South American Reminiscences #1

Cable car at Monserrate

Cable car at Monserrate

Last month I blogged about the joy of unexpectedly discovered photographs when I found, tucked in the back of a little-used drawer, a bunch of pictures including those from a trip to South America back in 2005.

Since then I have, on and off, been scanning and uploading these pictures onto the computer. 2005 is a very long time ago, and my memory is extremely poor, so sadly I don’t remember the trip in great detail. It was therefore a great joy to have my memory jogged looking through these pictures. As I was reminiscing, I thought I would share…

Back in those far off days of print film I was faced with a permanent dilemma: black and white or colour? The photos of the trip therefore switch between the two. Colour mostly won the day, which is lucky because I had the foresight to get most of those copied onto CD, whereas I never got around to printing many of the black and white images. This means there are some gaps in the photographic narrative especially, sadly, in Bogotá itself.

So how did we get to go to South America? Well, our very good friends Andy and Jane moved out to Bogotá in Columbia for a few years because Andy works for an oil company. They issued an open invitation for us to visit, not expecting that we would, but: surprise!

Of course Bogotá has a bit of a reputation for drugs and violence and is generally not considered to be the ideal holiday destination, hence the expectation that we wouldn’t be visiting. However, we were not to be put off by a little thing like that, so along with another couple of good friends, Paul and Kate, off we went.

Actually there was no danger. Andy and Jane were well looked after with driver/ minders who took us wherever we wanted to go and Bogotá itself was a lovely place.

So delighted were they to have us visit that Andy and Jane set up a busy itinerary for our stay, only some of which was in Bogotá. Here I will concentrate just on the bits around Bogotá, which were at the start and end of the holiday, and come on to the rest in a later blog.

The British Airways flight into Bogotá was long, but went without a hitch. We arrived early evening on 20 January 2005 and were met at the airport by Andy & Jane. Their minders smoothed our passage through the airport and whisked us away in large, air-conditioned SUVs to their very well appointed apartment.

After a day’s R&R and a look around the local area, the first item on our itinerary was dinner at a restaurant called Andres Carne de Res, which roughly translates as Andre’s House of Meat. My kind of place!

After a superb meal we returned to the apartment and things took a turn for the worse. The bottom fell out of my world, or vice-versa, and during the night I was extremely ill.

My initial thought was food poisoning, but everyone else was healthy, including Paul who ate the same as me. General consensus was I was suffering from altitude sickness. Bogotá is 2640 metres (8661 ft) above sea level and, apparently, this is not uncommon. Aspersions were cast about my alcohol to water ratio not having helped the situation.  I paid the price.

This meant that I lost a day whilst the others went out and enjoyed themselves and I spent another day feeling a little green, but I soon recovered and all was well from then on.

We spent a couple of days around Bogotá, including visiting the Gold Museum. We also spent some time in a remarkably large, modern mall and, more interestingly, in a more traditional shopping area. In the latter we bought leather jackets, which was an interesting experience. We walked into a shop and tried on a jacket. It’s not quite right: not quite the right style, or not quite the right size. No problem, the shop owner would rifle through racks to find another. If he failed, he would high-tail it off down the road to another shop and come back with a jacket from there. This went on for some time. Eventually we all left with jackets: well, it would be rude not to.

We visited Monseratte, the mountain that dominates the city and provides very impressive views. It also has a market which sells some of the most outrageous religious tat you could ever wish to find. Toward the end of the holiday we ventured a little further to the Salt Cathedral at Parque de la Sal, Zipaquira. This is an underground Roman Catholic Church built in an old salt mine; it is very impressive, but unfortunately I entirely failed to get any usable photographs inside.

scan0017For eating and drinking, once I felt able again, amongst other places we had the BBC (Bogotá Beer Company) and the Hard Rock Cafe. I bought a T-shirt from the latter, prompting a friend to later make the observation “Bogota? Now that’s a HARD rock cafe!”

Our time in Bogotá was brilliant, but was only part of our South American adventure – stay tuned for more later.


About Darrel Kirby

I am what I am.
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One Response to South American Reminiscences #1

  1. Pingback: South American Reminiscences #2 | Darrel Kirby's Blog

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