Throwback Thursday: A Slice of Culture

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

After leaving Peru for our next backpacking stop of Colombia, we spent our time in two of it’s major cities before having to fly back to Guatemala where Serendipity was awaiting.  There was still plenty to keep our plates full though.  From our 54 hour bus ride between Colombia and Peru where we took on armed guards to protects us against gurillas that had robbed the two buses ahead of us, to a drunken night wandering the streets of Bogota while meeting up with one of our backpacking friends from Peru.  We enjoyed Botota for a few days although Matt had come down with terrible food poisoning that left him sick in our hostel for 3 days straight.

After Bogota we bused it to the town of Medeillin, known for being the city of eternal summer and also fostering ex-drug lord Pablo Escobar.  We tried to take in as many of the sights as possible by riding the cable cars high above the town and visiting the botanical gardens and checking out the Botero Sculpture Park in the heart of town.  It seems like our backpacking adventure through South America passed us by way to fast, but we still have a million memories from our time there.  Plus if given the chance, I know we’d be back in a heartbeat.

You can find the original post here.

Wednesday September 18, 2013

9.18.13

It was kind of nice having a forced hiatus from backpacking for just a few days. A little time away from the past few weeks of sightseeing, activities, and even the drinking. But after 48 hours of watching reruns of Friends and The Big Bang Theory (those were the only shows offered in English), we realized we needed to get out. The unsavory tablets were working well enough on Matt’s stomach that we thought we might be able to get him out of the hostel for just a few hours. The destination for the day? The historic center of Bogota.

Armed with our over-sized map once more, we stepped onto a collectivo that we were sure would take us at least close to the area we wanted to go this time, with plans to abort if necessary. ‘Ok, we need to stay on Calle 7 until we get to Carrera 13. If the bus diverts past Calle 10, we get off.’ The good thing about the streets here is they are all ascending numbers of Calles and Carreras, so you’re always relatively sure of how far away you are from something. When we did incidentally have to get off at Calle 10, we knew it was only three blocks down back to where we wanted to be on 7. No Martin Luther King Blvds to get lost on here.

My main goal for the day was soley to see the church in the large city square, but as we got off the bus the sky became overcast and a light drizzle fell on us and I didn’t know how long we’d want to be outside for. We have not had one sunny day in Bogota yet and even though we are surrounded by all the modern buildings that both of us had been slightly yearning for since we left the states, I was momentarily left yearning for the sunny beaches and good friends we left in Mancora. But ever since the salad there made Matt sick, the place gets a big black X in his book. He should have listened to me when I told him to get the ceviche…

Upon entering the square we were greeted with about a hundred rickshaws that seemed to be having some kind of protest or rally. Again, because of the language barrier, they could have been there to celebrate Larry’s 50th birthday and I would have had no way of knowing. We tried wandering around the square for a bit while appreciating the architecture, but the rickshaw drivers also had horns they would not stop blowing. Apparently they were very excited about Larry’s 50th. After close to 15 minutes of this we left for quieter side streets.

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Even though we had the luxury of sitting around for the past two days with constant internet access, I had not done much research on the area and so we just walked up and down each street unsure of what we would find. The rain was continuing on and off, and during one rainy session we ducked into an art museum. The art here was focusing mostly on a Colombian artist, Botero, who I had not been familiar with but whom Matt told me was very famous. I guess he had a thing for drawing and painting very voluptuous people. Room after room there were paintings and sketches in this style, and a large focus was on nude women at the beach or in bed, or sometimes, even in the kitchen. I think Sir Mix-a-Lot would have been very impressed.

There were prints from other famous artists as well, and some of our time was also spent enjoying the works of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and Chagall. Which are always nice to admire because, as Julia Robert’s character says in Notting Hill, “Happiness isn’t happiness without a violin playing goat”.

