Monday, March 21, 2005 - Quito to Bogota
We had a bleary-eyed 5:00 a.m. wake-up this morning to catch our 8:00 flight to Bogota. This vacation has started a lot earlier each day than is really our style, but we only have a couple of weeks; we can rest when we're back at work. The Quito airport wasn't very busy this morning, and it's well organized. We paid our $25 departure tax and breezed through check-in and security. Sadly, once we were past security, there wasn't anyplace to buy coffee, which was, we felt, extremely lame.
Just as I'd hoped, the hard rain last night left the air clear this morning. We could see volcanos from Quito. I knew they were nearby, but they're only occasionally visible through the smog. Wow! They are amazing. I managed to snap a few photos through the airplane window.
Ecuador's volcanoes from the air
The airport in Bogota was almost deserted today. When we walked up to immigration, the agents had to come to their posts because there had been no one in line before us. I tried to change the last of my traveler's checks, but the casa de cambio at the airport would only take cash. So we found an ATM by the taxi stand, and I got a cash advance on my Visa. Then we took a taxi to Hostal Platypus. It was only 10:00 a.m., but we had told them we'd be arriving early.
Unbeknownst to us, today was a holiday in Colombia, something called "St. Joseph's Day." I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess it's "something Catholic." Anyway, what it meant to us was many business and museums were closed, but people were out and about. The main road between the airport and our hotel was closed for some sort of bicycle festival, and the driver had to take a circuitous route. He didn't charge us any extra, so we gave him a tip. He seemed pleased.
Our room wasn't ready at the Platypus, so we (finally) drank some coffee and sat around in the common area reading travel guides. We got a different room this time, and it was actually nice. Indeed, it was a suite. We had two huge rooms, a private bath with Frankenshower, a tiny kitchenette, and our own hammock. They called our room "Platypus 3," and it was across the street and two doors down from the main Platypus. The windows opened onto the courtyard of Platypus 2, but we had no access to that area. Curtains on the windows would have been nice, but you can't have everything. German, the proprietor, only charged us 30,000 pesos ($14) for this room, when two weeks earlier we'd paid 35,000 ($16) for the crappy room.
Hanging out at Platypus 3
Tom finally managed to drag me out of the hammock, and we decided to walk over to the Mirador Torre Colpatria, the top floor of a 48-story building (3,000 peso entrada). Our entrance tickets were divided into various parts, and someone tore off sections when we got on the elevator, when we got off of the elevator, and when we walked outside to the viewing area. Everybody has to have a piece of the action!
The mirador is only open to the public on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, so we really lucked out being here on St. Joseph's Day. The air was much clearer today than when we were in Bogota last time, and we took, of course, an obnoxious amount of photographs. We had great views of Cerro de Monserrate, Plaza de Toros (the bullfighting ring), and Cerro de Guadalupe.
Plaza de Toros
Santuario de Monserrate
The main street in front of the Colpatria was closed down to motorized traffic and open to bicyclists. It was a real carnival atmosphere. All up and down the street vendors were selling their goods, clowns were clowning, musical groups were playing Andean folk music, and beggars were haranguing. After the mirador we went to a flea market, the Mercado de San Alejo. It looked like a regular happening, but I assume it was only open on this Monday because of the holiday. These merchants had obviously never thrown anything away in their lives. You could buy anything from swords and shields to used toilet parts to the inside of a rotary phone. A few places were selling porno DVDs and toys right next to each other. There were a bunch of old Singer sewing machines for sale. If we knew a cheap way to ship them back to the States, we could make a killing on eBay.
Mercado de San Alejo
I was paying for some pizza slices when a street urchin tried to take change out of my hand. The pizza place was playing "The Ten Commandments" on the TV. It was an odd juxtaposition. Then we saw a crazy street person picking flowers out of the median. He came up to me a few minutes later and tried to give me one. I refused, assuming that then he'd want a regalo (tip). He was very good natured about it.
Later we went out for supper, but most of the restaurants were closed. We almost, but not quite, made it through this whole vacation without eating at McDonald's. Hey, at least we were eating someplace we wouldn't eat back home! I'll admit, we did thoroughly enjoy the Coke with ice. We went to bed early tonight, because tomorrow we have to get up early to return home.