Here we are: three days in and still not quite believing we’re in Colombia!
Already I’m totally out of my language comfort zone – my scrapings of Spanish don’t even get me by on the flight to Madrid where we changed – but I like it. The flight was long and took us back through time zones, so we were tired when we arrived and are still playing catch up with our body clocks. There were old ladies on the plane wearing rosary beads around their necks and wrists, adverts for Papa Francisco interrupting the in-flight film, huge clouds as we began the decent into El Dorado airport.
This city is busy and beautiful, cold, polluted; it bursts from time to time with burning sunshine and the steep hills leave you breathless from the altitude. Our hostel is on an incline: look left you can see the smoggy city stretching away, right are the mountains that border this side of the city. There is intermittent hot water, a blue tiled shower, open to the sky, a beautiful view over the rooftops from the back spiral staircase. There is a big dog, named after a local beer and who offers everyone is paw in return for a belly rub.
On our first day, we walk for miles, press our noses to the glass of the Gold Museum to look at the ancient artefacts, take the cablecar to Monserrate – the rocky outcrop overlooking Bogota – and eat our first proper meal since Gatwick airport: black bean soup and rice and eggs, delicious after a long journey and airplane food.
The next day we walk to the National Musuem, through the downtown part of the city: dirty, filled with buses belching smoke, homeless people and beggars, food vendors and stalls selling airtime. The museum is in an old prison and houses air conditioned rooms of artefacts and paintings, and we try to piece together information with limited Spanish. Afterwards, we drink hot strong coffee in the sunshine and find ourselves on a street where workers dig up the concrete and city workers cram into tiny restaurants on their lunch break. We chose one, painted bright pink, and sit on a bench in the painted veranda, find ourselves eating the national dish: a huge plate of beans, plantain, avocado, egg, accompanied by a terrifying soup of unidentifiable meat.
People watching is my favourite activity already and there are women selling cups of tinto (black coffee) from plastic flasks, old men playing chess on wobbly tables. When one player gives up, there is another there to take his place. Women sell ice cream from trolleys, shoe shiners carry their boxes of rags, polish and brushes and we try street food from the stalls that are on every corner: melted cheese and maize, hot in the paper napkin. A little boy makes us laugh as he struggles up the hill with a large and stubborn cockerel.
Today we navigate the bus system to the airport and are getting ready to fly to the coast to Cartagena.