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 We tried our hands at one more museum as well, one on the history of Colombia and Bogota, but everything was in Spanish. Most of it was more than my basic knowledge could piece together and soon it just became annoying trying to figure out what each item meant. I think a grand total of 15 minutes was spent in that museum. The staff may have thought that we’d gotten ourselves lost since we wandered back by the entrance so quickly, trying to point us back to where the exhibits, and us trying to motion that, no, we wanted to leave. At least I got a few cool postcards with the entrance fee. You can expect to get it in about three months Huong!

Having completed a giant circle of the area, we ended up back in the main square where most of the rickshaw drivers had finally departed. And I was hoping to get back there in time for cake….

Taking one more turn down a side street that would point us in the direction of our hostel, even though there was no way we would be walking the 60 blocks back, we knew it was our last day in Bogota and wanted to see as much as we could. The rain had other plans for us though. At this point we were wet, we were cold, and we were hungry. That is exactly when we saw the golden arches of McDonald’s shine down on us like a beacon. And I was finally able to get my Mc Whopper. I mean, Big Mac.

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 They have llamas!!

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9.8.13 (11)

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A Slice of Culture

Wednesday September 18, 2013

9.18.13

It was kind of nice having a forced hiatus from backpacking for just a few days. A little time away from the past few weeks of sightseeing, activities, and even the drinking. But after 48 hours of watching reruns of Friends and The Big Bang Theory (those were the only shows offered in English), we realized we needed to get out. The unsavory tablets were working well enough on Matt’s stomach that we thought we might be able to get him out of the hostel for just a few hours. The destination for the day? The historic center of Bogota.

Armed with our over-sized map once more, we stepped onto a collectivo that we were sure would take us at least close to the area we wanted to go this time, with plans to abort if necessary. ‘Ok, we need to stay on Calle 7 until we get to Carrera 13. If the bus diverts past Calle 10, we get off.’ The good thing about the streets here is they are all ascending numbers of Calles and Carreras, so you’re always relatively sure of how far away you are from something. When we did incidentally have to get off at Calle 10, we knew it was only three blocks down back to where we wanted to be on 7. No Martin Luther King Blvds to get lost on here.

My main goal for the day was soley to see the church in the large city square, but as we got off the bus the sky became overcast and a light drizzle fell on us and I didn’t know how long we’d want to be outside for. We have not had one sunny day in Bogota yet and even though we are surrounded by all the modern buildings that both of us had been slightly yearning for since we left the states, I was momentarily left yearning for the sunny beaches and good friends we left in Mancora. But ever since the salad there made Matt sick, the place gets a big black X in his book. He should have listened to me when I told him to get the ceviche…

Upon entering the square we were greeted with about a hundred rickshaws that seemed to be having some kind of protest or rally. Again, because of the language barrier, they could have been there to celebrate Larry’s 50th birthday and I would have had no way of knowing. We tried wandering around the square for a bit while appreciating the architecture, but the rickshaw drivers also had horns they would not stop blowing. Apparently they were very excited about Larry’s 50th. After close to 15 minutes of this we left for quieter side streets.

9.18.13 (1)

9.18.13 (2)

9.18.13 (3)

9.18.13 (4)

Even though we had the luxury of sitting around for the past two days with constant internet access, I had not done much research on the area and so we just walked up and down each street unsure of what we would find. The rain was continuing on and off, and during one rainy session we ducked into an art museum. The art here was focusing mostly on a Colombian artist, Botero, who I had not been familiar with but whom Matt told me was very famous. I guess he had a thing for drawing and painting very voluptuous people. Room after room there were paintings and sketches in this style, and a large focus was on nude women at the beach or in bed, or sometimes, even in the kitchen. I think Sir Mix-a-Lot would have been very impressed.

There were prints from other famous artists as well, and some of our time was also spent enjoying the works of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and Chagall. Which are always nice to admire because, as Julia Robert’s character says in Notting Hill, “Happiness isn’t happiness without a violin playing goat”.

