May Day in Bogota
I saw this G.K. Chesterton quote last night: “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”
So far, Chris and I have seen things that we could have never expected, but wouldn’t want it any other way.
Our first day in Bogota and we’ve. been greeted with rain and by hundreds of police officers in riot gear and thousands of people gathering in the Plaza Bolivar for the annual May Day parade, a gathering of leftists of all kinds. The Lonely Planet guide says, “Don’t tell mom if you’re attending this one.”
It is a bit chaotic, to be sure. The military has rolled in with their huge tanks equipped with water cannons to spray the crowd should things turn ugly, but so far, it’s been pretty peaceful. There was a tense moment where I was ready to duck behind a truck when a group of people were running through the street being chased by motorcycle cops.
On top of May Day, it’s also the Colombian Labor Day, so people are lobbying for higher salaries. All worthy causes, to be sure, but this also means that everything is closed today. Chris and I had grand plans to hit a few of the museums with a Brazilian couple, Geiza and Paulo. Everything is closed.
We did manage to find a cafe serving a local specialty: Chocolate Santaferena–hot chocolate served with chunks of cheese at the bottom. Geiza let me sample her aguapanela, which is raw, unrefined cane sugar cooked in boiling water. Tasty.
Even though our plans have changed because of the holiday, it’s definitely a good thing. We’re just chillin’ and taking things slow, which is great because the altitude is giving me a slight headache.
In just a short few hours, we’ve already made many new friends, and I’ve even reconnected with someone I met three years ago in Morocco.
We were supposed to have been staying in the same hostel, but when we arrived last night, the hostel was full and they sent us over to their more upscale hotel called Casa Platypus. But they are charging us the hostel price.
Anyway, when we got up this morning, we had to go back over to the hostel to pay a bill, and a woman sitting in the lobby asked if we were looking for Matt. She recogized me from my Facebook profile pic apparently. Matt was still asleep after staying out all night, she told us. When we returned at lunchtime, he had just gotten up, but enthusiastically embraced the idea of going to lunch.
A group of six of us shared lunch and horrendous travel stories about people getting robbed or stabbed. “Why do we travel then?” I asked. The resounding answer was that the reward is greater than the risk.
There’s nowhere that you can feel that more than in Colombia. “This is my favorite country,” Matt says. “I love it here.” This coming from a man who stepped through a puddle of blood on the way back to the hostel last night–thankfully not his own.