What NOT to do in Bogota, Colombia

I felt that since my first two entries were so serious, that I should start sharing some of the more humorous experiences of my life.  So I will start with one of my more favorite embarrassing stories of my naiveté and downright stupidity.  Some will not think it humorous, but I laugh about it now.

It was in 2001 and I was flying home from Cartagena, Colombia to Seattle, Washington to visit my family.  At the time, there were no direct flights from Cartagena, so I had to stopover in Bogota.  My plane landed at 11 pm and would not leave until 6 am the next morning.  I had arranged to be picked up by a friend of my brother-in-law who would allow me to sleep at their place and get me back to the airport in the morning.

Unfortunately, the friend didn’t show up.  I should have prepared better for this as things often didn’t turn out like you expected them to in Colombia, but I did not.  So I improvised. I hailed a taxi and asked the driver to take me to an inexpensive hotel.  As we left the airport, the driver began to explain that the hotels were probably closed for the night.  At this point, I had only been in Colombia for about 8 months, my Spanish was only so-so and I had no idea whether the hotels in Bogota stayed open overnight or not.  I thought it strange, but asked him to check anyway.  We drove down some dark streets and he pulled up in front of a building that did not look like a hotel to me, but again, I did not know enough to be certain.  The driver got out, went up to the front door and had a conversation at the door with a man.  The man shook his head negatively and the driver came back to me.  He repeated his statement that the hotel was closed and the others would likely be, as well.

It was well after midnight by this point and I didn’t know what to do.  The driver then offered that I could stay with him at his place.  My first thought was that he was just being nice.  I had often encountered genuinely warm and helpful people during my eight months in Colombia.  He probably had a family and he was offering a couch for me to sleep on.  At first I said no, and we drove around a while longer.  I asked him to just return me to the airport, but he said no, that it was not possible to stay the night there.  Again, I was uninformed and had no idea whether that was true or not.

It was at that point that I finally agreed to his offer as I could not sleep overnight on the streets of Bogota!  It was about 1 am when we finally reached his place.  As I walked in, I realized my mistake immediately.  It was a one-room studio with two bunk beds and no one else in sight!  I almost backed out of the door, but knew I had nowhere else to go.  Staring at the bunk beds, I literally began to think that the streets seemed more comfortable.  But I knew that would be stupid.  With his ok, I dropped my things and crawled into the lower bunk throwing a blanket over me and falling asleep almost immediately.

It was about thirty minutes to an hour later when I was awakened by what felt like a cat on my leg.  It took my half-awake mind a full minute to comprehend that the studio had no cat.  I then realized that the driver had his hand on my leg and was slowly moving it upwards.  I jumped out of that bed faster than I had ever moved in my life!  It was pitch dark and I could see almost nothing.  I panicked and could not think what to do until the thought of the bathroom popped into my mind.  I put out my hands feeling gingerly around me when the driver asked “Where are you going, my love?”  I shortly responded over my shoulder “the bathroom” while I fled.  I locked myself in and paced up and down for about ten to fifteen minutes berating myself for having been so stupid as to get into this situation.  I finally determined if I waited long enough, maybe he would just go to sleep.

About thirty minutes later, I cautiously opened the door a crack and listened intently.  I could hear nothing but steady breathing.  I very slowly and quietly made my way back to the bed and crawled carefully in so as not to awaken him.  He didn’t seem to stir and I laid there awake with fear for at least another hour listening to his steady breathing.  It wasn’t until I was sure that he was really asleep that I drifted off as well.  Fortunately, that is where the adventure mainly ended.  I woke up at 4 am and he took me to the airport without trying anything else.  I paid him for the ride and the “hospitality.”

I learned a very good lesson that day and have never accepted the “hospitality” of any stranger since.  Bogota has many wonderful things to see and experience.  May I offer that sleeping in the rooms of a single taxi driver is not one of them!

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4 thoughts on “What NOT to do in Bogota, Colombia

  1. ACCCKKK!! this story could have ended so badly! and its true..really, where else could you have gone? are you still friends with the “friend” who should have picked you up??

    1. Thank you Dilip. Just another one of those ridiculous adventures I keep finding myself falling in to…haha!

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