9.18.13 (5)

9.18.13 (6)

9.18.13 (7)

 We tried our hands at one more museum as well, one on the history of Colombia and Bogota, but everything was in Spanish. Most of it was more than my basic knowledge could piece together and soon it just became annoying trying to figure out what each item meant. I think a grand total of 15 minutes was spent in that museum. The staff may have thought that we’d gotten ourselves lost since we wandered back by the entrance so quickly, trying to point us back to where the exhibits, and us trying to motion that, no, we wanted to leave. At least I got a few cool postcards with the entrance fee. You can expect to get it in about three months Huong!

Having completed a giant circle of the area, we ended up back in the main square where most of the rickshaw drivers had finally departed. And I was hoping to get back there in time for cake….

Taking one more turn down a side street that would point us in the direction of our hostel, even though there was no way we would be walking the 60 blocks back, we knew it was our last day in Bogota and wanted to see as much as we could. The rain had other plans for us though. At this point we were wet, we were cold, and we were hungry. That is exactly when we saw the golden arches of McDonald’s shine down on us like a beacon. And I was finally able to get my Mc Whopper. I mean, Big Mac.

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 They have llamas!!

9.18.13 (10)

9.8.13 (11)

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A Tour of Fulano

Tuesday September 17, 2013

fulano exterior

The next few days of our story actually take us back in time to Mancora Peru.  Back to those amazing meals we found with a drink, starter, and entree, only for 10 soles (just over $3).  The same meals that Matt would turn his nose up at me, because every time I order the while fish ceviche for my starter.  ”That’s going to make you sick, they probably don’t even cook that fish”.  ”Of course they don’t cook the fish!”, I replied, “It’s ceviche!”.  He’d still send disgusted looks my way as he ate his fresh salad instead.  The same salads that, coincidentally, made him sick.  Who’s laughing now?  Unfortunately, not either of us.  Because this sickness of his has rendered him helpless and unable to leave the hostel for two days now.

It didn’t hit him until yesterday morning, at which point we both thought it was the after effects of our night out on Sunday.  Those stayed with me for awhile too.  I remember barely having the energy to get myself out of bed.  Literally.  My knees were weak and my hands were shaking as I made my way the one block over to the grocery store to get us some breakfast, the first food we’d eaten in about 24 hours.  By the time lunch rolled around Matt was still not feeling better, and I made my second solo trip back to the grocery store for some tummy friendly foods and of course, a big 2 liter of pop.  Around this time he was also realizing that it was more than just a hangover and had me scouring the OTC medicines for anything close to Pepto, but with everything being written in Spanish I was lost and came back empty handed on that search.

In the late afternoon we retired to the movie room at the hostel and did not leave it until it was time for bed.  Because of Matt’s stomach we had to cancel dinner with Nick and Diana, which we had both really been looking forward to.  I was ready to walk to one of the nearby restaurants to pick up some take-out, or even make a fourth trip that day to the grocery store, but my paranoid husband would not let me out alone after dark.  Not even to walk one block.  In the safest neighborhood in Bogota.  We ended up having one of the guys at the hostel make a call for us to have Domino’s delivered.  Which, while placing the call, kept giving me sideways glances and asking “Are you sure this is what you want for dinner?  I know a great Italian place around the corner”.  Knock them if you want, but their pizza has gotten much better over the past few years.

Today there has been no improvement in Matt’s health, so once again we haven’t left the hostel.  Unless you count me running back and forth to the grocery store.  I finally Googled the Spanish words for certain symptoms that go along with food poisoning, and presented it to the woman behind the pharmacy counter whom in return gave me some tablets for Matt to take every few hours.  Apparently they taste like s#*t, but with any luck they’ll have us back on the streets of Bogota tomorrow.

Until then though, I have to say that we have found the best hostel ever to be stuck in.  Fulano Backpackers is new, just opened a few months ago, modernly designed, and just a cool place to hang out.  Although we’ve been spending a majority of our time in the movie room, it has a nice bar and billiards area, a lounge area, and great facilities.  Plus the guys who run it are amazingly nice and helpful.  So this is my little promotion of Fulano Backpackers.  If you ever find yourself in Bogota, please stay here, you won’t regret it.  Just check out the reviews on Trip Advisor.  You would be doing yourself a great service to stay here.

fulano dorm room

 The dorm rooms that we’re staying in.

fulano women's bathroom

fulano kitchen

The kitchen, where I even made a meal of pasta tonight instead of ordering out.

fulano outdoor eating

The outdoor eating area where we liked to hang out with our computers.

fulano movie room

 And the movie room, which we got to know very very well.

