After nearly a year travelling we arrived in Bogota, to be met by Jose, his wife, Caro and their little girl, Sofia. Nick and Jose worked together in London, before Jose and his family returned to Colombia and he set up his own very successful architectural practice in the city. We had originally planned to stay for a just few days, but our stay in Bogota turned into a few months as Jose, Caro and Sofi were such amazing hosts and made us fall in love with their incredible country. After a turbulent modern history, there is a buzz about the country and huge optimism for its future. This post is about some of the things that we all did together, many of which you won’t read about in the Lonely Planet.
A Weekend in Suesca: ‘Andres de Res’, Playing ‘Ranas’ & the Salt Cathedral
Bogota’s bars and restaurants rival any we have seen on our trip and indeed those back in London. The most famous is ‘Andrés de Res’. It is a 45 minute drive from the center of Bogota, but this does not stop it being packed every Thursday to Saturday with people who come for the delicious food, the extraordinary ambiance and, of course, the salsa. Part art gallery, part junkyard, this quirky rabbit warren of a club is an institution. Jose, henceforth to be known as ‘Snakehips’ as a result of his gin-fueled Shakira-esq dancing, and his family own a beautiful hacienda a short drive from the club, so we made a weekend of it.
To recover from our salsa-thon, we visited the Salt Cathedral. Originally a salt mine, it was converted into a Roman Catholic Church in 1995. Sitting 180m underground the mining tunnels connect a series of 14 small chapels, the trail finishing in the main nave, where a mammoth cross (the world’s largest in an underground church) awaits.
Afterwards we played ‘Rana’, or ‘frog’ in English, a traditional Colombian game, whilst waiting for the barbecue to work its magic on a massive leg of pork. Players take it in turns to throw small metal discs, the ranas, against a board with holes in. Each with varying scores. It is a bit like darts, but without the obligatory 12kgs of gold jewellery, although drinking is very much encouraged. We fought valiantly as Team GB but the Colombians’ prior experience won out, despite a rousing comeback inspired by numerous Club Colombia beers mixed with ‘Colombiana’ (the country’s version of Iron Bru).
Playing ‘Tejo’ in Villa de Leyva
Not put off by this loss we dusted ourselves down to play ‘Tejo’, another traditional game, on a weekend away in Villa de Leyva, where we visited Jose and Caro’s friend, Marci. If Rana was a bit like darts, Tejo is similar to ten-pin bowling. However, instead of bowling a ball, you throw a metal puck, the ‘tejo’, which weighs about 600 grams at a clay target from 20 meters. The target has a horse shoe embedded in the clay with gunpowder caps distributed around it. The aim is to hit the target, and if you’re really good, explode the gunpowder caps. Two important things must be said at this point. Firstly, we played baby tejo on an alley 5 meters long because none of us could have thrown the tejo 20m. Secondly, you don’t pay to play this game, instead you just buy Poker beer… by the crate!
Back in Bogota: A Visit to Museo del Oro & Hiking Cerro de Monserrate at Sunrise
On our return to Bogota, we went to the Gold Museum, which showcases the largest collection of gold ornaments in the world, with over 55,000 pieces of gold and other materials from all the major pre-Hispanic cultures in Colombia. Colombia was the main conduit through which the Conquistadors siphoned their looted treasure from all over South America to Spain, so it is no surprise that this museum is full of stunning pieces.
Lethal Tennis in Anapoima
As well as spending the day at the exclusive ‘Club El Nogal’ in the centre of Bogota, Jose and Caro invited us to ‘Club Campestre’ in Anapoima, around 80km outside Bogota. At 1,400 meters lower than Bogota, Anapoima is the weekend exodus of Bogotanos in search of a pool, hammocks and perfect weather.
All was well until we decided to play tennis and Lucy broke her 5th metatarsal! After travelling around South America for 12 months on a motorbike it was tennis that would prove to be more dangerous. It is a good job we have an orthopedic surgeon in the family. Many thanks to Simon for all of his advice!
A Weekend in Coffee Growing Country
Some more friends of Jose and Caro’s, Pablo and Paula, invited us to join them at their finca, ‘San Carlos’, in the coffee growing region of Colombia, just south of Medellin. We relaxed by the pool by day, and played cards and drank by night. It was also the ‘Day of Little Candles’, when families across Colombia light small, brightly-coloured candles to signify the start of the Christmas season.
So, in summary, thank you to Jose and Caro, and all their friends and family, for making our time in Colombia the best of our trip!