It was a long journey from the cozy little jungle town of Minca down to Colombia’s capital city. First we had to stay a night in Santa Marta, another city along the coast that is about 45 minutes by taxi from Minca – and we were lucky enough to find accommodation there with air conditioning, because the heat was possibly even more oppressive than in had been in Cartagena. As you can probably tell, Dan and I are very much looking forward to colder weather as we travel further through South America!
After our night’s stay there we caught an overnight bus direct to Bogotá, which took around 14 hours. Fortunately though the buses in Colombia, regardless of which company you go for, are all pretty comfortable and we managed to get some sleep on board – despite the fact that the bus drivers themselves are pretty crazy, so actually staying in your seat can at times be a bit of a challenge!
We had booked a 3 bed dorm in a relatively new looking hostel called Andariegos, located in the Chapinero area of the city. We were immediately impressed with the hostel when we arrived several hours ahead of check in, expecting to have to put our bags in storage and go out again until the official check in time that afternoon, only to be welcomed warmly by the girl at reception and shown straight up to our room. We’ve lost count of the number of times that we have been frustrated by hostels not allowing you to check in early, even though your room is ready!
A lot of thought has obviously been put into the construction of Andariegos, with all beds in the larger dorms having privacy curtains, individual power sockets, and actual stairs leading up to the top bunks (my one big travel nightmare is rickety, narrow ladders on bunk beds). In our room we all had our own plug sockets and reading lights, and the beds were obviously new and very comfortable. There was plenty of space in the common areas to hang out and relax, and the kitchen was huge and modern, with plenty of utensils – not that we ended up using it!
The day we arrived was Dan’s birthday, so naturally our first order of business after we had checked in and grabbed a shower was to go out and celebrate. On the recommendation of Al, our friend in Medellin, we made a beeline straight for The Monkey House – a British themed pub/restaurant just a short walk away from our hostel. We were a little dubious about how authentically British this place would be, but I’m pleased to say we were not disappointed! They had a selection of typical beers from home including London Pride, the red wine was room temperature as opposed to chilled – something I have not been able to get used to in this part of the world – and there were even fish and chips and scotch eggs on the menu! The only thing missing from the true British pub feel was a lack of sticky floors, something we all agreed we could gladly live without.
Unfortunately for us, as we happily made our way through several pints and glasses of wine, we had forgotten one important thing about Bogotá: the altitude. At 2,644m above sea level it was the highest destination on our travels so far, and coming there straight from the coast combined with a bit too much alcohol meant that all three of us had developed splitting headaches by around 7pm, and had to go back to the hostel to drink lots of water and rest. This meant that we had to cut Dan’s birthday celebrations a little short, but we decided to have a second celebration in a few days time when we visited the small colonial town of Villa de Leyva.
The following day we visited La Candelaria, the historic area of the city, in order to go to the famous Museo Del Oro – the Gold Museum – and the Museo Nacional De Colombia. We had checked admission prices beforehand, so when we arrived at the Gold Museum we were surprised to be ushered in without paying anything. Only later when the same thing happened at the Museo Nacional did we discover that, by complete chance, we had decided to visit Bogotá’s museums on National Museum Day, meaning that admission in all the city museums was totally free!
The Museo Del Oro was both fascinating and almost overwhelming – it was interesting to learn about the history of gold and its uses through the ages, but after a couple of hours of staring at bright, shiny gold ornaments in brilliantly lit display cases, it was almost a relief when we got back outside into the real world! The Museo Nacional was also well worth a visit, and houses an absolutely enormous collection of art and artifacts relating to Colombia’s history and culture.
That evening we visited a little burger place that Dan found called The Burger Club, a slightly upmarket fast food place that serves amazingly cheap and delicious burgers and is just around the corner from Andariegos. Afterwards we headed back to the hostel and packed up for our next stop: Villa De Leyva.