Bogotá pt. 2

March 3, 2017

The second half of my stay here in Bogotá was so much better than the first half. I feel that I grew emotionally and physically this month, and even though it was challenging at times, I became so much stronger because of it. It didn’t hurt either that it was packed with some of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done. This journey is a constant reminder of how much natural beauty I get to experience in the world. On weekends in Bogotá, I was often finding myself getting out of the city and becoming engulfed by nature. I find it refreshing to switch off completely from the real world to recharge, especially since my brain is constantly stimulated with newness.

Quebrada La Vieja is a popular hike right here in Bogotá. If you like hiking, getting in touch with nature, or just want to disconnect from the city for a little while, you can’t miss this trail. It is located at the foothills of the north-eastern hills of Bogotá, right in the Rosales area. It’s filled with a zen eucalyptus forest, tropical ferns, pines, fleeing birds, and a never ending ascending stone path. You have to get up at 6:00 am to start the hike because it’s only open until 10 am, but Bogotá views from the summit are breathtaking. During the hike, a few of us got separated from the rest of the group and went an alternate route. I am so glad we did because the new trail brought us through a unique section carpeted in pines that we named the Sherwood Forest.

My second favorite hike this month was to La Chorrera waterfall, near Choachí, to the east of the Colombian capital. I spent the day doing this hike with some friends, and it was genuinely one of the most enjoyable day trips I’ve ever done. In the morning, we thought we would save time by taking a car to the trailhead instead of a bus, but because of an accident, we ended up on a dirt road the entire commute (2 hours out of the way). The route took us through pretty páramo scenery, small local farms, and, further on, into the beginning of the cloud forest. It was all our first time seeing the countryside and we weren’t mad about the long, bumpy road the way in. The entire trail passes through the mystic cloud forest, filled with orchids, bromeliads, cows, and hundreds of species of birds. This kind of environment never ceases to amaze me; the sheer scale of life is phenomenal. The lower falls, Cascada La Chorrera, is one of the tallest waterfalls in Colombia with a 2,000 ft. drop at 8,000 ft. elevation. Swimming in the ice cold water after the hike and feeling the strength of the water run over me was so empowering!

My absolute favorite hike was in Chingaza National Park located in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes, northeast of Bogotá. The park is surrounded by an incredibly unique páramo ecosystem of Colombia. Páramos are found in the northern Andes, located above the treeline, but below the permanent snow line in tropical climates. They are some of the fastest evolving regions on earth. It is filled with lush vegetation, flora, and fauna. At times, it feels like you are walking on another planet. The 200,000 acre park rests at 12,000 ft. with some peaks over 13,000 so it was challenging breathing through some of the inclines. Chingaza has about 40 natural glacial lakes overall. We hiked to the Siecha Lakes, a group of three lakes near the Guasca entrance.

The adventure to Chingaza began as I was mildly buzzed at a friend’s gnocchi dinner party. A few others and I decided we were going to get up early in the morning and trek out to the park, even though we didn’t have entrance permits. It was hard to find information online about the journey, and we didn’t have a tour guide that we heard was required to get in, so we decided to figure it out on our own. At 6:30 am, we took a car to Guasca, a town neighboring the park and ran into some other hikers from the Netherlands that also were heading to Chingaza. They flagged down a truck and we eagerly jumped in the bed and traveled down a bumpy dirt road for 45-minutes to the entrance. After our hike, we walked back down to the entrance and waited until we could hail down another local to take us back to town. This time, we jumped in a bright orange jeep that was probably an original production from the 1940’s that dropped us off at the bus stop to get back home. The whole day was a beautiful reminder that the best adventures are ones that are made on the spot without much planning all while surrounded by wonderful, positive people.

  On top of the hikes, another highlight of the second leg of the month was going on the incredible graffiti tour. All around you, the streets are covered with vast murals of symbolic graffiti. The carefully curated tour taught you about Dj LuAPC (Animal Poder Crew)Kiptoe, and other famous street artists. Each mural is layered not only with paint but with stories of history, corruption, and optimism. The whole community is respectful of the collaboration making it a must-see if you are traveling here!

I drank some delicious cups of coffee this month. Surprisingly, a good cup of coffee is difficult to find here because they export most of their beans. I did find a few places that I absolutely loved like Bourbon Coffee Roasters, Azahar CoffeeCafé Cultor, and Papaya Gourmet. I was impressed that they all had excellent brewing processes and beans sourced from some of the most socially sustainable quality farms in Colombia.

Big shock here that I also ate some more fabulous meals! Hands down, the best meal I had here was at Mini-Mal. The menu features dishes from the Pacific coast of Colombia and the Amazon that are more flavorful and adventurous than any of the traditional Colombian restaurants I have tried. Another favorite, Black Bear, used innovative, high-quality ingredients in their dishes and cocktails. Callao had excellent Peruvian food that was simple and delicious. And finally, I recommend going to Osaki for sushi. My favorite place for drinks was the Apache Bar at the Click Clack Hotel. It had such a cool western, Ace Hotel vibe to it.

Bogotá has been absolutely incredible and will always hold a special place in my heart! ❤️

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