Bogotá is a place that fellow travellers had little to say about. Sort of a necessary stopping point with not much to offer. Our opinion didn't stray far from the general consensus, though it wasn't completely devoid of charm or attractions.
We got into our hostel and were told our first night would actually be in their apartment around the corner, in a twin room not a double, then move back to the hostel the next day. Normally this wouldn't be such an issue but with Lindsay still hurting from the bridge jump it wasn't particularly convenient lugging packs back and forth.
We had arrived in the evening on a Sunday, and found few places open for dinner. We ended up at a trendy little place and after the only other party left we had our own private entertainment serenading us for the rest of our meal.
We booked in for a bike tour on the Monday, which was the only thing we had heard was decent to do in Bogotá. Unfortunately we just did the one the hostel was affiliated with, not knowing there was more than one (with very similar names). While our guide seemed passionate about his work and his city, the tour was still quite uninspiring. Perhaps the other tour would have been better (it was certainly more popular), or perhaps that's just how we felt about Bogotá in general. Their flyer was certainly inaccurate in its description of the quality of their equipment.
Our tour started at Plazoleta del Rosario, filled with middle aged men with calculators. This is the cheapest place in the world to buy emeralds. The men are trading and selling emeralds, which has been taking place in this square for longer than any of them can remember. We were able to have a look at some rough emeralds as well as cut emeralds.
From there we had a look at Plaza de Bolivar, the main square of Bogotá, surrounded by government and justice buildings. Simon Bolivar, the hero of Colombia, graced the centre of the plaza, flanked by masses of pigeons and people selling things.
We moved on, along Bogotá's surprisingly numerous bike paths snacking on fruit and checking out some of the street art. There were 3 works of particular interest. One was a huge mural of a couple kissing. This was a reproduction of a photo that had been published in a newspaper, of a homeless couple in an embrace on the pavement that many regarded as an important symbol of love having no boundaries.
Another was two pictures of the same man. One of him as a healthy young adult, and another a little later in life after he had become addicted to drugs and homeless. This was a tribute to the man who had been burned alive in what was believed to have been a racially motivated attack.
Lastly was a picture of Jaime Garzón, a comedian who had a TV show, and had based his acts on politics and corruption during a tumultuous time in Colombia. He was assassinated having obviously upset the wrong people.
We also visited the bull fighting arena, outside which a peaceful protest was being staged by bull fighters and former employees of the stadium. They were holding a hunger strike to protest the stadium having been closed since the Mayor decided to outlaw bull fighting in Bogotá (anywhere else in the country is still ok). The protesters were fighting to keep it running as an important cultural event, and obviously for their own employment.
At a local coffee company we were invited in to have a look at their roasting process, then were able to enjoy a coffee in their café, though it wasn't the best coffee. Then, after a 3 or so hour circuit, the tour concluded.
After returning to the hostel, when we were able to check into our next room, we walked around town for a while and had some lunch. The old town of Bogotá was at least picturesque against the blue skies. We returned to Plaza de Bolivar, and went in search of the changing of the guards which our bike tour guide had said happens at about 4.30pm.
Some of the streets were blocked off around the government buildings with military conducting bag searches in some areas, which we think was due to some important visitors, but we just couldn't find this changing of the guard. After asking some military personnel we discovered it only takes place on certain days, Sundays and perhaps Wednesdays or Thursdays, they didn't seem too sure. So, it was a bit of a waste of an afternoon!