It was one of those spontaneous Sunday afternoon plans. We were having a leisurely brunch with our new friend Marcela and JL. As travel bloggers and Bogotaños, they were eager to show us the city and it’s charms. Since it was a rare sunny day, Marcela suggested we head to Monserrate, the mountain that towers over Bogota, dwarfing the skyline. Despite having been in the city over a week, Mike and I had done barely any sightseeing and were starting to feel kind of guilty. Monserrate seemed like as good a place as any to start, so off we went.
First off, there are no roads to Monserrate. To get to the top you can either hike, ride a funicular up the steep brambly incline, or take a dramatic, almost vertical cable car ride. We opted for the vertigo-inducing cable car and quickly rose the 500 meters to the top. Once you reach the peak you are a towering 3,152 meters above sea level. The effect quite literally takes your breath away- even short stair cases left me gasping for air.
The top is very basic, but is popular with tourists and religious visitors alike. There is a church, a cluster of tacky souvenir stands and a row of very basic restaurants serving up tamales y chocolate and unrecognizable fried animal parts.
The church is the main draw for many Catholic pilgrims. For more than four centuries the faithful have been visiting the church and the statue of the Fallen Christ to pray for miracles. Some of the most devout sinners even walk up the steep mountain on their knees!
Around the other side of the peak, away from the city, you can view steep rolling hills. The air is crisp and clean and the view is natural and so very different from the urban sprawl on the other side of the mountain. It’s up here that you really remember you are perched high in the Andes.
For lunch Marcella suggested we share a platter of “traditional Colombian foods.” Okay, brace yourself:
That’s an assortment of cow parts to remember. It wasn’t as terrifying as it looks actually and most of it was quite tasty (I’m still withholding judgement on blood sausages). We washed it down with Refajo, a combination of lager and sweet cola which also tasted a lot better than it sounds.
The absolute best reason to visit Monserrate isn’t the tacky tourist shops, or the church, or the food. It’s the view. Sitting high up in the clouds above the hectic city you really get some perspective. Perspective that basically, Bogota is freaking enormous. It sprawls out in all directions into the horizon a city the size of New York but much flatter. I thought I could tell from my balcony, but from 3000 feet in the air I realized that the city is even bigger than I could have imagined.
I think I’m finally starting to understand what this city is all about.