It’s strange how one’s first impressions can be so different from what one expected. To be honest, I’m not too sure what I expected, so it can’t be that far off - but the Colombia I have experienced in the last 12 days has blown my mind!
The Colourful roads - traffic, graffiti vehicles, bicycles and other wheels
One of the most striking things are the roads. They are fully jam packed all the time with traffic. I don’t know why anyone uses a car on the road, its probably the slowest form of transport in the city. But the cars on the road are totally unlike those that I am used to. They are big, chunky, cowboy cars. I guess they are the kind of cars and trucks that you see in American movies, but it just feels different to see in real life.
All along the streets is beautiful graffiti. It makes for great viewing as you sit in traffic. Estie and I will definitely do a photography project on the graffiti around the town.
The Trans Milenio - basically an aboveground subway but made out of busses and dedicated bus lanes all through the city - is an awesome way to get around the city if its not also packed full of people. On Saturday we took the Trans Milenio for the first time. All of a sudden a bunch of people got on and started giving everyone hugs have sharing the message that “you are special”. It left us glowing all day with grins as wide as our ears.
But by far the best form of transport in this city is self-powered. Wheels of all sorts - bicycles, tricycles, skateboards, roller blades… even roller skates, are everywhere. The city has over 600km of bike lanes and actively promotes self-powered forms of transport.The sidewalks are great, there are convenient bridges over all the main roads to make crossing safe and easy.
And the Ciclovía! Every Sunday from 07:00 till 14:00 half of the main roads through the city are closed off to cars and only self-powered transport is allowed to be used. It’s and awesome excuse to get outdoors, in the city, and explore. And there are pitstop tents and bicycle workshops set up all along the roads too incase you get thirsty or need a bit of maintenance done.
People and Style
Colombians are incredibly friendly and good looking. They feel like a combination of the relaxed friendliness of South Africa and the image focused style of Korea. They are not shy to chat to you even if there is a bit of a language gap, and they are always happy to practice their English or help out with Spanish. Their friendly and open attitude is going to make getting into Spanish a lot easier than Korean was in Korea.
Food and street food
The food is also great! There are tons of fruit I have never tried before - and at a good price too! I’m going to be making a lot of smoothies this year! They eat a lot of meat and ground maize (similar to in South Africa) but with more BEANS. And there are tons of street vendors selling yummy empanadas, coffee, aromatic teas, and all sorts of other things.
There are loads of parks in the city. The first Sunday we visited Virrey Park and it was full with people doing all kinds of interesting stuff - Aerobatics from ribbons in the trees, slack lining, tai chi, picnics, gym-ing, and romancing. The parks are also great for drinking cheap Aguadiente between bars at night - the legality of public park drinking seems a bit blurred… And the biggest park in the city seems to be Simon Bolivar Park. We went there on Sunday and there were hundreds, no, thousands of people flying kites. There is a big lake in the middle where you can paddle a boat around, huge sand pits, and best of all in two weeks a free rock festival, “Rock al Parque”, which is said to draw over 400,000 people over the three days!
The latin rhythm of Colombia! Now I can’t dance, but the music here makes be think I can (or is that the Aguadiente and Ron?!)! It’s happy, its bouncy, and its sexy. We went to a Salsa club down town and had some of the most fun you can have with your clothes on - with some of the most happy and energetic people! Salsa is definitely something that I want to get into my bones this year.