Changing lanes in Bogota

Emerging from the jungle and hot stepping it to Bogata, Colombia, we spent some time contemplating how best to see and conquer this great city. Joining forces with other new arrivals, we decided a bicycle tour would be the best entry into forming our Colombian realities. Our tour guide Mike Caesar we find out is an ex-news journalist who has long made South America his home. Promising on his website to take us to “neighborhoods that would be otherwise no-go for anyone other than crazies”, we thought Mike would be the right guy to provide us a grittier perspective of Bogota’s past and present.

Travelling on bike meant that we were able to see a great variety of locations in a few hours. Something that hits you over the head immediately as you ride along the streets of Bogota – there is street art virtually every where you turn, and it’s also got to be the most unmarred in the world {no tagging or graffiti artists spraying over each others pieces}. Mike tells us that when people think of Colombia, they think of drug cartels, paramilitaries and violence, but the city continues to be reborn year by year by the new stories its people continue to tell through paint on their walls.

Colombia’s “graffiti revolution” was strangely enough sparked in a large part by an incident with Justin Bieber in 2013. In short, during his tour to Bogota, Bieber fever and his posse were treated to a police escort while the teen dream added his contribution to the cities walls: a marijuana leaf and a Canadian flag. This really angered the Bogotian “grafitero” community, because in contrast, in 2011 a markedly less famous 16 year old Colombian kid was unjustly shot point blank and killed for virtually the same act. Since Bieber’s art attack, a conversation between Bogotonians and it’s institutions (government and police) has legitimised and reframed street art as a positive form of expression. Nowdays, shopkeepers, councils, schools and virtually everyone has legally commissioned pieces on their exterior and interior walls for all to enjoy.

From the local fruit markets to the seedy sidestreets of the red light district, we sailed around on our two wheelers with Mike as he shared stories like this and others, giving us an insight into life in Bogota and wider Colombia.


P9160865Unlike unwanted crabs of bedrooms past, in Bogota these side-walking creatures are a subsitute for Viagra and a natural aphrodisiac for men. Whiz it in a shake, drink it down with a straw and Bob’s your uncle apparently. Oh yeah, and this man in the hat is Mike.

P9160909An example of the spray-perfect untouched pieces by Bogota’s street artists.








P1540957Like many others in Bogota, this wall piece celebrates and commemorates the life of someone who has been assasinated. Jaime Garzon featured here was a well loved local comedian who made satirical jokes about the disparity between the rich and poor. The individuals who didn’t appreciate Garzon’s observations shot him down near this wall. Mike told us that this incident was a shock to the nation as it was one of the rare occasions where someone outside of politics was gunned down.




IMG_1146In Colombia, they have compulsory military service for males. If you’re a young man of age and you don’t have written permission to be free and breezy on the street, military officials like these doing spot checks have the authority to seize and take you in without warning. Talk about messing up your plans for the weekend.

IMG_1151Slurping the giant custard apple fruit shakes of Colombia.



P9160920The local bullring which has been temporarily retired due to a ruling by Bogota’s mayor. A small group of bull fighters have since been on hunger strike protesting their right to continue their controversial but long celebrated tradition. As the debate rolls on, time will tell the fate of Bogota’s bulls.




P9160893Another big part of the Colombian cultural landscape is the act of protest against all manner of things by various institutions and organisations. Almost every day there was a group taking to the streets to strike or speak out against some wrong. Mike took us to this university square, where protests are predictably commonplace, to explain that when students protest they often finish the protest here. This is because universities are legally a no-go zone for police. While they may point water hoses and guns over the university walls, they aren’t allowed to set a foot onsite.



IMG_1100From here on we took ourselves on our own tour, kicking off with a chorizo in an arepa bun.

IMG_1111We also visited Bogota’s famous gold museum, Museo del Oro, where the country’s most mystical and well-preserved artifacts from the Inca’s are kept. This is a death mask. If you were a top dog on the way out you’d be buried with one of these.

IMG_1121Channelling the timeless words of Nelly, this warrior told his people to “Rob the jewelry store and tell ’em make me a grill.” To impress the big boss they responded with this array of golden glory.


IMG_1127As a strong finish to our tour of Bogota, we had yet another meat party. This one came with guacamole and a corn cake. Rather tasty.


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