Trying to further immerse ourselves in Bogota culture we set out to find the Usaquen Flea Market. It's a local event, and supposedly a great place for street food and handmade gifts to stock up on. Mildly fretful of the random taxi experience and wanting to be as authentic as possible, we decided to take the Bogota TransMileneo bus system. A little googling showed we'd be doing some walking between our end points and the metro stations but nothing looked too terribly far. After spending a while investigating the TransMileneo website, we thought we had a grip on the main routes and how they worked.... until we made it to the actual station. Awash in letters, numbers and Spanish we struggled to grasp, we eventually put the pieces of the map together and headed north carefully watching for our stop. Colombians certainly have no qualms about packing out public transit and between several of the stops there was barely room to move. In the state, the stops would entail a crushing coming and going of the tide of passengers trying to enter and exit all at the same time.
When we finally arrived at our destination, we hopped across a pedestrian bridge. As we started counting down street numbers we realized we had signed on for quite a hike and in sun we weren't expecting. Weather Underground consistently called for rain, and I faithfully hauled my jacket and Kims Umbrella everywhere we went, but really, I should have been focusing more on the sunscreen. As the hike continued and the sun beat down, we started getting nearer our google guided target but, nothing seemed to really be fitting the description of excellent cafes and restaurants, a beautiful park, and a flea market. We rounded the last corner and knew immediately we weren't where we wanted to be. It Kim's linguistic skills to the rescue with a local pair returning from the grocery store who pointed us the right direction but warned that we were visiting on election day, and there likely wouldn't be the usual festivities. Miles from the metro and hungry we decided to try out luck and see what the park had to offer.
As we neared the election became evident. There were lots of military police and police patrolling and queues of people lining up to place their vote. A strong military presence is always a little jarring when your away from home, but I think more than anything it's all about showing presence and maintaining order. I have yet to see even the hint of the police being more engaged in anyway that presence.
Sure enough when we reached the square it was void of the usual flea market but there was still a feeling of a Sunday communal gathering. A street performers showing off his perfectly trained dogs and restaurants lining the square occupied the attention of those gathered. We ducked into "Tienda La Cafe" at the recollection of some decent trip advisor reviews. Before I had even a chance to digest the menu, Kim ordered a Colombian classic "Ajicoa" a traditional soup of chicken and potatoes in a cream broth with a side of avocado, rice and capers to be added at will, with a coconut topped lemonade to drink. I was forced into a snap decision that started on the wrong foot; no Cube Libre. As a matter of fact, no alcohol, it's election day... Totally thrown off at that point, my Spanish speaking abilities don't expand anywhere past the conversation going exactly as planned, I can't recall what the name of the plate I ordered was but it came out as a heart attach in cast iron. Flank steak, chicken, chorizo, fried baby potatoes, a massive french fry and two corn tortillas smothered in a bath of cheeses came out sizzling and ready for it's assault on my arteries.
Stuffed to the max, we started the long trek back to the TransMilenio. About half way there was a mall we decided would be a reasonable stopping point. Kim looked around for some clothes and expertly navigated talking to the extremely tolerant attendant at the MoviStar booth netting us a sim card that at least allows for calls locally (hostel, taxi's etc.) and occasionally allows for data.
An uneventful walk back and a successful metro ride back to La Candelaria we turned into the hostel. Maybe I'll elaborate more on dinner at El Gato Gris later.. but for the most part, it was an uneventful and mildly disappointing salad in a romantic little nook with some decent live music in the background.