From the Zona Cafetera, we had a couple of days to drive to Bogotá in order to meet incoming guests! Yolanda, who has been out to meet us in Belize and Honduras, and Hung, Rachel’s friend from college, flew in over Thanksgiving week to check out a bit of Colombia with us!
First up was a long, stressful drive from Manizales to Bogotá. Most of the way was windy and hilly, with only two lanes and a lot of traffic. We got stuck for construction and angrily yelled from our car at drivers making unsafe maneuvers and scaring us half to death. Really, we won’t miss these drives when the trip is over. It’s just a necessary evil when overlanding South America (and we hear it’ll get worse..)
After two days driving we arrived in Guatavita and stayed near the lake. The town was relocated after a dam was built and the resevoir behind it flooded the old village. No wonder the town is so clean and well kept! It is also famous for the legend of El Dorado.
The Laguna de Guatavita, a crater lake, was one of the most important sacred places for the Muisca people who lived in this area before the Spanish arrived. As part of their sacred ceremonies they sacrificed golden jewellery by sinking them into the lake. The Spanish heard of that ceremony and the legend of El Dorado was born. The colonial rulers tried multiple times to dry out the lake to get the gold out, more or less successful and many indigenous workers died in the efforts. The lake was declared a National Heritage in 1965 and since then all efforts have been stopped.
We planned to spend a couple days north of Bogota with Yolanda and Hung, so we arranged to meet in the village of Nemocón. We toured the salt mine in the village, which is similar to the more famous Salt Cathedral, but half the price and less religious. They proudly show off how the movie “The 33” was shot here about the Chilean miners trapped for 69 in a mine.
We managed to squeeze 4 people, lots of suitcases and a wiener dog into the Landy to drive half an hour to Suesca, our home for the next two nights. The town itself is sleep and uninteresting, but the main draw of the town is rock climbing. Hung, Yolanda and Ben climbed while Rachel took pictures and Mitzi chilled out in the sun.
We stayed a week in the heart of touristy Bogota, La Candelaria. We found a lovely Airbnb with a friendly host Alejandra and adorable dog Toby. Toby was probably the highlight of our time in Bogota – no insult to the city, but he was just that stinking cute.
Our first stop in the city was Plaza Bolivar and shortly thereafter lunch at La Puerta Falsa. The restaurant is the oldest in Bogota and know for their great typical local cuisine. We all had Ajiaco, a very delicious and filling chicken soup. No need for dinner after this one. We wandered the Candelaria neighborhood, had a drink and introduced our friends to Obleas. They are large wafers filled with Arequipe, and the local style is also with cheese, jam and condensed milk. All the stands selling them advertise with a photo of Mick Jagger. Apparently he passed through Bogota 2 years ago and ate an Oblea – he probably doesn’t remember but they sure do!
For Thanksgiving dinner we threw the budget out the window and visited the fanciest and probably most expensive restaurant in all of Colombia. No better time to do that than with good friends visiting! At Restaurant Leo we had a 16 course tasting menu with all kinds of new and unique ingredients from across Colombia. Not every course was delicious (but some really were amazing), but they were all really unique.
In a city as big as Bogota (with a population the size of Switzerland), we needed to do a bit more than just eat and sightseeing. Chores had to be done. For Ben, that meant taking the Landy to the mechanic and getting a lot of work done. For Rachel that meant taking Mitzi into the vet for a check-up and dental cleaning. Both Landy and Mitzi are in good health and ready for another year on the road!
A couple other Bogota highlights: Gold Museum, Botero Museum, hike up Monserrat (500m over 2.2km at elevation, it’s a butt kicker), Sunday flea markets, street art, eating lots more good food and shopping!