(All photos courtesy of Fulano Backpakers Facebook Page)

 

 

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We’re Off the Map

Sunday September 15, 2013

9.15.13

I’m pretty sure we slept like the dead last night.  Even though our hostel had temporarily been turned into a discoteca, it wasn’t hard to fall into a deep slumber with the beats of Rhianna pumping through the wall.  They may have actually even helped a little, reminiscent of the days when we used to enjoy a Saturday afternoon nap at our old home, techno beats pulsing from our television and lulling us to sleep.  In the morning we spent a little time enjoying our luxurious hotel like hostel, and chatting with the young owners about things to do and see.

We happened to be there just in time for an event held every Sunday in Bogota called Ciclovia.  Certain main streets are blocked off to cars, leaving wide open spaces for people to cycle, run, rollerblade, or just walk in the street.  We were tempted to rent bikes ourselves, but the dark clouds and threat of rain had us putting off this plan since if we had to retreat into a building due to a downpour, there was no way to lock up our rental bikes.  We decided to explore by foot instead.  The hostel owners gave us a very detailed map and marked points of interest for us to see.  That day, we were nudged into going to an area called Usaquén.  There was a great outdoor market that was held on weekends only.

The walk may have been a little longer than we had intended, about 3-4 miles through on and off rain, but the neighborhood was well worth getting to.  Two square blocks were dedicated to vendors with tables set up containing jewelry, bags, jams, paintings, and many other items.  The neighborhood was very modern, and a stark contrast to the either historic or worn buildings of Peru.  For a few hours we strolled the streets and looked at the good, much too aware this time that nothing could be purchased though since it won’t fit in our bags.  I had been on the hunt for good Colombian coffee.  I was turned down.

art vendor in Usaquen, Bogota, Colombia

living statue, Usaquen, Bogota, Colombia

Once it was time to head back to the hostel, we realized we did not want to do that walk twice.  The guys from the hostel told us that there were collectivos constantly running up and down the main street we had taken, and it would only cost us a dollar or two to ride it there or back.  Even though we had just gotten off a 54 hour bus ride, we had no problem hopping back on one.  We thought it would be as simple and crossing to the side of the road we wanted to head down, flag a collectivo, and wait to be dropped off a block from our hostel.  Which are exactly the steps we took, but it didn’t quite turn out as we hoped.

We paid the fee of 1,500 Colombian pesos each, and took a seat as the bus jaunted forward.  Then Matt turned to me and whispered, “I hope this takes us where we need to go”.  We had never even considered the fact until after we had boarded one of the collectivos that they may venture down different streets than the one we were on.  And as soon as we realized that, the bus turned down a side road and further away from where we wanted to be.  I kept hoping, waiting for it to make a left turn, and starting taking us back in the direction we wanted to go.  It never did, and when we realized it probably wasn’t going to, we had gone far enough that we weren’t sure we wanted to walk back.

Then not only did distance become an issue, but the neighborhoods did as well.  Our thoughts went from ‘I don’t want to walk back that far’ to ‘This neighborhood looks a little dodgier than the last’ to ‘We are not getting off here, put the windows up and lock the doors’.  At this point we were no longer even on the incredibly huge map we were given, meaning that we were probably in a part of town not seen by many tourist.  We were positive that eventually it would turn around and end back up at the place we had started, and we didn’t even mind having to pay the fare again to hop on a new one heading the right direction.

Soon, every passenger had gotten off and it was only us and the driver remaining.  He turned the bus around and began heading down a street we had just come from, and Matt and I let out a collective sigh as we thought that meant we were now returning to Usaquen.  We were not.  Just outside one of the not so great neighborhoods he pulled to a stop in front of a bus depot and made it clear that this was the end of the line.  This collectivo would be going no further.  Luckily we were on a major road where there weren’t dark alleys and the though of something seedy happening to us was less likely, but those seedy neighborhoods are what we would need to walk through to get back to the other main road which would lead us to our hostel.

