Climbing Monserrate

Monserrate is one of the staples of a trip to Bogota.  It's a church resting another 2000 feet above Bogota around 10,341 ft and offers the best view of the city sprawl.  There are three ways you can take to the top of Monserrate, a funicular, a cable car or hike it.  The trail is more a conatntly ascending flight of stairs that wraps around the mountain in 2.5km.  It is renowned as a difficult march, especially for those not acclimated to the altitude.  After reading stories of footballers running up the mountain in 20 minutes and the Easter Sunday pilgrimage made by many on their knees we decided we were up to the challenge.

To get us to the entrance, the hostel booked us some transportation which arrived in the form something like a moped with a cart attached to the tail end of it.  Winding up the short climb to the mountain, much to the disdain of the taxis trying to make their fares, the struggled and slowed to the pace of a brisk run.  The driver asked us along the way if we were taking the cable car or the funicular and gave us advice to take either when we responded "camminar."

It wasn't long into the ascent when the frequent breaks started becoming a necessity.  Our breath seemed to return as quickly as it was dispersing but I guess that's the effect of altitude.  About halt way up the mountain you run into an interesting little string of shops and huts.  They appear to be mostly lived in, and sell a variety of drinks and snacks for that extra boost to get you top of the mountain.  We passed on our ascent, but the ripe red watermelon caught Kims eye.  In the village there was a lone donkey I would have to guess plays a large roll in keeping the little village stocked.  From the huts on the trail kicks the ascent into high gear and we were making progress in what seemed like 100ft chunks... on path that resembled a beautiful stone walk way leading to a house.  It was a little embarrassing, but at least you could play off most of the pauses as opportunities to gaze out at the ever expanding view of Bogota that was unfolding as you climbed.

The trail carries a bit of a past history of violence and muggings.  Most travel guides recommend a Sunday ascent as it's likely to be more busy and should carry an increased police presence.  I think that there must've been huge efforts to clean this up in recent years.  Even on a Monday we were regularly passed by armed police patrolling and a fair number of locals out making the hike as well.  There seems to be a common thread of warnings of security and muggings online up until around 2011 and has mostly died out since then.  I won't say I was always totally at ease around some of the metro's in Bogota, but short of one incident with a beggar being a bit too persistent I never felt threatened in anyway.

Once we had finally ascended the the last step of the mountain you are greeted by a white stone church in front of you and the city expanse to your back.  It was a common scene of groups exchanging the usual courtesies of taking photos for each other with the view behind.  After snapping a couple ourselves we hunted around for food a bit amongst the gift-shop like set of stalls found behind the church and settled once again on a couple of empenanadas and a pastry.  I'm definitely going to miss the readily available hot and delicious empendadas you seem to be able to get just about anywhere in Colombia.

We hoped to catch the cable car down the mountain but the ticket shop was closed... If you had purchased your ticket at the bottom you were fine, but we were stuck with the hike down. 

A little recovery at the hostel and we decided to take it easy and check out a bit of art at a local  museum, the Musesem De Bortero.  Botero stands as probably the most recognized artist from Colombia and has a history of being extremely generous to museums in the country.  His art is most easily recognized for it's "volume."  Once again google was about 4 blocks off on the location of the museum but a couple of questions and got us there in plenty of time for a leisurely stroll through the collection.

Full up on art for the time being and lacking in the food department we walked around the city a bit stumbling past some kind of police/military demonstration taking place at the capital. After strolling through the town for a while we stumbled back by the hostel and caught a recommendation for some pizza near the intersection of calle 14 and carerra 2.  I'm sure sure if was the miles that day, but the pizza was incredible.  Enjoyed on the street in front of the shop, it was just the right thing.