“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Guadelupe and Choachi

Guadelupe 3300m

It is every tourist's mission while in Bogota to go up the famous Monserrate, whether by funicular, gondola or a steep walk on a Sunday morning. Very few foreigners make it to the twin hill, Guadelupe's top, however. We made it our mission to get there today. It was not an easy journey. We took a transmilenio to the Tercer Milenio station, where the busses up the hill park nearby. However, today was the first Sunday of the month (a special time), and it was Lent. This meant that the mountain was extremely crowded. The collectivo busses couldn't get up the hill for all the traffic, so we had to walk up. It was about a 40 minute walk up from where it dropped us off, and when we saw how far it should have taken us, we wished it had gotten further than what it did.
Aside from the tacky religious souvenirs for sale, and multiple fried bread, meat snacks and cheese with jam and arequipe snacks, there was not much space at the top. A mass was being held so all the people had spilled out of the church onto every available chair. There must be mass going on all day by the look of the crowds! It was a pleasant walk down the road to the main road.
View of Bogota with Monserrate in front on the hill. 
The view from Guadelupe looking over the hills behind to our way to Choachi.
Choachi 1900m
Ever since Julian told me about the hot pools in Choachi, reached via a gorgeous drive, I have wanted to go. What a spectacular drive it was! Sheer cliffs drop off what was the level of 3000m to around 1900m in true canyon fashion, with striation and colors and gaping chasms. The road disappeared for a while and when we looked back up and saw the precarious bridge we had crossed we were amazed.

The town center in Choachi is similar to many other colonial era towns in Colombia with a church perched on a town square surrounded by shops and cafes. We wandered into a cute little hotel, and then found a great little restaurant just off the square. We took a bus out to the hot springs (1500 pesos, 2.5km), but decided it was too crowded, too over-manicured, too overpriced, and not rustic enough, so came back again. Oops, wasn't that why we were there? We wandered up the hill to the buses going home, past the cute little chivitas (tuk tuks), waving to our football team friends, for a spectacular view on the ride home.
Getting there: Transmilenio H93 goes to Tercer Milenio from our area up north. The collectivos up to Guadelupe are 1450 pesos and leave as they fill up. We do not recommend going on the first Sunday of the month, and on other days of the week, security on the road can be an issue. Unlike Monserrate, there are no full restaurants up Guadelupe, although there are lots of snacks -- I even found some nougar (touron).

Collectivos to Choachi leave from the same station, or you can pick one up on the road there (such as at the turnoff up to Guadelupe) for 8500 pesos. It takes around 1 hour to get there. A nice hotel with a Mexican flavor in the center of town is Casa Espinel at www.choachimilco.com 313 892 3710 (around 80-100000 pesos per night). We do not recommend Hotel Central (which shows up on Google Maps) -- it looks cheap and shady! There is also the Hotel Santa Monica on whose grounds the thermal baths are -- around 250000 per night. To enter the hot pools it is 26000 per day (domingos and festivos) or 21000 Mon-Sat.