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Mountain Climbing

And big square

18/12/09 - Villa de Leyva, Boyaca, Colombia

We decide to spend a day in Villa de Leyva, a village short distance away from Tunca. One of the most beautiful colonial villages in Colombia, it was declared a national monument in 1954. It has one of the biggest town squares in the Americas measuring 120m by 120m.

Big square

In the afternoon we do some hiking up one of steep mountains nearby. When we finally we reach the top the views are stunning.


Tomorrow we will leave Tunca and head to Bucaramanga to meet Milena. It takes 10 hours on the bus.

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Cold weather and lots of military checkpoints

17/12/09 - Tunca, Boyaca, Colombia

Random events>>>finding a used needle in the hotel room

After spending the previous day faffing around Bogota, we take a bus to Tunca, the capital of the Boyaca region. It takes 6 hours. During one of the several military checkpoints on the way, a man in military garb, who looks no older than 18, jumps on the bus and gives orders in very fast Spanish. I don´t understand a word of it so have to imagine what he is saying:

"Hello, I have a very small willy, does anyone have a problem with this?"

Stunned silence.

"No? No-one has a problem with my small willy? It is tiny"

Uncomfortable shuffling.

"Okay, those that don´t have a problem with my small willy please get off the bus".

Everyone except women and children have to get off the bus and are made to handover some form of ID. I hand over my passport. Michael is called over to speak to the commander and a short while later I am too. Needless to say at this stage I am shitting myself. All I can think about are what are the conditions like in Colombian prisons. The commander is actually very friendly and tells me he just likes to speak to foreigners (I guess they still don´t get that many in Colombia). He tells me to be very careful travelling around Colombia.

When we finally get to Tunca, I find that it is a fine old town with colonial architecture, an imposing central square and a lively atmosphere. But what disturbs me is how cold it is. Bogota was cold (around 15 to 18 degrees during the day, colder at night) but here it is even colder. I am not prepared for this as I have only a jumper so wear lots of layers.

The town square - quite pretty
Another bloody parade

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Via San Jose, Costa Rica

15/12/09 - 17/12/09 Bogota, Colombia

The first thing I notice upon arrival is just how many women in Bogota have enormous boobs. Milena, whom I met in London, had told me many times about Colombian women´s obsession with plastic surgery but even so I wasn´t prepared for this assault on the senses. I didn´t know where to look and spent a lot of time looking downwards. Some were so big their proprieters were practically leaning forward to take account of gravity. Anyway, to sum up my first impression of Bogota: big boobs.

The flight into Bogota was relatively straightforward given the transfer time of only 1 hour at San Jose and the time of the first flight: 6:45 in the morning. The two flights gave me a little time to read about Colombia.

After decades of civil conflict, Colombia is now safe to visit. The geography of Colombia is mainly mountains and sea. The majority of the population live int he mountains in Bogota, Medellin and Cali. Economically, Colombia has been growing at an annual rate of 5% since President Alvaro Uribe took over in 2002. Colombia boasts one of the largest middle-class populations in Latin America. It´s main trading partner is the US which gobbles up more than a third of Colombia´s exports - such as bananas, coffee, chocolate, clothing and flowers. Despite Colombia´s infamy as a drug exporter, Colombians don´t use drugs. Cocaine production has funded the ongoing civil war for decades so consuming cocaine is perceived as supporting that conflict.

Anyway, I´m looking forward to the Salsa, the binge drinking and big tits.

Random street in Bogota
Random street with me in
Mona Lisa didn´t take the break-up well
These paintings are by Fernando Botero, probably Colombia´s most famous artist. His paintings and sculptures are united by their proportionally exaggerated, or "fat" figures.

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Last day in Mexico

Leaving with fond memories

14/12/09 - Mexico City, Mexico

Random observation>>>security guard walking about nonchalantly in a busy shopping centre armed with a massive shotgun

With our time in Mexico drawing to a close I decide to spend the last day trying to make back-ups of my photos with varying degrees of success. I also try to chat up the pretty girl at the Kodak shop with even less varying degrees of success. Language proves to be the biggest barrier. And, the fact that she´s out of my league.

