Bogota, Colombia 2017 Part 2

Bogota Street Art

Continued from Part 1

 

The best way I know how to take in a new city is by wandering.

Bogota is quite vibrant and there is an energy to it that makes you feel like you are walking through a movie - incredible murals are dotted throughout the city, dancers perform in the malls and public thoroughfares, people swarm every which way through the streets. Angelica and I walked and talked, stopping to observe a little here and there, but mostly talking.

We stopped a while at Bogota Beer Company and tried a few beers, which I think make the best beers in Colombia (but that is another post). We were joined by a frind of Angelica’s before heading off to another bar and meeting more, then finished the night at a party where I met more of her friends, including a number of French expats who are part of a growing community here.

Bogota Book Fair 2017The following day, we went to the Book Fair of Bogota (FILBO). When Angelica suggested it, I thought it would be an interesting way to get a feel for the culture of Bogota. Filbo is a massive event consuming the entirety of the convention grounds – 8 multilevel warehouses, each themed – and it was filled with people of all ages. We were met by some of Angelica’s friends and spent the afternoon and evening wandering the event. It was a bibliophile and pop-culturist’s paradise. Everywhere there was something to catch the eye – second hand books, new editions, hardcovers, mass publications, textbooks, comics, art and artisanal products, government and educational displays, foundations and more. The sheer variety and volume of the fair was more than I expected, and far more diverse than anything I’ve seen in Australia. I think most of Bogotano society were reflected here and proudly.

Once again I learned the lesson of my travels: Homogeneity of culture is a strange fantasy we indulge in; we are and always have been a collective of disparate and diverse people finding a consensus we call society.

Usaquien, Street PerformanceMy final day in Bogota was spent visiting the markets of Usaquien. Usaquien was once a separate pueblo, but has been absorbed into Bogota as it grew. It is a beautiful part of the city, and the markets are part bric-a-brac and part artisanal. Another friend was meeting us here, so we went for coffee. At this coffee shop, I introduced Angelica to one of the great Australian cultural practices – The Tim Tam slam! She adored it, and why shouldn’t she? It’s great.

Amistad, ColombiaThe rest of the day was spent walking the markets and talking, sharing a wonderful day. Towards the evening we stopped at ‘London Calling Pub’ for a quick bevy, where they had Cooper’s Pale Ale, a beer from Adelaide. So, I introduced my friends to a South Australian beer, which they enjoyed. Coopers is a very different style of beer to what is normally drunk in Colombia.

It may not seem like I did very much in my days. I could have hit the clubs, explored the gastronomy, run around the city like mad man trying to see all the sights listed on Trip Advisor, but that’s just not my way. These few days were me living a non-romantic version of Before Sunrise (1995), which is my favourite way to explore – gentle meanderings through the unknown, learning through the lens of another.

Bogota, Colombia 2017, Part 1

Bogota, ChichaColombia is a fascinating place, and Bogota (the capital) is no exception. I arrived late on Friday night after four flights and having my luggage routed to LA instead of with my flight to Houston and the paperwork associated with that. Needless to say I was pretty exhausted. I’d booked an Airbnb and was so thankful that they were so accommodating. Taxis and Uber make the city easy to get around, if you can find one (not a problem at the airport).

JugglerOn Saturday I did what I love to do when visiting a new city, take a free walking tour. I used Beyond Colombia and we met at the Museo de Oro in the Candelaria district at 10am. There were around 15 of us, and our guide Angelica meandered the streets, explaining various sights in the city. The city is a strange melting pot of heritage from the colonial to the modern day, many of the streets and buildings have a tale to tell, whether of conquest, protest, revolution, liberation, corruption, change and all the blood that flows between. Like most places in the developing world, Bogota is a city that has been many things and is still figuring out its future. I thoroughly recommend taking the tour, and listening to a Bogotano tell you their story.

By PedroDiazS (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsA few highlights of the tour was stopping at a café near Chorro de Quivado (The original site of Bogota) for some Bogotano Chicha, which was a nice if slightly sour fruity drink made from corn. Visiting the Casa de Moneda/Museo Botero buildings briefly and seeing a piece of art by Botero which many believe has a double meaning (possibly triple) depending on the angle you view it. And then there are the hidden statues by Jorge Olava in the Candelaria that you have to be looking for to notice them such as the juggler, the shoe shiner, the soldier, the fishing boy, and more.

After the walk I met the reason I was actually staying in Bogota, my friend Angelica. We had met years earlier on my previous trip to Colombia, where we had developed the start of a friendship, and we had arranged to meet again and hang out.

We took my guide from Beyond Colombia and visited one of the best cafes I have been to in South America, Amor Patrio. This little café hidden on the first floor of an unassuming building in La Candelaria is an expression of love for coffee, books. The staff here are so passionate about coffee that they offer most preparations as well as a great range of beautifully roasted Colombian beans and more than happy to talk about the qualities of all of them. We chose to have a Single Origin Santander Ibrik (a Turkish preparation).

Amor PatrioThe coffee was prepared in front of us, with a staff member explaining the equipment, ingredients and a little of the history of the preparation. It was almost performance art, as they gracefully prepared the coffee for us.  Which is why, this is the café I recommend coffee lovers to visit during their stay.

