I arrived in the Anandamayi Hostel in La Candelaria, the historical district of Bogotá and where most of the main sites are located, dragging my suitcase and neurotic self. And yes, I am travelling with a bag with wheels as I have intention of permanently bending my spine. It does go on one’s back if one choses to put it on one’s back but I haven’t had any reason to do so as it rolls on practically every surface just fine.
The hostel is like an ashram in the middle of the city with its garden courtyard adorned with hammocks and blue-green painted décor. They even play the kind of music you’d hear at a spa in Thailand. Yet considering the internal frenzy I was in having finally stepped out into the solo travel episode of my journey, no amount of Zen was going to calm me down. I left the hostel and ventured into the Botero museum. After about 15 minutes of walking around trying to figure out where to purchase an audio guide, I sat myself at the Museum café and ate a cake. I was obviously not focused enough to be at a museum staring at paintings of blown-up figures.
One painting that did speak to me as I raced through the corridors of the museum was Madre y Hijo, Mother and Son. The painting is of a mother holding her son, who of course looks like a child with the face of a man, in a very bizarre position. As if the boy is a colorful pinwheel and she is about to spin him around. A mother’s child, no matter how old, always remains his mother’s child, Botero seemed to be saying to me. Great! Now I missed my mommy.
With feelings of claustrophobia and a desire to hug my mother, I rushed out of the museum and arrived at the Bogotá Bike Tours where I had heard of a free walking tour. I had already done the bike tour, which was a great way to ride through parts of town I would otherwise have no courage to go myself such as the very dodgy Zona Roja, the Bogotan red-light district.
As a child my very useful strategy in making friends was to simply walk up to kids and ask: “Do you want to be friends?” In fact, my oldest friend I had made in such a manner at the age of five or six. Armed with my childhood skills, I began to chat with an Australian woman who had been traveling in South America since four months. As we sampled Colombian tropical fruits lulu, feijoa, and curuba, she recounted her story of getting attacked near her hostel the evening before, when two men grabbed her from behind. Somehow, she dodged getting mugged or otherwise hurt, she said. Meanwhile I was wondering whether it was a good idea for me to be talking to people at all. This was not helping my state of distress.
I slowly separated from the Australian, who seemed the least bit disturbed by last night’s events, lest she had any more stories to recount. After following our walking-tour guide in silence for a good 15 minutes, unable to concentrate on the history lesson we were receiving, I decided to try again. A quiet guy who had introduced himself as Argentinian seemed peaceful, I thought. As it turned out Diego lives in the most violent country on the continent: Venezuela.
But friends I did make. I spent the next two days with Diego and his Latin American colleagues who all work in Caracas and had arrived in Colombia for a breather vacation over Semana Santa. That night we had a delicious dinner at Central Cevicheria and danced to what the DJ said was Rumba but sounded more like early 2000s hip hop. We explored the Museo Nacional, and went shopping in the Andino Shopping Center.
When I said goodbye to my new friends 30 hours later and arrived back to Anandamayi Hostel for my last night in Bogotá, I was exhausted from having had way too much fun. I packed my bag for an early-morning departure to Villa de Leyva, put on my eye mask, stuck in my earplugs, and slept like a baby.
And here are some pictures of the fun things I did in Bogotá: