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Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 414-416 – Colombia – Bogota

At around 4am we arrived at Ibague where we were to alight and hop on to a mini-bus for the final 4 hours to Bogota – again, without Jason and Marjorie’s help I cannot be sure we would have been awake enough or informed enough to make this transition. As we were entering the city they had the bus driver pull over and drop them off early – we hurriedly said our goodbyes and thanked them for all their help and patience across the epic journey.

They’re a reminder of the many people on the trip that we enjoyed time with but will never see again. In this, the communication age, it’s so much simpler to connect and retain links with people you meet but that’s still not always an option – but more importantly not always necessary either. Sometimes it’s important just to live in the moment and accept that the fact that your time together is this and this only just means that you should enjoy it to its fullest and cherish the memory.

If only my drink-addled lifestyle allowed me to retain more than sketchy intermittent details I’d be able to subscribe to the latter part of that much better.

We reached Bogota and hopped into a taxi who proceeded to take us on a merry dance through the city hunting down the hostel we’d pre-booked during our curry in Quito. Eventually we found it but on arrival were informed that they were full but that they had an overflow place a short jaunt away.

When something like this happens you naturally feel a little trepidation as you could be being shipped off to any old dive that’s nothing like the setup you bought into but we were exhausted and extremely happy to find that the overflow place was lovely. Conscious that we were on our last few weeks now we had a quick sort-out and headed out to see what Colombia’s capital city had to offer.

We grabbed some fruit from a street vendor then a coffee, a naff sandwich and a tasty muffin from another en route to the Museo Del Oro [Gold Museum]. While not the most photo-centric museum we enjoyed the place – it houses a vast collection of pre-Hispanic artefacts from all over Colombia. Our favourite piece was Batman – probably for no other reason than the fact that it was called Batman.

Despite our best efforts the toll of the long journey and our bold effort at doing something productive that day had taken its toll. We grabbed some groceries to smash together some butties back at the hostel – and of course the requisite selection of local beers – and retired for the evening, watching Terminator 3 in Spanish until I eventually fell asleep.

The next day we went out for breakfast and met Dan & Georgie from the UK who were on their last day in Bogota. We instantly fell in love [well, at the very least got on like a house on fire] and decided that we’d join them on a planned walking tour to take in the city’s major sites. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if ever you visit a city take advantage of the walking tours on offer. They’re the perfect way to get your bearings, immerse yourself in the city, gain some cultural background and see many of the major sights.

That said we spent most of this one chatting to each other – sometimes you’re just lucky enough to meet people that you instantly connect with – this is almost certainly the single best thing about travelling for me. You’re exposed to the opportunity to make these instant, often-fleeting, incredibly wonderful and fulfilling connections / relationships much more often than in any other context I’ve experienced and this is something I’m very aware of that I enjoy. I should probably pay attention to this more and indulge this facet of my character more often.

When the tour was over we set out for a good lunch of local delicacies – though to this day I couldn’t tell you what said meal involved. After a pleasant morning the weather then turned so we were forced to locate a place of comfort to wait out the afternoon. Shining like a beacon in the pending darkness of the rain-heavy clouds we found the phenomenal BBC – Bogota Beer Company!

Hosting an array of their own craft beers we took it upon ourselves to embrace the delicacies on offer – we smashed pitcher after pitcher after pitcher as we chatted away like we’d been friends for life.

As this was their last night they’d booked a swish hotel to relax and indulge for the evening…but then we were having such a good time…surely they could have dinner with us? Maybe another drink? Sure why the hell not! This was the pattern for the rest of the day into evening into night as we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from the BBC and on to Yum Yum for sandwiches and Mojitos before visiting a Jazz club. During the course of our conversations I found out that Dan had met Dave Grohl – TWICE. His position as a personal hero was already set but only further cemented by this revelation.

We finally returned late to the hostel and reluctantly said our goodbyes after an immense but all-to-brief day together as they made their way to make the drunken most of their swish digs before their flight home the next morning.

It was also our last night in Bogota so the next morning after a lot of being messed about we were helped by the Chocolate Hostel to secure onward bus tickets to Medellin. With this secured for that night we set out to see a selection of the museums and exhibitions that the city had to offer.

We visited the Fernando Botero gallery first – he’s pretty much got a foothold in every major city in South America, famed for his large, exaggerated characters in both sculptures and paintings. Bogota has a significant array of his works and he is pretty prolific in general. It’s all good stuff – for me the whole trip was an education in the arts and it’s nice to be able to recognise works now albeit safe in the knowledge that I remain a complete philistine.

We caught an exhibition by the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans in the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República which we really enjoyed before making our way to the Police Museum. It should come as no surprise that the police in Colombia had quite a lot to do in the seventies and eighties with the trafficking of narcotics to the US being the countries chief export at the time and the so called war on drugs leaving the nation with an image that would entice few travellers – a reputation that they’re still struggling to shake off even now. They even had a helmet from West Yorkshire Police in and amongst the museums international section – quite the varied exhibition.

We grabbed some food then set back through the throngs of people amassing despite the torrential rain for the Xmas lights and fireworks – which we managed to catch prior to our taxi from the hostel after we’d hastily blasted our soaking clothes in the drier.

The bus station proved awkward [I’m reliably informed by my notes, though I have no recollection as to why] and after eventually catching our bus we endured a terrible overnight journey with almost no sleep whatsoever.