The big B – Bogota and around

First some fun facts about Bogota, a city of roughly 8.5 million. Admittedly beforehand, I had no idea that Bogota sits at 2,625 meters (8,612 ft) above sea level. This high elevation clearly translates into cooler temperatures (avg 14.5 Celsius).

Anyone who listens to National Public Radio (NPR) in the states for long enough, has probably heard of Bogota and it’s failed license plate traffic scheme.  Bogota limits the days you can drive by the last digit of your license plate.  To side step this annoying limitation, many locals have purchased second cars leaving them free to drive when they like.

On our first encounter with Bogota’s notorious traffic, we found that driver’s in the city were more respectful than in the smaller towns (they didn’t honk continuously and there were some engaged blinkers, oh my). On subsequent visits however, it was a whole different ball game and so the flow of Bulgarian curses commenced.

We stayed at Charlies Place Hotel which included free breakfast, parking and wonderful service.  The hotel is in walking distance of both the Brazilian and Bolivian embassies.  For the next 3 days, we laid down a lot of shoe leather (or I guess rubber since we were in our sneaks), walking more than 200 city blocks.  But, the end result is visas and a several days in and around Bogota.

We spent Colombian independence day exploring El Museo del Oro (the Museum of Gold) and surrounding neighborhoods.


Bogota is not a beautiful city, but you can feel the undercurrent of art, music and politics as you walk the streets. The people were nothing but welcoming and helpful to us.  At the very least, El Museo del Oro demands a visit. It’s a beautifully planned gallery that gives you an idea of the tradition of metalwork in Colombia.


While waiting for our visas, we also paid a visit to Catedral de Sal de Zipaquirá (the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá).


Jungle City

The Belize to Guatemala border crossing was pretty uneventful.  We had a detailed account of the crossing from another traveller’s blog which did not lead us astray.  I kept a close eye on the parental unit, trying to decipher what was going through their minds.

We found the hotel, Hotel La Mansion Del Pajaro Serpiente, in El Remate with relative ease.  Although the term ‘rustic’ kept being thrown around by mom, it was a beautiful spot with a great view over Lago Peten Itza.  Mom was happily snapping photos of the local flora and fauna, so I was happy.  We ate at the hotel that night.  A local woman prepared some delicious Guatemala food for us.  The favorites were definitely the soup and fresh fried tortillas (similar to nachos).

Tikal was stunning.  Although there are many Mayan ruins peppered through a handful of countries, Tikal stands on its own because it is 1. massive and 2. in the middle of a dense jungle.  The wildlife is as much of an appeal as the ruins.  We picked up a local guide at the park entrance who showed us around the massive site all morning.  Highlights included the views from the top of the pyramids and the local monkey population.  Words cannot express how haunting the howler monkeys sound.  We lost our video of the monkey due to some phone issues, but here’s a taste.  We finished the day up with some cervezas overlooking the lake.

Next stop would take us way off the beaten track to Semuc Champey.