Attempting to pass on blind turns, riding crappy cheap buses, hitting a city of 8 million people alone and getting robbed are only a few of the perils that travelers will face on a normal day in Colombia. In all actuality it still wasn’t all that bad because for every one crazy bad thing I can list about 5 things that are wonderful, interesting and fun about living here.
First I had to get there, by bus. Even on a good day La Linea is crazy dangerous because the drivers have to have some “huevos” when it comes time to pass on switch back turns and compete with trucks, buses, cars, horses, bicycles, pedestrians and police or military presence. On the other hand it is so breathtakingly beautiful how the scenery develops into soaring heights and plunging valleys. Sitting around 3,400 meters above sea level, La Linea is a Colombian Mountain Pass that is an important crossing point for people traveling from Pereira to Bogota. It is a very dangerous but short crossing, the most difficult part is that you can cross the whole pass in 3 hours meaning its very steep and windy going up and down. The views are spectacular from up there, you can see above the clouds and feel a drop in temperature. The plant life is painted onto nature’s canvas with dramatic color and variety that ranges from exotic florals and intense green pine trees to eucalyptus forests and various species of bananas with coffee fields in between. Plus you have soldiers giving you the thumbs up and watching out for traveler safety. How bad can that be?
Upon our arrival in Giradot, near Bogota, I was delivered to the bus station where I would make the rest of the journey on the cheapest bus I could find. This came with a sharp downside. That it was not as comfortable and we stopped every time any one looked sideways at us. Needless to say it took forever!! The upside was that my costs for getting here were very cheap and cost efficient while the scenery was spectacular.
Finally I arrived at the main terminal in Bogota and took a taxi to Candelaria to try out some authentic Arab cuisine. I had a chicken shishkabob with rice, hummus, pita bread, a sauce quite similar to the zatziki sauce that the Greeks use. on the side was a type of meat roll with a large mound of fresh veggies. The meat was soft, flavorful and fell off the shish kabob, the rest of the food had the traditional mediterranean spices on top or inside. Probably one of the best meals I have eaten in Colombia. After my sumptuous dinner the Egyptian proprietor of the restaurant took me to a hostel that was very reasonably priced to stay the night. There I met an Englishwoman, an American gal and some local Latino beatnik-hippy types who ran the place. The American gal immediately drew my attention as she was definitely the definition of a career traveler. She’s the slightly ragged, extremely desperate type of traveler who is still trying to live the free spirited hippy dream in spite of her years and physical deterioration. I can’t quite peg her as a lunatic so instead I’ll just say she was a bit narcissistic-eccentric with enough interesting stories to dedicate a bit of time talking about her. For her privacy I’ll just call her Lolita.
Lolita came to south America after some time spent living in Spain where she was experiencing the world while doing Spanish-English translation work to stay afloat. She arrived in Argentina where she met several Colombians who wanted to protest the high tuition rates in Colombia which were driving them down to Argentina to get their education. She decided to take up their cause as her own and go to Colombia. She crossed through Chile and Peru where she met a shaman who exchanged gifts with her and “initiated” her as a “native” sister. She also acquired a smaller backpack to transfer her already painfully meager supply of belongings to a bag so small even a street bum would cringe. In Bogota she is representing her Colombian friends in Argentina to protest the tuition rates. She was quite a piece of work, both as an inspiration and warning to all the other free spirits out there. Live free, live hard….but know when to take a rest and enjoy the aging process. Aging has not being very kind or very graceful to her, and only she knows why she was so tired looking but I hope she finds a peaceful spot to just chill and take a break for a while.
So I did some street prowling that evening and when talking to some guys I got up to leave, they left and I realized that about 50,000 pesos I had in my pocket had been stolen. Someone had bumped me and my cellphone fell out of my pocket onto the ground and of course the battery fell out and the cover had popped off *typical Nokia brickphone* Although I have to give those guys massive props for pulling it off so smoothly. Being from Nevada doesn’t mean I’m just a “rootin tootin cowgirl” it also means that I have a healthy appreciation for those times when the odds of a gamble turn on you and you lose your shorts to someone smarter. So I will be leaving Sayta Hostal today and go spend the night at the apartment of a friend and hopefully the rest of my trip will be pleasantly boring and full of typical tourist stuff like sightseeing and pictures.