For the last two weeks, we were back in Colombia. We didn’t do anything particularly special, or see anything particularly special, but it was a bloody great two weeks because we just friggin’ love Colombia.
We started our South American travels in Cartagena, on Colombia’s north coast. At that point we spoke bugger-all Spanish and didn’t have any other South American country to measure it against. Having spent the last 4 months in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, we are confidently calling it – Colombia is our favourite.
Bogota is the capital of Columbia. Officially it’s a city of 8 million, but when taking into account the uncounted – the homeless, the indigenous refugees displaced by civil war, the hard-to-pin-down workers of the drug trade – the number reportedly swells to around 13 million. So with around 40% of the population not ‘officially counting’ for one reason or another, it wasn’t a surprise to find the reputation of Bogota wasn’t the tits. We had a flight out of Bogota to duck down to Lima, and chatting to the other travellers who had come from the area, the general feel of the conversations were ‘Oh mate, Bogota? Nah mate fuck Bogota. You sure you need to fly out of Bogota? Try getting into town a couple of hours before the flight man cos, y’know, it’s Bogota’. BOY, WERE WE KEEN.
We had an early flight out, so teed up a one night stay in town. After locking it all down we bumped in to a local Bogotan at our Medellin hostel who assured us there was way more going on in the Bog than our Gringo backpacking connects would know. Her name was Sarah, and she offered to chauffeur us around and help us squeeze every last nug out of our 24-hour stint on the Bog.
But in the end, in a sales technique that my old boss Tim used to extol, Bogota is a classic case of under-promise and over-deliver. When your sights are set as low as ours, any whimper of anything cool will likely get you smiling, so in that way I feel like we tackled the Colombian capital in the right way.
What people had failed to mention was the fact that Bogota is the emerging street-art capital OF THE WORLD. It’s been flourishing over the last 10 years, and has got to the point now where artists are heading there specifically to set up camp.
The main drawcard is the attitude of the authorities. Rather than hang anyone with a hoodie and a spraycan up by their short and curlies, the local popo instead help protect the artists while they’re working. The flow on effect is the artists can work casually in broad daylight, which in turn makes the art of a ridiculous quality. The building owners are happy to donate a wall, as it not only looks mint, it means they don’t have to go and fork out for a fresh lick of paint themselves.
As much a Medellin thing as a Bog thing, the custom rig trade is flourishing in metropolitan Colombia. The preference is for junk. In the front and in the trunk. SO MANY BOOTY. I never had the Spanish/balls to ask, but I imagine arse implants being like forever sitting on one of those ring shaped haemorrhoid pillows. Comfy, but disconcerting. Reportedly if you’re a 15 year old well-to-do Colombian chica with certain parents, you might expect a crisp body enhancement voucher for your welcome into womanhood. If you’re a 15 year old Colombian chica from a more blue-collar background, you might invest in $5 worth of plaster and mock up a nosepiece for yourself, and tell the girls at recess that you’ve had a little scrape off the shnoz. Shit’s just that normal. ‘SHUT UP KAREN EVERYONE KNOWS YOU’VE STILL GOT YOUR OLD NOSE’.
Our lovely mate Sarah squeezed us into a few of the cool local joints later in the evening, and we hit the hay with 3 hours ticking down before we had our flight to catch. It could be argued that we were dickheads to not invest a bit more time into the joint, but all the more reason to head back.