We stayed here for an hour or so enjoying our coffee, the atmosphere and talking before heading out to wander the city.
Continued in Part 2

Utah - The Great Outdoors part one

Zion National Park, Utah

Utah is beautiful. To properly explore this area you would need months, even years to do it justice, and my friend Danielle has been doing just that. She is an avid camper and hiker and explores when she can. On this trip she offered to take us camping, the hardest decision of which is which gorgeous place to choose from? Utah is like a top class buffet of nature, with a large amount of land set aside for public use. There are the Canyonlands, The Arches, Escalante, and more, literally thousands of square kilometers of options. We settled for a quick taster through the south of Utah including Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, and whatever else we saw along the way.

At every park you visit, the rangers will provide a colour brochure with some information and at the larger parks a seasonal broadsheet with extra information including special events and more detailed information regarding activities. I recommend that you visit the visitors centres for any further information as the staff are more than happy to help you enjoy the areas. A word of note though, there can be a large line of people in peak season at the larger parks. Also, it is very hard to take a bad picture, it is so very photogenic. Be sure to click on one of the thumbnails and go through the gallery.

Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park, UtahZion National Park is located where the Colorado Plateau, Great basin and Mojave Desert meet, and has four separate habitats. The primary feature of the park is the Canyon stretching for 24 kilometres.

Zion Canyon has several options for accommodation including two campgrounds and the Lodge. The campgrounds have good facilities although there are no showers, each site is sizeable enough for a car or small campervan, a tent and fire pit. The watchman campground can be booked up to six months in advance ($16-$20) but the South Campground ($16) is first come first serve. If you don’t want to stay in the park there are quite a few other options outside the park at Springdale or Rockville.

There are 18 trails listed for the park, 15 of which are located in the canyon area. Zion canyon gets so busy that between April and October they restrict private vehicles from the scenic drive and provide a shuttle bus instead. Check the guide that is provided to you for service start and finish times. Most of the shuttle stops have access to drinking water and toilets. The scenic drive is around 12 kilometres long from the Visitor centre to Temple of Sinawava.

The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

As we were only staying one night here, we opted to begin at the end of the Canyon with The Temple of Sinawava and The Narrows. This is actually two walks combined, the Riverside (3.5kms round) and Narrows (11kms round) Walks. The Riverside walk is an easy trail with wheelchair access, a broad trail is has easy for all ages to walk, taking you beside the river between majestic cliff faces. At the end the gorge opens up slightly for the temple then continues onward through the narrows. The Narrows is a river walk where you wade through the river, the depth of which varies from ankle to thigh deep. The river bottom is also variable with areas of smooth sand and small pebbles to large submerged rocks. The Narrows is considered a strenuous walk which also has a range of advice to go with it. Check with the visitors centre for weather conditions before this hike. Danielle told me that there is another way to see the Narrows which is approaching it from the other end via the Subway. Which I think I may have to return for.

The Grotto to Emerald Pools, Zion National Park, UtahWe also walked the trail from The Grotto through the Emerald Pools (6.7kms linear). The first half of the trail is listed as a moderate with the final 2kms an easy paved trail. The trail from the Grotto takes you on a relatively gentle uphill before flattening out and providing an excellent view of the canyon. After 1 1/2kms the trail splits between the upper and lower Emerald pools. The upper pools provide an excellent place to relax, nestled in a lightly forested nook the pool sits at the bottom of a sheer cliff face. Walking to the lower pool requires a steep descent but is a good trail which curves around under a ledge with a small waterfall that feeds the pools. The final decent is very easy.

Zion is a beautiful place with many activities for people including hiking, canyoneering, horse riding and mountain climbing. Two or three nights should be plenty to explore the park, and if you want there is a backpacking hike available by permit.

 

Emerald Pools, Zion National Park, UtahZion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

Willis Creek, Grand Escalante Staircase State Park, Utah

Also in Southern Utah is the Grand Escalante Staircase, a national monument located next to Bryce Canyon. The staircase offers an incredible view of the geological stratification of the area, and is considered to be one of the most comprehensive open stratifications on Earth. A vast area, it was the last location mapped in the US and was declared a nation monument in 1996. Scientists of numerous fields utilise the area for research including studies of bees and pollination in desert environments to NASA searching for water on Mars. There a dozens of opportunities to explore and appreciate the Staircase, depending upon the direction you approach it.

Willis Creek, Grand Escalante Staircase State Park, UtahWe stopped off at a ranger’s station in Cannonville, on the north eastern edge of the Staircase, to see if there was anything in the area we could explore in a few hours before we drove north. We were told about Willis Creek, a narrow and shallow slot canyon that has been carved into the desert. Willis is a series of five slots that are quite beautiful to behold, smooth rock faces reaching twenty metres or more above the creek that formed them. Canyons are beautiful and often grand; slot canyons are subtle in comparison.  For the most part you are up close to the rock and walking in the river or creek as it carves out potential future notoriety. It was an excellent diversion and quite refreshing to experience the subtle beauty of nature after the grandeur of others.

Continued in part two

 

 

Willis Creek, Grand Escalante Staircase State Park, UtahOther USA Articles

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Colorado - The Great Outdoors

American Conservation Experience - Catalina Island

Catalina Island - USC Indigenous Food Experience

Salt Lake City

Utah – Food & Liquor in the Land of Purity

Utah - The Great Outdoors part two

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