Monday, 19 August 2013

Tour De Monserrate and La Piedra Del Peñol

In my first month here in Colombia I've been blessed to have been able to go some of the most beautiful elevated places I have ever been to in my life. The pursuit of these types of lookouts have always been a part of my life as I flock to rooftops in big cities like Toronto, or when I'm back in Vancouver there's nothing like relaxing on the Balcony way up there looking over the city at My Best friend Spence's Apartment. 

But I'll let Jean-Baptiste Clamence from Albert Camus' Novel "the  Fall" explain how I feel,

"Let’s pause on these heights. Now you understand what I meant when I spoke of aiming higher. I was talking, it so happens, of those supreme summits, the only places I can really live. Yes, I have never felt comfortable except in lofty places. Even in the details of daily life, I needed to feel above."

Now all that's left is for everyone back home to see this beauty....

Jah Bless
Jah Guide 
Jah Rule

Saturday, 17 August 2013

First Weeks in Bogota Pt 2

It's been almost 2 weeks since my last post but anyone who has ever been to the legendary Medellin will understand how a weekend trip can turn into almost a full week of travel. I just returned from my trip to the Feria De Los Flores and I think I found the city I would want to live in if I were to stay in Colombia long term. I will have to do a whole separate post on my experience there as there is so much to say about Medellin, but until then its back to Bogota.

I always end up in Mountain cities and I love it. The Views are Incredble 

As much as people here say they don't like Bogota, I feel a certain vibe in this city that is unique from any city I've ever been. Maybe I enjoy the controlled chaos of the Transmillenio, which is the strangest form of public transportation I have ever seen. For all my Vancouver people, it's run by a fleet of 99 B-line type buses that operate on their own lanes and have their own stations as if they are trains.
The fleet. I really shouldn't be taking these pictures. They warned me.
The Bus-Train stations. 2 sets of doors to enter the bus. Don't ask why.

For some reason most stations even have doors that slide open when a bus pulls up. Besides the apparent safety features, a lot of the stations I've been on have the whole route map scratched out so its a matter of guessing and hoping you catch a bus that will stop at the station you need. I think the people added this feature to make it easier to "spot the gringo". If your lucky enough to get on the correct bus and are heading to your destination you will still have to deal with the huge pot holes in the exclusive lanes that bring every bus to a slow crawl. Rick Ross should have changed his lyrics in Mafia music to "I'm dodging debacles like pot holes in Bogota".
Couldn't dodge this one. The potholes are seriously everywhere. 

With all that said The Transmillenio is really is the best way to get around in the city, but every time I ride it I really can't wrap my head around why they would build all the infrastructure needed for a metro system but opt out for a bus fleet as their main mode of transportation. And another Shout out to my Vancouver people complaining about the bus transfer tickets not working on the new SkyTrain ticketing system. I've twice been locked IN to a station (yes IN) where the only way I could leave was to pay for another ticket. I needed to buy a special card to leave as well, so instead I decided to get my Spanish sweet talking on and ask an older lady if she could load her card up for me. On top of that, every feeder bus is private and operates on their own fare system. One trip can cost me up to 5,000 Pesos!! That works out to only about $2.75 so I guess I have no right to complain.
I got on 3 buses later... Lucky I still have my phone. I shouldn't be taking these pictures.
Entrance to the underground Salt Cathedral 

To get away from the Hectic city we decided to take a trip outside of Bogota to the Underground Salt Cathedral which is about 40 minutes away from Bogota in Zipaquira. It is one of two Churches in the world that are built underground in a salt mine. The original sanctuary was built by the salt miners as a place where they could pray and ask for protection from the Saints before they started work. The present day construction starts off as a series of tunnels that show the 14 different stations of the cross under LED mood lighting which then leads to a temple that highlights the Birth, Life and Death of Jesus.

One of the 14 stations
I love the setting, my phone camera couldn't do it justice

Can't believe this is all built in a salt mine. 

One of 3 Sections at the temple in the end. 

Representation of the birth of Jesus.

