampstead.
Less Hampstead but equally attractive are all the graffiti art which has mushroomed over the city in recent years. Previously only tolerated but now promoted by the city council. They often tackle issues such as social inequality or deforestation but some are just showcase for graffiti artist talent.
While on our way the local traffic performers gave us a mini show. It goes to show how bad the traffic is in Bogota that such a profession exists – whether they make any money at all I don’t know.
Pedelling around some less than desirable areas we stopped at local coffee roaster for caffeine injection and cake – being part of the cycle group allowed us to visit areas I wouldn’t have ventured to, including the red light district.
Ironically the local fruit market is just nearby had us trying all types of exotic fruit and vegetables, most of which I’d not had before and certainly don’t remember the names of. The passionfruits and mangos on sale were delicious so I had to buy some for breakfast the next day.
We swung by a local hall to try out a local Colombian sport Tejo which involves throwing a metal weight at an incline mud pallet with small explosive packets in it (Colombia take note – this doesn’t help change the reputation!). Hitting the central one gives most points, I was hopeless but a Turkish lady after a beer was on fire!
And here’s how it is done:
My second day was spent checking out the main Candelaria area with Simon Bolivar square and the parliament buildings and then heading to Museo Del Oro.
It’s a nicely sized museum effectively of the artifacts that the Spanish didn’t get. It could well be named the gold that got away.
Arranged by pre-Columbian and post-Colombian and by area gives a good flavour of the local tribes and their skill and uses of gold in society. A pleasant café in the basement with Colombian coffee rounded off a flying visit nicely.