On the Road — Colombia: Into Bogotá

The truckers had also surrounded Bogotá. For a week or so, roads radiating from Colombia’s capital were blocked by semi-rigs and tarp-covered straight trucks. Nothing and no one could get in or out — including me.

Finally I did make it, arriving early in the morning.

The ride to the Candelaria neighborhood took longer than usual.Calle 19, Avenida Jiménez and other major thoroughfares are torn up with the renovation of the Transmilenio (Bogotá’s answer to an above-ground metro).

Bogotá's endless roadworks. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Anato, Colombia’s annual tourism fair, is being held all week at Corferias. I get my pass on the last day, wandering through the massive convention hall. This is an insiders’ only event, where hotel and hostel owners, tour operators and tourism offices have

Gone to the Fair. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

come from every corner of the country.

I walk up to the Islas Providencia and Santa Catalina booth. Upon seeing V!VA Colombia in my hand, the woman behind the counter yells out, “But that’s the guide all the French sail boaters show up with!” She calls to her co-workers. Their responses are like an echo, confirming what this Islander has told me.

As I approach the Guajira stand, a voice calls out to me. It’s Andrés Delgado, co-owner of Kaishi, a tour agency in that magical peninsula. From region to region I wend through this fair. More and more people greet me, including Oscar and Ivonne Gilède of Colombia Highlands in Villa de Leyva. I am shuttled  around, old friends introducing me to new ones who have joined the V!VA community, like Cristina of Provincia Hostel in Valledupar and Tim of the Gypsy Residence in Aracataca.

It seems everyone wants to check out this relative new-comer to the bookshelves. Many are amazed to see V!VA has gone to deep recesses of Colombia, where other guides have feared to tread. A common refrain I hear is, “¡Es muy completo! — It’s very complete!”

My visit to Bogotá, though, isn’t about fairs and visiting old friends. With my V!VA Colombia in hand, I have much to update.

& Bogotá's endless rain. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

But every day it rains in this city. Clear skies greet the dawn, rising hopes this day will be dry.  Within a few hours, the clouds build to the East. By early afternoon, commuters pop their umbrellas open against the showers. I must plan everything around the drizzles and downpours. I have many blocks to walk. Nothing is worse than a drenched map and a cold soaking to the skin. I enviously watch as the other guests of Platypus grab a taxi to the bus terminal or the airport, boarding for the great Carnaval party in Barranquilla.

Ah, but Rocinante and I have much ground to cover before we arrive at the Caribbean’s white-sand beaches and clear sea. I take another look at the sky, hoping to hoof much more pavement before today’s rain.

Editor’s note: Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road in Colombia, updating our 2011 edition of the book. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

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