Main alter in the old cathedral. 20+ meters high

It really is a marvel of human architectural accomplishments and the intimate walk through the mine put me in a place of reflection and slowed my mind down to a near meditative state at some points. The one thing that really stuck out to me among all this beauty is that they decided to have a Black Jesus on the cross. This is the first time I have seen such a depiction in a major Tourist area and I don't know if this is a common thought in Latin America but I definitely found it interesting.

Black Jesus, Only 2 years old.
Due to requests from either my extremely busy or just less-educated readers the next posts will have less writing. ;)

Jah Bless
Jah Guide
Jah Rule

Sunday, 4 August 2013

First Weeks in Bogota Pt 1

Beautiful Bogota: Surrounded by Mountains, Level with the Clouds
Welcome back! I have just finished my first official week of school and that marks 2 weeks of me being in Bogota. Now that I'm here, I am not at all surprised that Colombia is currently rated as having the happiest people on earth. They have been nothing but friendly and helpful towards me and have consistently gone out of their way to help me even if I insist I will be fine on my own. It was a bit overwhelming at first but I have gotten somewhat used to it thus far. It has definitely helped me make the transition out here as smooth as possible, and I feel like I experienced a bigger culture shock when I took the 3 hour drive to TRU. I have already fallen in love with the city, and besides it being surrounded by mountains, it has nothing else in common with Kamloops.

The first thing I noticed about this city is how "Alive" it is. And that might be attributed to the Avocado man who woke me up at 7:30 am Sunday morning screaming on his megaphone about all the different Avocados he has to offer. I swear I thought there was only one kind. But by no means is he alone. In my short 5 minute walk to the Bus to campus, I come across everything I could imagine being sold on the street. Oh, you forgot your belt in your rush getting dressed in the morning?(which I did ) The street vendors have you covered. Long night partying and forgot to charge your cell phone? For a few dimes I can borrow one of the 15 vendors cellphones I come across offering calls to all the carriers in Colombia. Hats? Check. Feats by Fre? Check. And a wide array of Colombian specific food like Arepas con huevos, tamal, and a whole bunch of fruits that I have never heard of and I'm going to have to work up the courage to try.
Yes, I know. This is a bus stop.
 Oh, but the fun doesn't stop there. Once I get to my bus stop I get bombarded by the Drivers "assistants" yelling at me, telling me where their bus is going. So once I find the bus I need to take, my next hope is that he will stop for me, which doesn't always happen so I have to revert to my passed life where I robbed banks and jump into a moving vehicle... only this time the driver decides to stop once I leave the ground and I end up running into the door! Not a single surprised look on any ones face. You gotta love Bogota.
If you want a ride, Hop In. 
The Beautiful La Sabana
Once I arrive to campus, it is a completely different atmosphere.  Once you pass the Security guards you see Long brick walkways which lead to the main buildings surrounded by well kept, empty fields. There are a few bridges on campus that lead you over the only bodies of water I have seen since I've been out here. One of the first things I noticed were the outdoor basketball courts with a set of pull-up bars right beside them. I now know how I will be spending a lot of my free time between classes. One day I went to go shoot around and they ended up having basketball tryouts for the university team. I wasn't expecting much but I definitely didn't expect it to be like the episode in Fresh Prince of Bel-air when Will started to play for his High school team. Although it definitely was one of my favorite episodes (video below). One thing I definitely was not ready for was the altitude. 8629 ft is no joke. All in all the level of talent was recognized, and some great opportunities came from that day which will be covered in a later post. 

Heading towards the Concert on Orientation Day

Part 2 will be coming soon which will include topics such as Nightlife in Bogota, our trip to the Underground Salt Cathedral in Zipaquira, and The Transmillenio, which is Bogotas "unique" way of dealing with Public Transit. 

Well I'm off, Its time for me to stop procrastinating and book my Flights this weekend to Medellin's best festival, the "Feria de Los Flores." I have to make up for missing Caribana and Center of Gravity for another year Somehow! 

Jah Bless
Jah Guide
Jah Rule