When you are visiting a country that is infamous for drugs, kidnappings and prostitution you get some funny looks. Especially from relatives. I knew my mum was terrified so why wasn’t I? Tourism in Colombia was on the up and up and the more we read about this place the more we were dying to get there! Sure there were still accounts of kidnapping but hey they were posted in 2012. That’s a long time ago right? There was a reason why South America was becoming increasingly popular for a holiday destination. So we arrived into Bogota without a care. Until things started to go not exactly like we planned. At first Colombia and I had a pretty rough start. Arriving in the capital, after 2 weeks cruising through American National Parks was indeed a culture shock. From the stern customs officer who didn’t understand our Spanish, to the stern cab driver who didn’t understand our Spanish, to the stern money exchange worker who.. you understand the pattern. After a short pre-trip Spanish short course we thought we would at least be able to master the basics. But it turns our Bogotonians are rude bastards and only speak their type of Spanish. This isn’t a gringo generalisation by the way. We met a lovely guy from the coast of Colombia that told us he even gets scammed in Bogota because they pick up on his accent and charge him more for everything. And he’s a bloody Colombian! What chance did blondey and bob Marley have??On day 2 (my birthday) we decided to buck up and head to the old Town of La Candalaria to explore. Forgetting that the word ‘explore’ loses all form of whimsical adventure when it isn’t safe to get lost. Although our accommodation was only a 30-40 min walk from the Old Town cabs are a necessity. And it is a rarity to see people wandering around without pounding the pavement with purpose and quickly heading to their destination. You slow down, look at a map or give the slight idea that you may not know where you are going and you become a target. This is highlighted by machine gunned Policia everywhere you go. On foot, on motorbikes, in the middle of the street and it lots and lots of cars. Just everywhere. Welcome to Bogota. Since travelling more of the country we have learnt that it isn’t the norm to have streets littered with National Police. We now know that if you see 5 cops at the front of the street – you don’t go down that street because they are there for a reason. Crime is still very strong in Bogota and we were warned by many that muggings at gun point are still very common and you would have to be incredibly stupid to go out at night. After three days in the capital, days of a few sketchy moments (I’ll tell you when I get home mum), being continuously lost in translation and staying in at night watching badly dubbed episodes of friends we were ready to get the f$&& out. The more we travelled the more people we would meet who had similar experiences in the capital, to our relief. We’d talk to others who had visited Bogota and the response seemed to be a variation on a common theme. Example below:
Random hostel guy/girl: So where else in Colombia have you been?
Us: Well we flew into Bogota then ..(interrupted)
Random hostel guy/girl: Bogota! Shit.. What did you think of it?
And then comes the look. The look in hostels where you have both been to a place, you both semi hated but you are still playing it cool to not be an ugly backpacker. The backpacker that says things like ‘Oh yeah I’ve DONE Europe. I’ve DONE the UK. When really they did a 10day Contiki and don’t remember shit.
Us: Yeah..it was ahh um yeah I mean some places were nice um ahh..
Random hostel guy/girl: I totally understand what you mean.
After not the best start to our ‘adventure’ but one to remember, we booked the next flight to Cartagena and said goodbye to the Capital. Hoping to return sometime in the future. Maybe when our Spanish had improved and their crime rate dropped.