I am leaving Mexico with great memories and resolve to return there soon and see the rest of the country. One month in Mexico is nowhere near long enough to see everything it has to offer. In addition to the incredible culture and history, the warmth and kindness of the Mexican people have truly touched me. I can´t remember what expectations I came here with (my biggest reference point for Mexico before arriving was Speedy Gonzales and The Three Amigos!) but I will be leaving here with an amazing experience. I am sad to leave Mexico but looking forward to Colombia.



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Frida, Trotsky and Bullfighting

Cheering on the bulls

13/12/09 - Mexico City, Mexico

The Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky museums are in the coyoacan area of mexico City. We take the metro there in the morning. Both museums are fascinating. The frida Kahlo museum houses a number of her paintings and some of Diego Rivera´s but what I actually found most interesting were the photographs of them dotted around the place.

Trotsky´s bog

In the afternoon I decided to watch a corrida de toros (bullfight). Even though it is barbaric and bloodthirsty my arguement for wtaching it (tand thus supporting the practices in a way) was that it was a ´sport´and part of mexican culture.

In Mexico, bullfights are an impotant part of life. They´re held in Mexico City on every Sunday from October to March at the Monumental Plaza Mexico, a massive concrete bowl that holds 48,000 people and is one of the largest bullrings in the world. It´s the biggest bullfighting stadium in Central America.

The moment I got off the metro-bus I knew there was an even. Thousands of people streamed along the streets the stadium. But they were´nt there for the bullfight, but for the cup final that was taking place at the same time in the stadium right next to the bullring between Cruz Azul and Monterray (Monterray the eventual victors 6-4). Police stood on every crossroad, directing traffic and telling people to move along. As I got closer to the stadium hawkers were selling cold drinks, tacos, souvenirs, paraphernelia like flags, t-shirts and soft toys.

I joined a scrum of people attacking a series of holes in the stadium wall behind which sat ticket sellers. Each hole was marked with the type of tickets they sold. ´Sol, in the sun, or ´Sombra´in the shade, Barreras´the area closest to the ring or the rest, divided in ´Primer´or ´Segundo´. In the nend, I bought the cheapest ticket going, a ´sol´high up with the gods.

Inside the huge bowl, or amphiteatre, seats in rows climbed steeply from the ring. The stadium was less than half-full, which I attributed to the final taking place t the same time, but there was a buzz of anticipation. Below was the brown dirt ring. Hawkers walked up and down between the aisles selling pizzas, ice cream and beer. A trumpet blasted over the speakers and a bull ran out into the ring, snorting, dashing wildly wandering where the hell it was and what is was doing there.

After a few minutes four guys in matador outfits came out to muted applause and waved capes at the bull. Each was trying to distract the bull, cowardly hiding behind wooden walls when it tried to charge at them.

It was a bit dull and depressing so I tried to get a beer from a hawker. "Hey senor" I called out in my best Speedy Gonzales accent, "una cerveza, pronto!". He ignores me.

Two guys on heavily padded horses came out with huge lances. These are the ´picadores´the guidebook says. It is their job to jab the picas (lances) into the shoulders of the bull, to weaken them.

The four guys returned this time brandishing three elongated darts, which they took turns to jab into the bull´s shoulder, once again with the intention of weakening him. When the matador finally emerged in his traje de luces (suit of light) the bull was well and truly shagged.

The next bit is called t´he ´suerte de muleta´, the éxciting´bit where the matador has 16 minutes to kill the bull. Sixteen minutes to wave a cape around, tire the bull out and then plunge a sword into the poor animal´s neck. Finally, the dead bull is dragged off, it´s head placed on a little trolley and the carcass tied to two horses, leaving a trail of blood in the sand that is quickly swept away.

With the first corrida de toros finished, I decided I´d seen enough and left. Watching this brutal´´spectacle´was sad and depressing. And it was bloody dull. The whole process is repeated 6 times. Watching it once was boring enough. And the cruelty is unspeakable, the bull didn´t stand a chance and the horses take quite a bashing too. It left me very angry and wishing there was a parallel universe where the bulls were doing the same to the matadors.


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