Amy, our in-house graphic designer is spending a year traveling the world. In Colombia, we sent her on a luxury Bogota city tour.
On January 1st, I started a journey with Remote Year where, along with 79 other people, we will spend one month living in a different city starting in Mexico City and ending the year in Cambodia. We will live, work, and travel together for 365 days. Needless to say, there are not too many times when you’re alone. When I got the opportunity to go on a private Bogota city tour with a top-notch Ker & Downey guide, I jumped at the chance. I had already done two bicycle city tours, and while I thought it was a great way to see different parts of the city, trying to listen to the one tour guide amongst 15 other people, was a challenge. Bogota’s turbulent past is complex and fascinating, and with the recent signing of the peace agreement between the government and the FARC, it’s a historical time to be in the country’s capital.
Eager to get out and explore, I was met by my private guide, Rodrigo, who knew me by name and greeted me with a warm and welcoming smile. Driving along the mountains, he pointed out all the important landmarks and told me the history of Bogota as I peered out the window at tall trees and colorful buildings. Rodrigo was born and raised in Bogota and knew every nook and cranny of the sprawled-out city. He knew the exact time the rain would come, he greeted his friends around town, he took me to get coffee at a real Colombian café and we shared empanadas in the dark as the power had gone out in the square block that we were on.
The first place we hit was Candelaria, or the “Old Town” and together we stood in the middle of Boliver Square as he explained what goes on and the history behind each building. He insisted on taking postcard photos of me for my family back home. I happily obliged and smiled when told to. We then found ourselves at the world-renowned Botero Museum, housing one of Latin America’s most important international art pieces. This was perhaps my favorite part of the tour. Rodrigo knew every detail in every painting and being a painter himself, had a passion for this artists’ work. He explained how hands were the most important tool to a painter and that was why Botero had always made them the most beautiful part of his paintings. I was fascinated and could have spent hours listening to him talk.
Next, we hopped back in our private vehicle and drove to the Gold Museum, Bogota’s most well-known attraction, which houses the largest collection of pre-Colombian gold and other metals in the world. Again, Rodrigo swiftly took me around weaving between casual museum-goers to make sure I saw all the best pieces and knew what they meant and what they were used for. He led me into a secret room, where the wall opens and you stand in darkness in the middle of the room, then lights start to flicker, sounds of water and chanting begin to play, and pieces of gold light up from below. The interaction depicts being underwater in Lake Guatavita, where the legend of El Dorado originated.
Lastly, our tour ended at the grandiose Paloquemao Market, Bogota’s largest food market. This maze-like market had every food imaginable, fruits as far as the eye could see, friendly vendors welcoming you to try their foods, meats, seafood, kitchenware, candies, coffee, anything you can think of. Rodrigo picked an anón, a questionable slimy-textured Sugar apple that I had never tried before. We both spit out the seeds as we walked and talked about all the various fruits Colombia is known for. After a while, we got another anón as he was not pleased with the first one we had.
As the day came to an and, we graciously said our goodbyes as he dropped me off at my doorstep. I felt lucky to have spent the afternoon with Rodrigo, a person who loves and lives his work, and had the pleasure of exploring Bogota with a true local.