When I came to Bogota three and a half months ago, I was so fearful. After hearing all the stories, and warnings, and ‘No Dar Papaya’. During what was happening in Colombia at that time politically.
My first hostel was located in La Candelaria, a beautiful district in the historical centre yet not the safest. I literally walked around the block only. So not like me. I walked around Lisbon in the late evening hours, stopping for wine and then walking back home. I walked around the towns I have never been to before, got lost, found my way, discovered places and never worried. I used to live in South Croydon and went dancing salsa in Brixton!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not stupid. I am still careful. Yet, I am kind of fearless at the same time. In Europe.
It all changed when I landed in Bogota back in May and checked in to my hostel in La Candelaria. I walked maybe three streets away from the hostel, max. I went to see the Plaza de Bolivar but didn’t even take any photos, scared someone is going to snatch my phone out of my hand.
Luckily I took a city bike tour, and this was fun. I have learnt a bit about the city and ventured a bit further out. Yay!
Of course, things had changed after I left Bogota and arrived at the coast, yet still. During my first week in Santa Marta, I was still pretty wary. I would not be taking pictures when I’m alone, and until I arrived in Palomino, I would never walk around the town alone after dark. Mind you, in Colombia, that is after 7, lol.
I’m back in Bogota now. After three and half months of the most incredible journey around this remarkable country.
My last stop is in Chapinero, and I really love this part of the city. Probably my favourite.
I feel like a different person arrived here a few days ago. I feel at home. I walk around softly, confidently; before I say something, people often think I’m actually Colombian. Funny.
Today I went hiking up the Monserate. It is probably the most famous spot in Bogota, and most people go up by cable car or funicular. It’s not a long hike, but ascending at the elevation of 3000m is a bit of a challenge.
It was a great hike, so much so that I will probably write a little post about it. Once at the top, I went browsing around the restaurants, refused lunch like million times, had a laugh with waiters promising sea view and boys in a bikini if I ate in their restaurant and eventually stopped for a tinto (black coffee) and arepa de choclo (surprisingly nice sweet arepa with cheese). After taking the Funiculum down, I decided to walk to see the exposition in Museo de Bogota.
I walked. I checked google maps once in a while, which was unimaginable three months ago. Still, I looked around for any suspicious situations before I took my phone out, but I just felt okay.
Suddenly I found myself back where it all started – in La Candelaria. As I walked around, I recognised the streets and graffiti and hostels and restaurants. Yet, I felt so differently.
Did I tell you already how much I love Colombia? I’m sure I did. I didn’t love it back in May. Yet. I took photographs of the same places I photographed three months ago. But those photographs were taken with different eyes, without fear. And with a much-expanded heart.
The funny thing is that I went to Museo de Bogota to see the collection of photographs of old, historical Bogota. But came upon a new exhibition called ‘Adentro.’
It is a heartwarming and sometimes sad exhibition portraying the simple lives of people who moved to Bogota and lived in different conditions, as shown through photographs and personal stories.
I went to discover the past, and what I discovered is a present.
I left the museum even more in love with this place. There is something about this country that really touches your heart. At least it touched mine.
And as I looked at those photographs and read the people’s stories, some very sad and some very hopeful, I felt tears coming to my eyes.
Every country is the same. Different, but the same. People living in this country are like everyone else. We are all the same. Underneath. With the same hopes and dreams, same fears. Same anger and insecurities. Same relationship problem. Some are poor, some have money. Some are artists and some are office workers. This country is no different from any other country I have visited or will visit in the future. Travelling makes you really touch it. The human. The truth.
Don’t believe what they say. Go see!