November 19-20, 2007
I had been complaining to myself about the price of transportation in Colombia for awhile, and today was no exception. Buses cost more here than anywhere in South America other than Brazil and the Guianas, but the reason always seemed to be more than economics. Colombia is the only country in South America (other than the Guianas once again) with almost no large buses. Small buses mean less passengers which means higher prices, yet the mini buses seem impossible to avoid.
Today was no different as I rode to Bogotá in the back of a minivan, but it was well worth the money. There were only four passengers out of a possible eight, but the driver didn't care enough to attempt to pick up any random people off the street. He must have been getting paid a flat rate. The fact that we were in such a small vehicle meant that we were able to fly around all of the large trucks occupying the highway and got to Bogotá much quicker than expected. Oh yeah, and the scenery was spectacular as usual.
I wasn't expecting much when I arrived in Bogotá. I viewed it as merely a place to pass through on my way to my next destination. However, my impression of the city was much better than expected.
I found it easy to get to the center of the city without having to take an expensive taxi, then I found a reasonably-priced hostel in a nice area. The city government had planned to build a subway system for over thirty years, but then scrapped the idea in favor of a cheaper system of buses called "Trans Milenio." The large buses got their own lanes and had their own enclosed stations, so it was easy to get around the city like a subway system, and fast because the buses didn't have to fight the masses of traffic.
I went to the northern part of Bogotá for a few hours and was blown away by all of the shopping malls, trendy restaurants, and people walking around in business suits. It was like walking around Times Square. In the movies, Bogotá is the kind of place where as soon as you leave your hotel, ten guys jump you, beat you nearly to death, take everything you own, then kidnap you just for shits and grins. But the Bogotá I found today was nothing like that. I'm getting really sick of cities, and this one is the fifth largest in South America (after Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Rio, and Lima), but I suppose I can handle the hustle and bustle for a few days.