Yesterday, for the first time since arriving, I felt the effects of altitude sickness. It’s not fun.
Since learning that Bogota doesn’t have seasons because the weather is always the same, I expected that all days would have reasonable weather. But yesterday, I looked at the weather forecast and found that the next 7 days expected rain. Not ideal weather for climbing the local mountain, but I decided to go anyways – weekends are the safest as there are more people and less chance of being robbed.
Instructions from the hostel receptionist: “walk to the TranMilenio station, take any J bus to the end of the line. Easy”. He forgot to mention that to get to the J line you first had to take the H line and then change. The TransMilenio is basically a train system, but run on buses that have their own lanes in the middle of the road. The “platforms” are raised above the road and have glass doors that technically shouldn’t open until a bus turns up. It’s actually not a bad system. The only issues I have with it are that there are only 3 gates at each of the 2 end entrances of the “platforms”- that’s definitely not enough room for all the people to happily move through, and that the platform is really only the size of 1 normal train platform but is being used on both sides. Oh, and Colombians haven’t quite mastered the skill of letting people off before pushing on.
Being the first time either of us had caught the TransMilenio, we had zero idea how it worked except that it might be like a train: find a map, choose direction, pick a platform, wait. First problem: do the black dots mean it stops or doesn’t stop or something completely different? Eventually working out that we need to catch buses H27, H70 or H74 (all which left from different doors) we went to wait at the H27 door. Only took about 5 mins of waiting to realize that the H27 doesn’t run on weekends :S
Bogota sits about 2,600m above sea level. Cerro de Monserrate is at 3,200m. People say it should only take 1-1.5hrs to walk the 2kms up to the top. The only reason we decided to take the cable car up was because it was raining when we got there. I was surprised that there is so much stuff at the top of the mountain. There’s multiple restaurants, a church, row of souvenir and food stalls! I’m sure the view would normally be spectacular but unfortunately all we saw was fog. Mystical and beautiful fog.
It wasn’t until a quarter of the way on the walk down that I suddenly started feeling sick. It was seriously awful. There was nothing to do except keep on walking and even that was a challenge! All I wanted to do was lie down and curl up in a fetal position until I magically woke up back in my hostel bed. Not surprisingly that didn’t happen. It was still raining lightly so I couldn’t even sit and rest. That was the longest 2km walk I have ever done. It felt like it would never end! All up it took us 1hr and 20mins just to walk down (can you even imagine how long it would have taken me to walk up??).
The good part about getting sick and taking ages to climb a mountain at altitude is that I can blame the altitude for my inability to properly do the walk. It’s probably more my unhealthiness and non-exercise friendly lifestyle that was the cause of sickness, coupled with the fact I went out the night before, but I can just blame the altitude and no one blinks an eye 🙂
Took me about an hour to recover from the walk and in that time we walked around the old town to find a place to eat. Lunch was delicious and cost the equivalent of about $3. Of course the rest of the day was a fantastic clear weather. Just my luck.