There are those times in life when the stars miraculously align and everything just seems to fall perfectly into place. As odd as it may seem, my stopover in Colombia was one of those exact moments.
When I had that mad moment in my hotel room in Manila and booked flights to Cuba, I’d had the choice of flying via Toronto, Madrid or Bogotá. Madrid was eliminated instantly (no passport stamp = no fun) and Toronto was eliminated by price (I’ll come for you another day Canada!) and so I was left with Colombia – awesome, a new country!
It was going to be a little tight. My stopover in Colombia from touchdown to departure was exactly five hours and four minutes. Factoring in outward and inward-bound immigration, I figured I had about three hours to play with. All of the online message boards strongly advised against leaving the airport but I had a plan and I was going for it.
As the plane touched down in Colombia, I was out of my seat like a shot, bag in hand and ready to go. I raced off the plane and made for immigration as fast as my little legs would carry me. It turned out to be rather unnecessary as there was no one there. I breezed through – only stopping for the immigration guy to try to redirect me back into the terminal but I was having none of that. Somewhat bemused, he stamped my passport and waved me on.
No bags for me, I flew out of arrivals and there I was. I was in Colombia. BAM.
I’d scribbled a few ideas of things to do on the back of a napkin while I’d been waiting in departures in London. I fished said napkin out of my bag and went to look for some taxis. The taxi drivers were not impressed with my plan.
“Candelaría where?” they asked. I was stumped. So it turns out Candelaría, the place I’d been so keen to visit, was in fact a district rather than a place. The sneaky fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia had failed me. Deflated like a popped balloon, I headed back inside arrivals in search of some locals for some suggestions. I asked the girls working at a snack counter for their thoughts; they simply laughed at me and told me to head for departures. It was then (and only then!) that I realised I’d forgotten two vital facts: 1. It was a Sunday and 2. It was 4am.
Who goes anywhere at 4am on a Sunday?
Well at least I’d tried, right? I was looking for departures when a lady approached me and asked if I was ok. I explained my aborted attempt to take on Colombia – she loved it. I couldn’t quite believe it as she introduced herself – Luz, a Spanish-English speaking translator and tour guide working for hotels in Bogotá guiding tourists around the city.
“Still want to go?” she asked. I could barely contain my excitement and simply stood there nodding. With that we were off! She called the car and off we went. Our condensed city tour took us into downtown Bogotá and straight towards the cobbled streets of Candelaría (which my laptop keeps desperately trying to autocorrect to ‘Candelabra’). It was ever so much fun; Luz and our driver Nicolas gave me a crash course in Colombian history as we wound through the streets, pausing every now and again for me to hop out and take pictures. We even stopped in this charming little hole-in-the-wall café on our way back to the airport for a spot of breakfast and some good coffee (little did I know that this would mark the beginning of my addiction to the stuff).
Admittedly, I don’t remember a lot of what I learnt, there was simply too much to take in all at once and the effect of two long haul flights in a 24-hour period was starting to take its toll – man, I was tired. However, of all the ways to spend a five hour stopover in Bogotá, this was without a doubt the best one!
If anyone reading this happens to find themselves pondering whether or not to leave the airport in Bogotá, I would highly advise you to do so if the timing works. Do bear in mind that the traffic is terrible so factor this into your plans – for that reason, arriving at crazy hours is even better.
If you’re heading for Bogotá and fancy a tour of the city, I’d highly recommend giving Luz a ring (details below). She offers tours to fit all time frames and budgets and was an absolute star.
*Luz Amparo Moncada
EMAIL: email@example.com MOB: 311 271 9604 WHATSAPP: 310 275 7515