28th May to 2nd June

At the end of this post, you’ll find the answers of the Medellín Botero paintings.

Wednesday 28 May

We get up at 4h30, to pack everything, load the bikes, and go to the terminal. There, Fabi needs to negotiate strongly, so that the driver accepts the bikes for a tip that is not too high. The bus leaves at 6h, and will arrive 9h later. The first part of the route is exactly the road we took to come here, it reanimates some good memories. On the road, there are several places where they are repairing it, and only one lane at a time can pass (or even one vehicle at a time on a bridge). So it creates huge traffic jams, for hours of patience.

Due to the traffic jams, the bus gets late. An finally, we arrive at Bogota at 21h, that is to say, 15h after the beginning. So here comes what we feared: cross Bogota by night. Paula, Mick’s classmate who will host us for these days in Bogota, had told us that the road was safe, and it’s the case. We don’t feel like being in a third world country, but much more like in an European city having with a lot of traffic.

Thursday 29 May

For breakfast, Espe, Paula’s mother, cooks Changua. It is a kind of soft soup, with milk, eggs, bread, and some spices and condiments. We already tried it at Fabi’s mother house, and it is very good for breakfast!

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After washing our bicycles (with water, soap, and gasoline for the chain), we leave with Paula and her sister, Laura, to the centre of Bogota. First stop at the restaurant, where we try the typical dish from Bogota: ajiaco.

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We are near the Universidad de los Andes, where we meet María Alejandra Pardo, working in the study group of the university about urban and regional sustainability. She presents us to her colleagues, and explains about the various projects of the group. We published a post about this visit, follow the link.

After this instructive meeting, we go to the Monserrate, a mountain that is just behind the university. Bogotá is at 2500-2600m high, and Monserrate reaches 3170m. There are several options to go there, by foot, by train or by cable car. We take this last option. On top, we have a wonderful view on the city. The valley is wide, long, and we cannot see the end of Bogotá. On the top of this hill stands a church (what a surprise!). Also, the temperatures are lower here, due to the altitude.

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We enjoy some comforting food, papas criollas (kind of French fries but more rustic) and chunchullo (fried cow intestine).

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Just down the hill starts the Candelaria neighbourhood. It is the old city of Bogotá. There are numerous historical buildings, and all the houses have the same opulent-looking, ancient and colourful style. It is also a student area, with many cheap, animated bars. It is nice strolling in these streets. And the exceptional thing about this area is that the streets have a name, not only a number (yes in Colombia, probably following the USA logical model, all the streets only bear a number! if you add the latin lack of organisation, with streets appearing or disappearing, changing number in the middle, it can become a real mess for a foreigner! the address is something like Street 46B, 23-35). We visit the Museo de la Moneda, which has many exhibitions: about the old coins of Colombia, and the technics to mint them, some Colombian paintings from 19th and 20th century, a few gold pyxes with thousands of emeralds, pearls, diamonds, !

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The picture of the right is the house of Manuela Sanz, the lover of Simon Bolivar

For dinner, we have a Patacon: it is a huge chips of green banana (not sweet), that has been fried, on which you put hogao (tomato-onion sauce), guacamole, meat, cheese, ! a little complicated to eat but very good.

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Friday 30 May

This morning, we have a meeting with Norbey Barahona about the air quality measurements in Bogotá. It is a technical and very interesting visit. You can find our report here.

As we finish this meeting, we visit the Parque Bolivar nearby. It is a huge modern style park, with a lot of space for youngsters to play football, or for organising concerts, cultural events, ! On the other side of the park, we find the botanical garden of Bogota. It gathers the ecosystems of the whole country, and elsewhere: Andean forests, oak forests, tropical rainforests, orchids, roses, ferns, !

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Afterwards, we go again to the neighbourhood of Candelaria, to visit the Gold museum, that we did not have time to visit yesterday. There is an impressive quantity of gold artefacts, with some very precise finishes.

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In the evening, we go with Paula and Laura to the zona rosa (going-out area) of Bogota: thereare many bars, proposing many kinds of music, and some of them with a dance floor. We enjoy the occasion to dance salsa, merengue, and learn about other Colombian dances: cumbia, vallenato, champete, !

Saturday 31 May

Our main concern today is about planning the trip. We first spend the morning of the bicycles, dismounting and arranging them inside the boxes, so that they are ready to take the plane on Monday. In the afternoon, we book our plane tickets for the next months. It is quite fastidious since we have to make sure every time that the plane can take the bicycle, and for which extra fee. Happily for us, the mamá colombiana takes care of us, with a sancocho bifásico (a kind of soup, with two meats, chicken and beef, and with corn, potatoes, yucca, coriander, …)

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Sunday 1 June

Today, we go to the nearby city of Zipaquirá. The city is built around a salt hill. This hill has been exploited since the Muisca kingdom, before the Spanish conquest. They used the salt to conserve food, and to exchange with the neighbours against gold and emeralds, that they used to praise their gods. When the Spanish arrived, of course, they exploited the hill, first on the surface, and then digging in the hill using tools, explosives! Zipaquira became one of the most important cities of the region. This exploitation followed on after the independence until now, with deep wells of more than 300m where they extract salt. As it happens in other mines of the continent, the miners are very superstitious, and they built a church inside the mine. In the 90s, a new cathedral was built inside, taking advantage of the large chambers dug along the years. There is even a Via Crucis, with a very symbolic representation of the 14 stations.

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But Zipaquira does not only have the salt mine and its underground cathedral. The city has an historical centre with cobblestone, a beautiful church, good restaurants!

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Back in Bogota, we stop in the former village of Usaquen. It used to be outside of the big city, but it has been absorbed by the frenetic growth of Bogota. We arrive there for the end of the Sunday flea market. There is still an ambience different from Bogotá, with many restaurants, and on the central square, people telling stories to dozens of listeners, like an improvised one-man-show.

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Monday 2 June

It is our last morning in Bogota, in Colombia, in South America. It is with sadness that we prepare the bags for the plane. The last months here have been really great, with breath-taking landscapes, delicious food, and wonderful people met on the way. But it is time to move on. Mexico is a few hours away, and for sure, we’ll have other incredible experiences over there.

Paula’s family bring us to the airport!this time, two cars are needed to carry all the luggage.

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We fly to Mexico with Interjet, a low-cost company. We were expecting to have some troubles with the bikes or with the luggage (more than 23kg), but everything goes well. We arrive in Mexico around 20h, for sunset. The plane flies over the city during at least half an hour. All the landscape we see is a patchwork of buildings, a few parks, and some hills emerging from this ocean of concrete. It looks like a cancer of concrete about to conquer the whole valley. The red Sun disappearing behind the mountains reinforces this science-fiction-like vision of a dark future.

In the airport of Mexico, we mount our bikes, and get ready to leave. 1h30 for the operation, that’s not bad, we’re becoming efficient. We pedal the 10km to reach Diego’s place (whom we contacted through warmshowers). But we don’t cross at all the city, in fact, we don’t even change of district. Diego works a trendy café, which we will enjoy tomorrow. In fact, the owner of the café, Chess, is also a cyclotourist. The following days, we have interesting discussions with Both Diego and Chess, about our experiences on two wheels.

Here you are, a small video when we returned from the “heaven” to the city:

And now, for those who have reached the end, here are the answers of the Botero paintings:

The French royalty couple is Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette

The French painter is Paul Cézanne

The Medellinean celebrity is Pablo Escobar

The Spanish painter is Diego Velasquez