Cows, coal and Ciclovia – the road to Bogota

31st Aug – 12th Sept: We`ve been in Bogota over a week now hanging out and trying to get to know this city of eight million people. At 2,625 metres above sea level Bogota is the third highest capital in the Americas (after La Paz and Quito) and at times, riding and walking up and down hills our lungs are definitely feeling the strain!

Bogota is flanked to the east and west by mountains, and we are staying in the north-east with our generous and very tolerant Warmshowers host: Francisco.

Bogota is growing on us. It’s big, smelly and can be dangerous – but it`s also vibrant, beautiful and full of secrets to uncover.

Here are the pics from Villa de Leyva to the capital.

A typical carb-filled lunch in Chiquinquira. For between two and four quid you usually get soup to start, then a plate of meat with at least two carbohydrates (often up to four: yuca, potato, rice, pasta!!), and a juice. This one was a particularly delicous one, apart from the sloppy bits of pig skin we found floating in the soup...

The windy plaza in Chiquinquira

Breakfast in Capellania - this lady cooked us up an eggy storm, served with steaming hot chocolate and stale-ish, sweet bread (made edible by liberal dipping into aforementioned hot chocolate!)

Cow country - the high valley that we followed after Chiquinquira was full of cows. And where there´s cows there`s plenty of cheese to be found at little shops on the side of the road, plus delicious condensed milk sweets mixed with panela (a personal favourite of mine)

Climbing up to the 3,000 metre pass just before Zipaquira.

The dusty town at the top of the pass. Around these parts there are a lot of coal mining operations, and in the town several brickwork factories were grinding away pumping smoke up into the cold, clear atmosphere.

Cows and coal smoke!

After the pass we enjoyed a chilly but thrilling downhill descent to Zipaquira. On the way down we were going so fast that we overtook two dawdling trucks! Then we hit a proper cycle path that tracked the side of the highway. A very welcome break from battling with the traffic.

We stayed for a few nights just outside Bogota at the home of Gabriel and his wonderful, welcoming family. They live up one of the steepest hills we have ever encountered - at nearly 3,000 metres it was a lung buster to get up there, AND we were doing it without panniers!

We timed our arrival in Bogota for Sunday morning to coincide with Ciclovia. Every Sunday from 7am-2pm 120km of the city´s roadways are closed off to traffic and given over to cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, etc. Ciclovia has been going since 1975 and the frankly brilliant idea has been repeated all over the world - notably not in the UK though...

Plaza Bolivar in central Bogota

The Candelaria - colonial central district of Bogota

There are statues dotted around the rooftops of the Candelaria representing images to celebrate local working life. I´m not sure what this guy is doing... The imposing edifice of Monserrate is in the background. The church and mountain provide a useful navigation point for knowing where you are in Eastern Bogota.

In the Museo Botero. Botero is a Colombian artist known for his depictions of fatties in his paintings and sculptures. Here´s fat Mona Lisa!

Face to face with the fatest cat in Colombia!

The Gold Museum has the largest collection of pre-Hispanic gold in the world - all of the pieces managed to escape the rapacious greed of the Spanish conquistadors and avoid being melted down. A well-known legend from the Bogota area is that of the Muisca people who used to throw ornate gold pendants and idols into the nearby lake of Guatavita in tribute to the god that lived there. The Spanish heard about this and felt that they may have found a watery El Dorado. Many efforts were made to uncover the treasures in the lake - it has been drained several times but revealed very little of the legendary gold lurking in the depths. In the 1960s the Colombian authorities banned any more efforts to search for fortune. Seems like the lake god may have had the last laugh!

Graffiti in the Candelaria

Rooftop antics, another green man.

Another Sunday, another chance to enjoy Ciclovia. This time with our lovely new friends Magne, Francisco and Ardi.

Cyclists aren´t the only ones to enjoy Ciclovia - Cumbia came out for a lollop along the quiet roads as well!

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