Monday, March 7, 2005 - Bogota to Quito
Santa Fe de Bogota, the capital of Colombia, is a city of approximately 7 million people situated on a plateau in the Andes Mountains at an elevation of 8,500 feet (2,600 meters). Platypus Hostal is located at the edge of La Candelaria neighborhood, the city's historic colonial center.
Above La Candelaria is a hill known as Cerro de Monserrate, an easily reached mirador. The church at the top of Monserrate dominates the city skyline. We walked to the foot of the hill and took a funicular (incline railway) up, 5,600 pesos each, each way. The bottom of the hill is at 8,878 feet (Tom brought a GPS, so we know exactly), and the top is at 10,500. The air was a little thin up there, not to mention smog filled. Oops, I just mentioned it! Even through the dense smog, the view was exceptional, though our photos were not. On the way down we took the teleferico (gondola) instead of the funicular - much more fun!
Funicular y Teleferico
On our way to lunch we came across a group of indigenous kids dancing in a small plaza. It turned out to be a celebration of so-many years of indigenous resistance. We took a quick pic and moved on.
We had lunch at a little place called Toro Rojo. It was extremely mediocre, if there is such a thing. Tom foolishly ordered the hamburguesa combo. Do not order hamburgers in Latin America! It can only lead to disappointment! How many times must I say this? You've been warned. I had a ham and cheese sandwich. It was not good either.
Let me mention here the overwhelming presence of Bogota's police, military, presidential security, other security, etc., etc., etc. There were so many uniformed men with machine guns, handguns, and giant, mean-looking dogs we couldn't figure out who was what. We felt quite secure though. We visited Plaza Bolivar, where Colombia's Supreme Court and Congress buildings are situated, and walked past the presidential palace. Security personnel searched our daypacks before letting us pass down the street in front of the palace, but they didn't check anyone else's. Tom and I obviously look like we're up to no good! The palace guards had the best uniforms of all, topped off with shiny silver helmets with a spike at the top.
Plaza Bolivar, Bogota
As we were walking back to our hostal, we saw a television show or movie or poorly-acted beer commercial or something being filmed. Kind of interesting and very cheesy. From what we saw, I don't think these people are going to be big stars. But what do I know? Maybe they already are.
Must see TV?
We killed a little time back at Platypus drinking coffee, then taxied to the airport. We had to pay a $30 U.S. departure tax, even though we had only been in Colombia one day - jab! We shopped for some duty-free and then grabbed a pizza at Pizza Piccolo. Some of their specialty pizzas had unusual toppings, including one with apple slices. We went with a more traditional pie, and it was very tasty.
Inside the Platypus
Our 9:50 p.m. flight arrived to Quito, Ecuador, at 11:25 p.m. Outside of customs a gentleman from the Hotel Cayman met us and brought us to our hotel. Once again, with a late arrival, we had arranged accommodations in advance via email.
We were very pleased with Cayman, especially after last night's room. Cayman is a newish hotel with only 11 rooms in an old remodeled house on a tree-lined street in Quito's Mariscal Sucre district, a newer part of town where most tourists stay. It has a 24-hour reception desk with an English-speaking staff. Best of all, the place was clean, clean, clean. Did I mention clean? To us, it was luxury. A double was $39 including the 22 percent tax. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar, plus they mint their own coins.
Enchanted Expeditions, our Galapagos cruise company, had left a packet of information for us at the hotel desk. I was glad to see it because for the last couple of weeks they hadn't been responding to our emails regarding our flight to the Galapagos, and I finally had to call Ecuador to speak to someone. Everything was on track though. Apparently the lack of email was due to someone being out of town and no one checking the email in his absence.