The overnight bus brought us to our final destination – Bogota. As soon as we got off the bus, we noticed we were dizzy and out of breath. Bogota is 7,000 feet above sea level and you definitely notice the altitude until you get used to it.
The next thing we noticed was that people were standing in line to get a taxi even though there was a line of cabs as long as we could see! You had to stand in line to have an official calculate your fare. It keeps the cabs from price gouging, but I’m not sure it was worth the 30 minute wait!
Bogota was dirty, crowded, not as safe as Medellin, and had much colder weather, especially at night. Our cab dropped us off at our hostel, Hostel Chocolate, which was the antithesis of the rest of Bogota. It was quiet (almost empty) and very clean. We picked it because it didn’t have a reputation as a party hostel and because they serve hot chocolate for breakfast – a Colombian tradition. Our only complaint was the desk staff – most of them were cold and unfriendly. Luckily, we were able to make our way around the city without their help.
We spent our first day there checking out the neighborhood – La Candelaria is the student/hostel neighborhood. Unfortunately, all the students were at home for holiday vacation. This made students a bigger target for crime and it wasn’t safe to walk around at night – or during the day we learned. People on the street would stop and tell Pat to put his camera away nearly every time he took it out. We ran into a couple staying at a nearby hostel and they told us that some girls they knew had been out during the broad daylight a few days earlier and they had gotten held up by some local hoodlums. When the girl that was giving them trouble found out they only had $18US on them, she got so angry she stabbed one of the tourists. Luckily the tourist wasn’t badly hurt, but it definitely put us on edge about our time in Bogota. As a disclaimer to put our parents’ minds at ease, they were walking in an unsafe area, something that we were sure not to do.