Saturday, 12 July 2014

Bogota (part 1)

For once we're disappointed that our bus arrives in Bogota right on time. This means a 5am taxi to  our hostel, a super early checkin (thankfully our beds for the following night are available!), and on the way in we see Ross (Ciudad Perdida) leaving for his flight home, James (Salento) still up from night before and "drinking through". What a welcome :0)

We head straight to our dorm and go into stealth mode to sneak silently into bed, and manage to sleep for 4 hours. (Special note here about the Cranky Croc, allowing us to jump into bed at 6am and regard it as part of our next nights accommodation was an absolute blessing). At breakfast, we bump into Alex (also Ciudad Perdida) and his mate Danny, trade stories about where we've each been since, and settle in to watch the first half of the first set of quarter final games of the World Cup on the big screen in the Crazy Croc.  

Colombia play this afternoon, and we have plans to go to Parque 93 in the north of the city (thanks to the recommendations of Cody and Danielle), where the view of the game on the big screen is expected to be poor, but the atmosphere and experience of watching Colombia's first knockout game with thousands of people in a park in Bogota should be excellent!

With the hostel's help, we've figured out which "Trans Mileno" buses we need to get and where to get off. As we near the bus station we see our bus ready to leave and start to run, then the bus starts to move off and the chase is on! It's only later that we find out that these Trans Mileno buses are like a metro system and will only stop at designated stations, not for loon gringos running down the road after them.

With the next bus a long wait away, we decide that taxi is best - except there are no taxis, and those that are around are full. After 20 minutes walking (at some point, CP suggested walking the entire 10km distance) we finally manage to grab one as it's previous passenger is still figuring out how to successfully exit the car.

After 2 security checks, we're in the park - people have been here for hours to claim a decent viewpoint, and so we're left out at the side in the cheap seats, craning our necks for a view of half the screen through the trees, coloured Mohawks and Colombian flags. I'm wondering why I made such a fuss about getting to Bogota in time for the game (much to CPs resistance as she wanted to do the Ayahuasca experience in Salento which was only being undertaken on the Saturday night), as generally speaking I hate these kind of things. If everyone just sits still, everyone gets to see the game. Instead as soon as one person stands up, it sparks a chain reaction of standing or wriggling left and right in rhythm to the people in front of you.

Suddenly (not that we can see) - a goal! And everyone jumps up and goes ballistic! Awesome, this is why we're here... wait, because everyone's stood up, it's an opportunity to bag a better vantage point, and there's some serious pushing and shoving to get more central, and then a rush to sit down like dominos with your new best friends beside you before you're robbed of any space. The rest of the game continues like this, with halftime a particularly good opportunity to move, although a few unfortunates are left standing with no room to sit and are forced by a jeering crowd to head to the standing sections at the side.

Colombia win 2-0, thankfully, as at the end of the game they flash up the stats of arrests, injuries, and deaths following each of their previous games, so who knows what will happen if/when they lose. Note, it is for these reasons that Colombia is basically "dry" for 24 hours when Colombia plays, which we can see the obvious merits in, and although not being able to enjoy a beer or two during the football is not ideal, it is better than the violence that apparently ensued after he first game!

We follow the crowd out of the park and down the main street to the Zona Rosa. The party atmosphere is in full swing, despite the blanket alcohol ban, and people are celebrating by blowing horns, spraying foam everywhere, throwing flour, and partaking in the occasional illicit can of beer.

It's all pretty harmless stuff, but clearly a prime target for pickpockets, and before long we see that a large group has surrounded a couple of people caught in the act, and a few slaps of justice are delivered before the police can get in to rescue them. Having seen this develop, I'm of the opinion that we should move on, CP of course wants to get in for a closer look.

