“2600 metros más cerca de las estrellas” – 2600 meters closer to the stars
Altitude: 2,625 m (8,612 ft)
Temperature Year-Round: 3-25 °C (37-77 °F)
Eight hours on the long stretch from Mogotes to Bogota passed surprisingly quickly thanks to the beautiful scenery that kept me mesmerised the whole way.
We slipped through slices of small towns with flower-covered houses and banana trees where people sat outside their shops chatting to neighbors, carried heavy sacks on their bicycles and lead their horses down the streets.
Between the towns were rolling mountains covered in bright green grass, trees, crops of sugarcane and potatoes and fields full of cows, some of which provide their owners with 40 liters of milk per day. Colombia produces a good portion of the world’s flowers and there were miles and miles of white tents where they grew along the way. Traffic was light most of the drive and we floated around the mountain curves. Around every corner, the landscape opens up again, spreading out in front of us, endless and green.
I managed to eat something that gave me an allergic reaction so I had a red puffy face when I first met Wilfredo’s friends. It must have made an interesting first impression since I couldn’t explain why in Spanish.
Bogota was a lot like you would expect any big city to be – a bit more diverse with more options when it comes to shops and restaurants, markets, buskers, a bit more crime (not outwardly noticeable but like in London, you stay aware of your surroundings), graffiti-covered walls and busy traffic.
We stayed in a nice little apartment. There was no hot water the first day, which is apparently not that unusual in Colombia. There’s a level of talent involved in taking a freezing shower when you have to wash your hair for a wedding. Stand outside shower, flip hair upside down and carefully stick head under water careful not to let water touch the rest of your body. Shampoo, conditioner, rinse. Wrap head in towel to avoid dripping. Get into shower. Get poof wet and soap body quickly. Rinse poof and use to rinse body without actually getting under water. Wrap self in towel. Wash face in sink. Forget shaving. Quickly get dressed. Luckily, the second day, the hot water was back and felt wonderful.
The night before the wedding, we went to the groom’s house. There was lots of whiskey (about 6 bottles between the five guys) and pizza. We watched the soccer match after his dad was finished watching a graphic program on TVAgro about the cow shit has on grass. Entertaining.
It is tradition in Colombia the night before the wedding for the man to pay a group of vallenato singers to serenade his fiancé as a surprise. This happens around midnight. We went to her house, met outside then burst in while they played loudly outside her bedroom door until she emerged in her pajamas with glasses and no make-up to a crowd of friends and strangers in the hallway. For the next two hours of so, the band played in the living room and the family passed food around. There was more whiskey.
The next morning it was raining, but Wilfredo and I took a taxi to the center of town and walked around the markets and the streets for a few hours.
In the central square, women sold corn to feed to the birds.
There was more than one llama.
A man made me a grasshopper out of a strand of long grass. I couldn’t take a lot of photos because it wasn’t a great idea to have my camera out all the time, but there was a lot of fascinating graffiti on the walls and interesting people!
We were going to go up 600 meters more to the highest point in Bogota, but when we got up high enough to the entrance to the cable car, I found it difficult to breathe and the man advised it was a bad idea until I was acclimatized to Bogota’s high altitude.
Later, we fell asleep and would have slept through the wedding if one of Wilfredo’s friends hadn’t knocked on the door 10 minutes before we had to leave. We rushed to get ready and slipped into the back of the church. I’ve only ever been to a Hindu wedding in London, so I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from a catholic Colombian wedding in a language I can only partially understand, but it was very pretty.
The reception followed for the next seven hours. Colombians love to party. There was more drinking, lots of food, cake, entertainers and plenty of dancing. When it came time to pass on the bride’s bouquet, I had to join the single girls. Instead of tossing the flowers, there are lots and lots of strings hanging down from the bouquet. The girls stand in a circle, each one takes a string. One is attached to the flowers. The bride drops it and whoever ends up with the bouquet, is said to be married next.
Then the single guys have a go. They stand in a circle around the bride who is sitting in a chair. They each take off a shoe and hide it under her dress. The blindfolded groom reaches under to hand the shoes back to their owners. Whoever is last is said to be married next. That person had to take the garter off the bride with his teeth.
The ride home took over two hours longer than the ride there. We passed through three huge storms with thunder, lightening, hail and blinding rain. Combine that with the dangerous mountain curves, the darkness of night setting in and no street lights and the blinding headlights of oncoming cars not to mention the fact that you’re so high up in the mountains that the clouds fall down onto foggy roads at night and you’re crawling along.But the long journey was well worth a fun weekend!