Thursday, March 23, 2006

Buenos Noches Bogota

Now that internet has been installed in the house, I am able to update the blog - something that will be frequent from here on out. I have many stories to tell, but I'm going to focus on the trip with this post.

I left Baltimore at about 6 pm on Saturday, March 18th. My flight took me to Miami where I had roughly and 8 hour layover. Fortunately, Smooth Like Butta' lives in Miami so I had a chance to get out of the airport and see some of the city. SLB is obviously doing very well for himself since London. He purchased an $800,000 luxury condo with his brother. And when I say "luxury" I mean it. Thumbprint in the elevator that takes him straight to his flat. 24/7 valet parking including a monitor that allows him to "order" up his car before he heads downstairs. Yeah, he's doing well.

Anyway, after seeing his flat, we grabbed a bite to eat before heading to South Beach. He took me to a Colombian club (it was appropriate) that he has connections with - so we were whisked straight through the door into the boistrous club. Salsa music blasted from above and we snaked our way toward the back of the already crowded club. We had a few drinks there. Good times. I didn't want to get drunk since I had a flight in the morning, so everytime SLB ordered more drinks (he was paying for everything), I put my half full glass down and acted like everything was normal.

Finally, around 2 am, we left the club and took a walk down Atlantic Ave (I think) which is the main strip. He showed me where Versace's body was found. There were drunk fools everywhere. Must have been Spring Break. Miami is crazy. That's my conclusion.

Anyway, about 3, we got to the airport. I had about 2 hours to wait before my plane was ready. It was a tough wait. I wanted to sleep but was totally unable. Instead, I read, walked around, and just wiled the time away. Finally, I boarded my flight and it was off to Bogota.

As much as I wanted to sleep on the plane, I was too keyed up and excited. Plus, there were fascinating things developing outside my window. Cuba, for example, looked just like any other country. I was struck with the sense that politics, in all it's gory deliverence, is artificially dividing our world. Cuba looks like a beautiful country. The rest of the cross-Carribean trip involved a peice of Jamaica, some smaller islands, and lots of blue sea. Until, at last, the coast.

The Colombian coast looks much like any other coast, but it quickly drops away to reveal lush green land - forest, plains, rivers. Vivant green and sparkling blue shined up from below, enticing one to imagine if the land is controlled by guerilla or paramilitary (ok, not really, but still). After an indeterminant amount of time, I noticed mountains rising up below us. Soon, we were amidst the Andes. It was gloriously beautiful. Everyone should take the opportunity to visit the Andes and see how the mountains rise up out of the clouds to greet you.

After just under 3 hours, we were approaching Bogota. We came from the North and East, with sharp mountains falling away to green fields outside my window. The landing was smooth and quick. I expected it to take longer, but Bogota's airport is not exactly JFK, now is it. I still had not seen any of the city (cuidad). The view from my window showed mountains and I wasn't about to ignore them by jumping to the other side of the plane.

Customs and immigration was smooth. Not problems. It took a little longer because I'm a gringo and I was entering for the first time, but it was nothing to worry about. Baggage claim took some time as well, but finally I was out. And there, waiting for me patiently, was my novia. It was a glorious moment. One of the top ten of all time.

The drive from the airport was interrupted only by an accident that had left a body on the side of the road. People drive crazy here and those on motorcycles are the worst. I didn't see the body, but my novia did. I suppose that is more common than one would expect.

At any rate, Bogota is a sprawling city, modern and developed as one would expect from a developing country. There are more potholes than one would normally find in a US city, but really this place reminds me of a South American London. There are places that you are safe and there are places that you are not safe. But in general, I feel very comfortable and safe, even being a gringo with very limited Spanish. But more than anything, I stand in constant awe of the mountains. It's just a damn impressive sight.

I'll tell more about the rest of my day later, but for now, I'll leave it at this: the North American cynicism about Bogota seems unwarranted. I know one week in the country is not sufficient to make an accurate judgement and I also know that my view is colored by staying in the northern part of the city, but I feel just as safe here as I did in London. No, cancel that. More safe. There aren't roving bands of drunk teenagers on the city streets at night. The people drive on the right side of the road. The people are nice, even if your spanish es muy malo.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you to hear you had a smooth trip. And I'm glad you have internet at home to blog more! Metro

9:47 PM  
Blogger Santo said...

Hi... I'm glad you visited my country with no safety issues. One must be careful and not to be too exposed.

I recommend everybody my site of salsa bars in Bogotá:


2:06 PM  

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