Soon enough, we get a very close up view of the unsavoury side of the celebrations. I'd already spotted a group of 4 people going overboard with the foam and flour, seemingly unfairly targeting a couple as they walked along. A bit later I recognise one of them as they appear in front us, giant foam spray cans at the ready. Very quickly they've covered CPs face with foam, and are spraying and flouring me. As we turn around to avoid this, we're separated with 2 targeting me, and 2 around CP. Realising what's happening, we head back towards each other as one of them is going for pockets and another is trying to get his hand into my backpack. It's padlocked, so he won't get any joy there, and we push them away, shout some choice English and Spanish insults at them and make enough noise that they realise the game is up and scarper, on their way to target some other revellers.

It takes a moment to sink in, but we've survived our first mugging attempt, although we both wish we'd got a few slaps in or prompted another vigilante justice group to give these bottom feeders what they deserve.

We had another not so nice incident involving a girl with a spray can who was too liberal and persistent in her attention to us. This was about 10 minutes after the attempted mugging and neither of us were particularly impressed when she covered our ears, nose, mouth and face with foam, not once but twice.  Luckily for her, her boyfriend was calming us down, because by this point, both CP and I were ready to lash out and she took the safe route by not trying to spray us a third time...I think if she had we both would have decked her!

The plan for this evening had been to have a nice very belated romantic dinner Andres Carnes, the best steakhouse in Colombia. Although we've got a change of clothes in the bag, we're both sufficiently covered in soggy flour and dried foam, that we decide we should probably save it for another night.

Another Trans Mileno journey home, and we should be just a few minutes walk from home. Should be... except our hostel's map doesn't feature the name of the metro stops, just where they are. We make the assumption that the stop on the map on Calle 19 is the stop called... Calle 19 - wrong! As we walk 2 blocks in the direction of where our hostel should be, a sign showing the street names reveals that we are about 10 blocks out.

We set about this walk at a reasonable pace, both now a bit tired and ready to get back to the hostel to refresh. The walk takes us through the dodgiest of dodgy streets that Bogota has to offer.  At some stage, a guy appears and offers us "Taxi?". A swift "no gracias" later, and he's now following us for a couple of blocks, asking for money. Probably wouldn't have had a taxi for us to hop in to then..?

By now we're pretty much power walking through the streets - the appearance of gringos here is enough to make the locals stop and stare. After a while we reach a grassed plaza area. CP mistakes this for a very different square that is very close to our hostel, and stars to walk across... through the scattered homeless, drunk, and/or other people. Should we be going this way CP??

Finally as we close in on our hostel, the streets become less dodgy, but we're not slowing down. We arrive at the hostel and the party is in full swing - under normal circumstances we wouldn't mind an unknown guest stopping me at the door to pour some local brew down our throats, but at this moment it's really not required! But we're safe, and bundle into the kitchen to cobble together some dinner over a very strong rum, swiftly followed by some of the aguadarte which seems to be the local drink of choice, all the while waiting for the adrenalin to stop flowing and our heart rates to return to normal... that's just the altitude though, right??

Ben, James, and Maria are heading out to an unknown Colombian house party - we're invited, but CP magnanimously leaves the decision to me. It sounds like quite a sketchy idea when it's first suggested around 9pm (a taxi with some locals we haven't met to a place we don't know with no reliable way of getting back again), and when they're still milling around a couple of hours later booking taxis it's looking even worse. I decide we've probably ridden our luck more than enough for one day so we'll pass, in favour of getting stuck into the aguadarte with Alex and Danny, who incidentally had just returned from the house party after an hour long round trip and being denied entry. This turns out to be sensible decision for us as the others get into all sorts of strife (something to do with brown sauce, a car alarm, la policia, a very unhappy taxi driver, a knife, and the liberation of a few thousand Colombian Pesos) on their way to returning to the hostel at 6am in the morning. 

With plans for tomorrow made (principally worked around getting out of Bogota for a couple of days!), we head to bed at a (semi-)reasonable hour (before 1:30am) in the hope of at least a few hours of sleep to recuperate and start afresh tomorrow!

No comments:

Post a Comment