Just as we were about to break down and hail a cab for the $20 ride back, I saw a collectivo whiz by that had the name of our neighborhood printed on it’s front window.  It seemed safe enough to wait at least 10-15 minutes for another one to hopefully come by, so this is what we did.  Scanning the windows of each collectivo that passed, we finally saw another one after lots of squinting and two accidental flag downs of wrong ones.  It appeared as if our neighborhood was the last stop of this bus, and two hours after we originally boarded our first collectivo that day, we were dropped off two blocks from our hostel.  I think it is safe to say, we have seen this city.

collectivo Bogota Colombia

 Arriving back at the hostel, I had just enough time to whip out my computer and check emails before finding out that our friend Nicolas that we had met back in Peru, the one who went surfing with us, was looking forward to getting together that night.  Giving us the name of a bar/restaurant and the name of the street it was on, we were off once again, barely an hour after we had just gotten back.  There was going to be no chancing it with collectivos this time, we were taking a cab.  Which led to us getting lost.  Again.  I had written down the name of the bar, the street it was on, and handed him my map, yet it all must have been too confusing to him.  Not wanting to rack up a giant taxi fare, we got out in the general vicinity and started walking from that point.

To our delight, we finally found the bar after about fifteen minutes of searching….only to find out it was the wrong one.  The place we were meeting was called Bogota Beer Company, and apparently it’s as big of a chain there as TGI Fridays back in the states.  We ended up at the one two miles away from where we should have been, apparently back in Usaquen where we had been that morning.  Thankfully there was a young bilingual Colombian girl that took pity on us and called us a secure taxi which she put us in herself and then gave very direct instructions to the driver.  If it was not for her, I think we would have been wandering the streets of Bogota all night.

Finally finding Nicolas, we also found out that he was with his girlfriend and another friend and everyone was at another bar up the road.  Grateful to sit down and order a drink, our group squeezed around a low table as a hookah was placed in front of us, and the next hour flew by as we talked about life and travel.

Nicolas and Diana

Kathmandu, Bogota, Colombia

Matt with hookah, Kathmandu, Bogota, Colombia

 The party wasn’t as long as we’d hoped since, for a few of the people at the table, there was still work the next day.  We said goodbye to Diana and her friend, while we continued back to Bogota Beer Company with Nicolas so we could finally taste what all the raving was about.  Not only had this place been mentioned in our guide, but the guys back at the hostel also gave us an indication of the wide variety of beers they offered.  By this time though, Matt and I were ravenous.  Neither of us had eaten for hours and were getting delirious to the point that when we passed by a McDonald’s we couldn’t even remember the name of their signature burger.

“It’s a Mc Whopper!”

“No, that’s not it…..Mc Whopper?”

“It’s a Mc something…..   Whatever, I’m just going to go in and order a Mc Whopper.”

We promised ourselves we’d visit there after having one more beer with Nicolas at BBC.  One beer, which turned into a beer tower.

beer tower, Bogota Beer Company

 And over that one beer (tower) we all decided that it was way too early for Diana to be heading home for the night, and we needed to meet her back at her apartment so that we could drag her out for…more beer.  Which is exactly what we did.  I never did get my Mc Whopper, or any dinner really, which is probably why I have a photo album of the night which looks like this:

beer bottles at Bogota Beer Company

art on wall, Bogota Beer Company glasses drying, Bogota Beer Company sign, Bogota Beer Company

Someone should have put me on a leash or placed me in a high chair, because I’m pretty sure the staff there thought I was mental for photographing everything.  I even have photos of the bathroom.  All beer & no food = silly Jessica.  That’s ok, a great night was had by all, and these are the things memories are made of, right?  I’m just not looking forward to the headache tomorrow is going to bring.

group shot at Bogota Beer Company

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