Bags, bracelets & Bogota, Colombia
Colombia isn't the country your parents want to hear when they ask where your next travel adventure is. If your mother is anything like mine; a supportive observer of my life, there will be a long moment of silence and then a barely audible "that sounds exciting darling", comment which follows. Feeling like her ever-loving, super positive, support of my life choices betray her, she'll change the subject.
But Bogota, Colombia is exactly where I was headed next and, where I have just returned from. No cocaine in my bag, no attempts at kidnapping and no attacks on my life. Shame really, I'm always after a good story. But, it goes to show that good things happen in wild places too.
Truth be told, I was with a local, and incredibly thankful for it. I don't speak a lick of Spanish but a quick brush up with the app duolingo had me pointing out apples in no time.
"¿cuál es su nombre?"
Cesar, my friend, ushered me around the city and ordered all the food I needed, sorted out accommodation and negotiated prices. And the only crime I might have wanted to report at the end of the week, is the hot chocolate they served with every morning breakfast. It was criminal, and I indulged.
I was headed down to source the beautiful Mochila's that are made by the Wayuu tribe in the North of Colombia. The country also has a good leather industry and make beautiful, high quality bags. AND, there is a group of women (and a few men) there who hand bead bracelets which are pieces of art in their own right.
I landed on a Sunday evening and, after a late night dinner of pizza bought from a tiny window cut into a graffittied wall, I caught an 'early'night. Cesar and I hit the ground running on Monday morning; dashing into tiny, hidden cave like merchandise stores to purchase goods. We met a few artisans and sat with them while they beaded and Cesar had to end up giving them a lesson in counterfeit money when they handed me a fake bill.
It's true, I was asked a few times, under a hushed breath as I walked by a suspect looking character, if I wanted cocaine. I'll admit, the thought crossed my mind - oh to relive my 20's (who am I kidding?) - but ageing has its 'mature' merits and Cesar and I continued drinking our herbal tea (Fuck me! I wasn't even drinking coffee!) and walked on.
I spent a few afternoons in the manufacturing part of town that I would never have found without a local. We had to go through a fairly dangerous part of town that my guide was even feeling nervous in, until we found what we were looking for.
I found a really lovely couple who run a small leather goods store, sewing beautiful quality bags and had some samples made. I was surprised at the good fortune we had and I designed a few pieces on the fly and had them finished in a few days. It was surprising, even to my local mate, at the ease in which things were happening. It doesn't always go like that. Which is always a sign that things are on the right track.
I stocked up on all the treasures I was hoping for.
I highly recommend a visit to Bogota. It has a great, laid back feel for a city that hosts 10 million people. We stayed in the downtown area, that was bustling with young college students and fancy art people and cool, late night salsa parties. The city is teeming with fantastic graffiti and art and the food is fantastic. You can't beat a fresh arepa for $1.50.
Check out the gallery below.