After checking in, we grabbed a quick coffee in the Sheraton lounge before meeting the driver we had arranged to take us on a day-long trip around the highlights of Bogotá. He showed up on time, wearing a suit, and the car was clean despite not having functional seatbelts. His English was excellent, however, which added to how much we got out of the tour. The first stop was the nearly one hour drive north of Bogotá to see the town of Zipaquira and the salt cathedral that was built there.
Zipaquira is a functioning salt mine, and the miners had built this cathedral underground as a place to pray for their safety and such. There were some quite obtuse “stations of the cross” at the beginning, and the actual cathedral further in. We had paid for the mine entrance plus the “Miners Route” tour. One word of advice – skip the miners route. All it is is fumbling around in the dark and pretending you’re a miner – pretty lame and a waste of 30 minutes. The cathedral was awesome to see, however.
We grabbed a quick snack outside the mine at Arepa’s World and had a couple of tasty arepas before heading back into Bogotá to take the funicular up the Cerro de Monserrate mountain.
Unfortunately when we got there the funicular wasn’t running, but there was a cable car we were able to take to the top, which I believe was more than 10,000 feet above sea level and it was freezing up there. The view of Bogotá, however, was awesome, but we didn’t stay too long.
After Monserrate we headed to the Candelaria district and saw the Botero Museum. I’m not quite sure what this guy’s deal with, but he had an absolute obsession with painting fat people. It was rather strange, but pretty unique. All the works in the museum are donated from his personal collection, and included mostly his own work but also several Picassos, etc.
After the museum we wandered around the Candelaria neighbourhood looking at the bright old houses, the Plaza de Bolivar, the Supreme Court and the Cathedral.
It was around 5pm by this point, so we headed back to the hotel to rest up for an hour before the evening’s high (or low) light, depending how you look at it. A few different people had told me when I told them we were going to Bogotá that if possible we absolutely had to have dinner at Andre’s Carne de Res in the town of Chia. It had been described to me as some combo of Chuck-e-Cheese meets the Circus meets spring break in Cancun – and it didn’t disappoint.
We got there, and the walls of the place were absolutely covered with every sort of recycled junk you could think of. We started with a couple of mojitos which were actually served in bowls, and contained an exactly promised 174ml of rum – I believe that made them something like quadruples, but after the second one we definitely lost count. The food was so-so with some good grilled meats, but the highlight was definitely the wait staff, who traveled around the restaurant singing, dancing, and generally embarassing people. We ended up with some strange “gifts” from them to take home, and the evening was definitely unusual!
Fortunately we didn’t need to get up too early the next morning to catch our flight to Panamá, because it was a pretty rough morning after a couple mojitos and late night. Check-in in Bogotá made absolutely no sense, having to go from counter to counter to get some sort of tax exemption stamp before heading to finally get your boarding pass. Through immigration and security with no drama, we decided to hang out in the Avianca Sala VIP lounge. COPA offered us passes to the American Airlines club, but given the sorry state of most U.S. airline lounges we skipped it.
COPA Flight 196 Bogotá, Colombia to Panamá City, Panamá
Depart 12:26, Arrive 14:04
Boeing 737-700, Registration HP-1379CMP, Manufactured 2002
Seats 1A and 1B
The lunch on the flight started with what was billed as “warm nuts” but was really just a foil packet of mixed nuts. The meal was a choice of “lasagna” or a roast beef sandwich. I chose the lasagna, which was strange and nothing like lasagna. A few noodles, some sort of white goo and chicken strips, and that was a about all. Nothing to write home about at all – flight was on-time, and we were in Panamá ready for the next segment of the adventure!