Our final destination in Colombia, as well as the last destination of my six-month sabbatical, is Bogotá. During the drive to the hotel I notice that the city has a more European feel to it than the previous two Colombian cities I have visited. The buildings are more spread out, with modern designs of concrete or masonry. The flyovers resemble those on England's major motorways. Surrounding the city's vast industrial landscape are green mountains, and, since the weather is cool due to Bogotás high altitude, I am reminded of Vienna and the Alps.
However, the climate and surrounding landscape is where the similarities between the two cities end. In Bogatá I am struck by the lengths people go to in order to make a living. It is common in cities around the world for poor people to approach motorists and offer to wipe the windscreen of their cars. In Bogotá, however, once the traffic lights turn red three people rush to the middle of the road and climb on top of one another's shoulders while juggling flaming balls.
Despite some strange encounters, I decide in little time that Bogotá is one of the few places I have visited during my trip that I could live in if I knew the language. The city itself bursts with an incredible energy and there is just so much to do. On our first night we head out to a restaurant named Andres Carne de Res in an area called Chía. It may be the most exciting and different restaurant I have ever visited. Inside of a short, wooden barn-like building we make our way through narrow, corridors decorated with the most unusual things. At one point we pass through a barrier, very much like the ones in the Paris Metro, in order to get to the restaurant's main seating area, which is decorated with everything from potato crisp packets to beer bottles and beer mats. All of the tables are named - like pet rocks - and the waiters are required to be students. The salt and pepper shakers are supported by a tray suspended by a rope leaving it a few feet above our heads. In the middle of the room is a dance floor where performers dressed in 1970s attire lip-synch and do comedy routines whilst we munch on our delicious meals. My particular favourites are the sizzling steak as well as the tartare, which is served with a raw egg in the middle and accompanied by 20-some tiny plates of accoutrements.
The following day I wake up relatively early to visit Monserrate, a famous mountain located in Bogatá's city centre. The anomaly has become a tourist attraction and also serves as a destination for pilgrims who travel to the top by foot to visit the church there that was built in the 17th century. We, however, used the aerial tramway to reach its peak, 3,152m above sea level and admire the city below and the mountains beyond.
When evening arrives we stroll through Zona T, where many restaurants and cafes reside, and bars, shops and a casino stand nearby. After so many years of hearing that Colombia produces the world's best coffee, we find a perch on the terrace of a coffee shop called Juan Valdez, which belongs to a popular Colombian chain. Unlike Starbucks though, this place serves a cup of flat white that I will neither forget nor soon taste again.
Next week: Omar reflects on his six-month backpacking adventure