A Gradual Reentry: Bogotá to Baranquilla


Gazing out of the plane's window on our descent into Bogotá, I saw the high mountain peaks of the Andes. I could see tiny ribbons of road occasionally cutting through the green peaks. The realization that we would be driving through those mountains soon gave me a jolt. Fear? Excitement? A little of both, I think. There might be some transition time once we are back in the rig.

Before we would see LoJo again though, we had 5 days in Bogotá. We decided to explore this city now, without the rig and the parking hassles that come with cities. We booked a nice hotel and planned to celebrate New Year’s and our anniversary here. We landed on New Year’s Eve morning and got to the hotel around 9 am. After a 3-hour nap, we ventured out and discovered that New Year’s Eve is celebrated more sedately in Bogotá, usually in the home. So many restaurants and bars were closed. We were staying in the Usaquen neighborhood so we wandered over to the charming central square. Miraculously, we found an outpost of the Bogotá Beer Company open. We rang in the New Year with a few bar bites, some local craft beer, and (after 20 hours of travel)…lights out at 10:00 pm.

New Year's Eve dinner...Bogota style.

Usaquén main square - still decorated for Christmas. The holiday season officially goes until the 6th of January here.

Bogotá reminds me a lot of a Latin American Boston or Philadelphia. Lots of high rise brick apartment buildings, big shopping districts, and wide boulevards through downtown. It’s a sprawling city though, with 15 million people spread out through a high mountain valley at an altitude of 8,500 ft. Despite amazing progress throughout the country, apparently Bogotá still has security issues. The city is much safer than it was, but we were advised not to walk any deserted streets or hail a taxi off the street for risk of kidnapping. Amazingly though, Uber is here and is safer than the cabs, so we used our iPhone app a couple of times for an Uber ride. Silicon Valley technology - alive and well in Colombia.

Bogotá's seen more bombings in the last few years, so most parking garages have bomb sniffing dogs.

We spent the days roaming around the La Calandaria neighborhood, where we visited the main square as well as the Bancodela República’s museum complex. It includes the Museo Botero. Fernando Botero is Colombia’s most famous painter and sculptor of gordas and gordos (fat women and men). He is to Colombia what Frida Khalo is to Mexico. For some reason I love his work. So we got the audio set and spent the whole afternoon roaming around his museum and the rest of this massive complex.

La Candalaria District

Street art.

The local coca leaf (and the prescursor to cocaine)– which you can buy in its unprocessed form in some markets. ​

Mano, or Hand, by Fernando Botero. One of several sculputres around Colombia

For lunch we had Bogotá’s signature dish at La Puerta Falsa, a small casual restaurant that has been serving up steaming bowls of ajiaco since 1816. Ajiaco is a soup made with shredded chicken and potatoes. It’s served with avocado, a huge piece of corn on the cob, capers and dollop of cream. It was the perfect filler after an entire afternoon of walking around.

La Puerta Falsa restaurant

We did have a lost day due to a late night out with new friends. We met Ben and Vinay, two friends from Florida, over breakfast and a shared desire to try out a “must see” restaurant called Andrés Carne de Res. It is a sprawling restaurant that encompasses 11 dining areas, two dance floors, more than five kitchens, and a climbing wall. The 4 of us took a cab there and had a lively, fun dinner together.

Dinner with Ben and Vinay

Steak & bibs

The way tequila is supposed to be served. For El Rey.

Spontaneous salsa dancing between servers and customers

On our anniversary (24 years…where oh where did the time go?) we took the teleférico (cable car) up to the white-church- topped 10,000 ft. Monserrate peak, with sweeping views of the sprawling city. The church is a major mecca for religious pilgrims, due to its altar statue of the Señor Caído (Fallen Christ), dating back to 1650s. Our guidebook warned us that this area, “[Is] a popular weekend jaunt for Bogotános; on weekdays it can be dangerous, as thefts occur; you’re best off doing it on weekends, particularly in the morning, when many pilgrims are about. During the week the trail…has seen an increase in knife-point muggings.” Now here is something that never ceases to amaze me. Or maybe depress is a better word. In many Latin American cities we have been to, there is always some religious monument high up on a mountaintop overlooking the city. And it is usually one of THE most dangerous place for tourists (and maybe locals too…I’m not sure). We first learned of this fact years ago when a good friend of ours was brutally beaten up and robbed in Quito on the way up to that city’s Virgin Mary statue. It was in broad daylight and he was traveling with 3 other guys. We are always warned to stay clear of these places unless accompanied by a guide or lots of other people. And even then it’s sketchy in some cities. You would think of all the places supposedly protected by some higher power, these would have a special protective shield. Nope. They are bad places, in general. Go figure.

We had dinner that night in our neighborhood, at the La Mar Cevicheria restaurant. There is one in San Francisco and Lima, and we were surprised to find one here. It is probably going to be the last fancy food we see for a while so we enjoyed every last bite.

After our time in Bogotá, we hopped back on a plane for the one-hour flight to Baranquilla where our rig was stored. Baranquilla is a large, unremarkable city 2 hours north of Cartagena. We stored LoJo at the 4x4 shop there called Iguana 4x4. We met the owner, Hernando, at the Overland Expo in Arizona back in May of 2014. I remember thinking that Colombia was so far away then, and wondering if we would ever get all the way down there to meet up with Hernando again.

Yet here we were.

We also needed a few things done on the truck. The biggest issue was to secure the camper to the truck bed. Somewhere back in Nicaragua, something bent or broke or twisted and the camper started to move around in the truck bed. On steep downhill roads it would bang up against the truck cab and on steep uphill roads it slid back. John said I was crazy but I started to have dreams about my little house sliding right off the back of the truck into the road. Anyway, Hernando and John came up with a plan - they installed 3 big bolts through the camper floor into the truck bed to keep the whole thing from shifting around. No more caddywhompus camper!

We left our camper jacks behind but we got the camper jacked up just enough on the car lift.

The shifiting around by the camper had pushed the skid mat out 6 inches. No bueno.

Problem solving time...

Once the rest of the tweaks are finished on the truck, we will hit the road for the Northern Caribbean coast. We’ve been gone from the rig exactly 2 months. We brought back a new bike rack (mine is held on by zip ties), a big roll of hydrovent for the moisture problem under the mattress, and a bunch of other little projects. So we have a fair amount of work to do to get settled back in to our tiny home - and back to our rolling routine.

#LoJo #Colombia