Friday, September 7, 2012

Bob Takes a Bicicyle Tour of Downtown Bogotá

Day Dos of La Gran Aventura Colombiana.  (I now know how to spell "aventura.'  No "d" before the "v." It's like I'm mastering the language 35 years after Spanish IV with Mr. Kalivoda.) Today was the day for the Bike Tour of downtown Bogotá.
Bob en la bicicleta
That's me with an actual bicicleta. I looked dressed for the Tour De France, or Tour De Colombia with my fleece pullover and blue jeans (strap on the right ankle to keep the cuff out of the chain).  Oh and the ever-cool bicycle helmet.  By the way, when did bicycle helmets take on the color scheme and appearance of Mexican wrestling masks?

I thought it was going to be an organized tour.  With a guide.  And with tremendous difficulty keeping up due to the elevation of Bogotá (about 8600 feet).  Yes.  I had pre-chosen that to be my excuse for my bicycling deficiencies.  Rejected excused included age, fatness, fitness and concern for the poor.

I arrived at the Bike Tour embarking station, with was a combination bike and book shop in the La Candelaria barrio of Bogotá.  This is the Old Town.  The historic district:
Streetscape in La Candelaria
See?  Narrow streets.  Low buildings.  If you look closely, you will see one of the "ghosts" of Candelaria:
A ghost of Candelaria
These are statutes places on the roofs of buildings of former residents of La Candelaria, some from the distant past, some from the recent past.  Who the gentleman is stitting stop this not-so-historic looking structure, I know not.  I could make up a story about this is the guy who ran a haberdashery until 1947, when he was crushed by a pineapple cart.  And you'd never know I made it up.  But isn't that what a lot of professional tourguides do?  Like on the Jungle Cruise at Disney?  This is the view eastward, up towards the Easter Cordillera that walls of Bogotá on the east:
Up the hill eastward. It'll be all right.
This is the beautiful Iglesia La Candelaria:
La Iglesia de Candelaria
I did not go in.  I was on a bicycle.  And churches tend to look askance at peddling down the center aisle.  Especially when you're shaming a great bicycling nation by peddling so slow it's a miracle you're remaining upright. On the left is another churchy-looking building:
Calle 11 in La Candelaria
 I don't think it's a church, though.  Let's take another look:
Calle 11: Look eastward, angel
It still looks great.  One of the more striking buildings in La Candelaria, in my opinion.  But that is not sufficient for the building to be accorded "iglesia" status, for those of hablo-ing en espanol.

Anyway, back to the Bike Tour.  It wasn't a Bike "Tour" per se, ipso facto, res ipsa loquitur.  It was a more of a bike "rental," as in:  Here's your bicycle.  Be back in three to five hours.  There were three others in the shop for the tour.  A couple from Colorado and a woman from El Salvador.  Off sprinted the Colorado couple at the opening gun.  Thank God I wasn't going to have to keep up people from the Fittest State in the Whole U.S.A.  And then I was left in the dust of the woman from El Salvador.  I was on my own.  A boy.  His bicycle.  And a very general sense of direction.

Not everyone in La Candelaria struggles with their bicycling:
The bike-riding fruit delivery people manage
 Although some apparently do:
On the streets of Candelaria
Going westward, downhill: sin problemas.  That direction led to the Plaza Bolivar and the Cathedral of Bogotá:
Cathedral of Bogotá

Plaza Bolivar
Plaza Bolivar, being close to the seat of government in Colombia, is well-known for being the go-to site for any large scale protests.  The place was lousy with pigeons.  Apparently these were pigeons from the Occupy Bogotá movement, protesting the lack of filth and vermin (other than said pigeons).  In fact, other than the pigeons of Plaza Bolivar, Bogotá is a bug-free and vermin-free town.  That alone moves it up the rankings in tourist destinations, in my book.

Sadly, not all bicycling can be downhill forever.  And eventually you have to start heading uphill.  I pointed the bicycle toward the mountains, heading to the Funicular Station that takes passengers to the top of Monserrate.  Traffic got a lot thicker in this part of town, as I was getting out of the Old Town La Candelaria and getting close to downtown, El Centro:
Lots of school children wandering La Candelaria.
I made it as far as Las Aguas Church: 
Las Aguas Church
You can see the cables for the cable cars that also go up the mountainside and, if you enlarge the photo, you can see Monserrate, gleaming white, perched high above the city.

At this point, my legs were hurting.  My lungs were hurting.  The traffic -- lots of it and none of it functioning in a very organized fashion -- was scaring the bejeezus out of me.  I hadn't gotten far enough from the bicycle shop to know how to get back quickly.

So I abandoned the three-hour tour after one-half hour.  I returned la bicicleta and walked La Candelaria for the rest of the afternoon.

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