This was our first clear view of Colombia, as we approached the airport at Bogota on Feb. 13. Although the city is on flat terrain, there are mountains not far to the east. The elevation is 8,600 feet! It was even higher when we rode a cable car to Montserrat later in the visit.

Our first three nights in Colombia were in Bogota, in a neighborhood quite far from downtown, but convenient to the bus terminal and the airport. Above on the left is only one-half of the street we're staying on -- Avenida Boyaca. It wasn't quiet, even from the 11th floor apartment where we were staying. It was an immaculate place, but small, with a tiny bedroom and our own bathroom. Our Air BnB host was Kylie Spivak. She was terrific, and we'll be back.

Kylie, our cheery AirBnB host in Bogota, tries to include Barbara in the photo.

On our first day, Tuesday Feb. 14, we walked to the bus terminal, bought tickets a couple of days in advance for our next destination (Socorro, Santander) and then took a city bus downtown. That was a 45 minute ride, an experience in itself. Downtown Bogota, what we saw of it, is nice, but there's no getting around the fact that this is a BIG city, and I (Wally) get cranky when I don't know where I am, where I'm going, or how to get there! Nevertheless, we found our way around. 

The old grey-haired guy in the crowd is me (I). 

Parque de los Periodistas (Journalists' Park) 

Street sales

We visited the famous Museo de Oro, and while it was beautifully done, it was still a museum. The pre-Colombian figurine above, though ceramic, not gold, was Barbara's favorite.

These guys are selling something, but business must be slow since they're playing chess.

We had deep-fried empanadas for a snack on our first day of wandering in the city,
and they were hot and greasy, with an array of sauces that made them tasty.

Wednesday, Feb. 15, was our second full day in Bogota, and it turned out better than the first. Again we started with the long bus ride downtown. At 10 a.m. we joined Bogota’s street art tour -- murals and other wall decorations created by constantly-changing crews of artists who take their work seriously and are now being taken seriously in the art world, at least in Bogota and a few other world cities. The tour guide, Jay, was a Colombian who lived for years in New York and spoke English fluently. Though not an artist himself, he was certainly a knowledgeable enthusiast, and he also talked a bit about recent Colombian history and politics. Here is a selection of some of the remarkable street art we saw on the tour:

Look carefully: Part of the cat's face is painted on a power-pole,
and you must stand in just the right place to see it properly. 

Some of the street art is sculpture in the air -- on roofs or balconies -- like the juggler on a unicycle.

Jay, our guide, was informative about both urban art and Colombian politics.
Some of the murals and graffiti are political, and our guide Jay also talked about the U.S.-Funded "PLAN Colombia." He said the U.S. helped finance operations to destroy drug crops and eliminate drug criminals and terrorists (or rebels, depending where your sympathies lie.) Jay claimed that, among other things, PLAN Colombia funded bounties to the army for killing drug criminals and terrorists. He said soldiers sometimes abducted drunks or homeless people, took them into the countryside, shot them, and planted evidence that they were guerrillas. These were the so-called “false positives." (Later, we heard confirmation of "false positives" from other people, but nothing about pressure or funding directly from PLAN Colombia. Of course the army needed to show that its anti-drug, anti-terrorist measures were effective, and "body counts" may have been useful.) About the peace process, Jay said that those who voted NO in the national plebiscite were not against peace, far from it, but they could not accept the terms of the particular agreement, which many felt was too easy on the former war criminals.

After the tour, one of the first things we did was buy some salpicon, a delicious mixture of fruits and juices.

Barb asked the nice lady from whom we bought salpicon if we could take a photo. She said fine, 
then had her daughter take another photo of all three of us.

We had lunch at a little arepa stall (above) in a market, and then we walked up past the university to the cable car that ascends to Montserrat. Montserrat is a mirador complete with a large Catholic church, gardens, and spectacular views. Our ears popped on the way up, we were probably over 9,000 feet, and it was quite beautiful. We were also fairly lucky with the weather. It wasn’t crystal clear, but the visibility was still good and there was sunshine -- never guaranteed in Bogota.

Starting up

Getting higher

Nearly to the top!
High above it all

Back at ground level -- Bogota ground level that is -- 8600'

Going back to Kylie's apartment, we finally landed a taxi whose driver actually knew where we were going and how to get there. We made it on the meter for just 12,000 pesos, around $4, which is darned good for quite a long drive In the evening we had packing to do in order to leave the next morning for Socorro.