Before my wheels started rolling in the Americas one of my tongue in cheek mission statements was that I was going to find a wife in Colombia. After six weeks in the country and a week in Bogotá I have indeed found myself falling in love. Not with a raven haired latino beauty, but with a culture, landscape and people. My plans to ensnare an unsuspecting Colombian lady have been shelved, I’m far too excited by what else South America has in store to consider letting my tour get derailed again. Getting to know a little of Bogotá has filled in some of the gaps in my Colombian view and provided a context with the other parts of the country I’ve visited. My week here has been too short but it’s been like meeting the parents of a new girlfriend, my relationship with Colombia has reached the next level.
Sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. Whatever happens there are usually positives to be taken from every situation. Luckily for me things worked out in Bogotá and I’ll be riding away from Colombia’s capital with panniers weighty from happy memories. I lucked out in so many ways. My Warmshowers (or should I say Duchas Caliente) host Javier has dutifully delivered me the full package of ciclo-tourism. We’ve ridden from his exceptionally positioned apartment in the La Candelaria district through Ciclovia closed Sunday roads up to the northern tip of the city and back. Touring through the diverse variety of Bogotá’s districts and neighborhoods, and cruising the cities extensive network of cycle paths deep into the dark night. On another occasion we toured the cities bike shops, enormous markets, tranquil Parque Metropolitano Simon Bolivar and the political hotbed of Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Then Thursday night we joined the masses of TeusacaTuBici for a critical mass night ride through the Christmas crowds of Bogotá. In between all of this I have found the time to do a lot of strolling, coffee drinking and cultural absorption. Bogotá is blessed with some fine street art, interesting architectural styles and a lot of beautiful people. The only thing it lacks is good weather, but hey, I’m British!
I’ve compiled a few photographs that tell the story of my brief time in this terrific city:
Strolls around La Candelaria:
Filled with Spanish Colonial and Baroque architecture La Candelaria is the classic old town of Bogotá. It is filled with historic churches, museums and gems that make it the touristic centre of downtown Bogotá. There is also a grittier more bohemian side to the place too, where long-haired youth sit smoking pot in front of an array of superb street art. I was lucky to stay in an apartment in this district and was therefore fortunate enough to fill plentiful hours snooping around.
The Sunday Ciclovia:
I am happy to admit straight out that one of the main reasons I decided to take my tour through Bogotá was the allure of the Ciclovia, when many of the city streets are closed to automobiles and opened up to cyclists. Bogotá was the original Ciclovia city, starting a scheme in the early 1980’s that has now come to be copied in countless major cities in Latin America and beyond. Every Sunday from 7 am to 2 pm the streets belong to cyclists, dog walkers, runners, in-line skaters and all manner of others. It is a truly inspirational triumph of fun and humanity over the economy and urban efficiency. Having arrived on a Saturday the Ciclovia was my chance to get to know Javier and his city. Imagine doing this through the historic streets of London…
Universidad Nacional & Parque Simon Bolivar:
One of the distinct advantages of having a local friend to show you around a City is that no time is wasted faffing around trying to work out what to see, where things are and how to get there. One evening I mentioned to Javier that I fancied checking out the Simon Bolivar park, the next day I was taken on another magical mystery tour of Bogotá.
TeusacaTuBici Night Ride:
After a few days in Bogotá I was all set to head out when Javier mentioned a critical mass night ride that was taking place on the Thursday night. There are a few organised cycle events that regularly take place in the city, this one was organised by TeusacaTuBici. So I followed Javier across town to a social network arranged meeting spot and joined forty or fifty other cyclists in an assault on the busy Plaza de Bolivar.
Bogotá is a city I’d recommend to anyone. Whatever your fancy I am sure you can find it here. And despite being a huge metropolis it actually starts to feel quite small once you start to become a bit more ingrained. Thanks to my bicycle, a hunger to explore and the invaluable companionship of Javier, I shall ride away from the city tomorrow feeling I’ve got a very good return on my weeks stay. I’m sure the bright lights and fancy cars will feel a million miles away in a few days time once I’ve hit the desert.
The idea of closing the streets on Sundays is one that I have thought about for years, but didn’t really know it existed anywhere! So glad you were able to experience it, and write about it, for the rest of us to dream and imagine that we will expereince it some day!
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