When I made it into Bogota, I went to find my CouchSurfing host’s place. I was attracted to FALKON’s profile since he seemed high-energy. I contacted him about a three-night stay, and he replied, “We’re gonna have a blast, mark my words!” Falkon instructed me that when I get to his place, I’ll need to tell the doorman that I’m there to see “Julian (you-lee-an… I know, sounds gay in English, just call me Falkon).” I got to his place way too early, at around 1pm. I had 8 hours to kill.
Jessica was arriving in a few days. She was freaking out about accommodation. She didn’t want to CouchSurf, and she wanted to reserve a private room in a hostel — no bunking in dorms. Jessica had been searching for rooms online and found that some of these places had no more availability. I told her it was fine; Bogota’s a huge city with lots of options. I’d be arriving in the city a few days before she was arriving so there’d be lots of time for me to find us a humble place without a web presence — which would be cheaper. That didn’t ease her mind. We agreed that she can make a reservation for a private room for the first night, and then we would go somewhere else, based on my findings.
So I decided to use this time before I met up with Falkon to look for accommodation. Getting around on my loaded bike attracted a lot of attention. A businessman stopped me on the street and asked me in English if I needed help. I asked about accommodation, and he had specific ideas on where I shouldn’t go. He seemed genuinely concerned for my safety — white freak with little Spanish-speaking ability — and got all hung up on finding me a map. He seemed deeply sorry that he didn’t have a map to give me; he spent a lot of time thinking of where we could walk together to get one, and spent more time drawing a crappy one out for me, as I kept trying to reassure him that I’d be fine. It’s a good example of how sweet Colombians are to tourists.
I found a couple of low-cost accommodation options. $10 per night for two lumpy beds in a private room and a shared bathroom without hot water; a TV with very limited channel selection would be a little extra. I liked it, but I had a disappointing feeling that the presentation wasn’t right for Jessica.
Knee pads and Roller blades
Killing time in a square, I asked some people where the nearest panaderia was. They corrected me on my pronunciation, followed up with some questions about my bike and where I was from, and after a while of talking, I was invited to hang out later, and to come to a party at the weekend. The loaded bike is a great conversation piece, and I feel like I’m a sociable, friendly guy. Later, I learned that I was in the gay section of town.