Cartagena is a very beautiful city with an old Spanish fort (Castillo de San Felipe) and an old city surrounded by walls dotted with old cannons. It's a very touristy area and tourist or not, people haggle you for anything. You walk a foot closer to them and they start rattling off trying to sell you stuff. And all the stuff was the same poorly made crap but in different arrangements. We did get some "dulces" which are dried candied fruit and I am now hooked on dried papaya (called Caballito - little horse). They have lots of carriage rides but the city is pretty dusty. Cartagena smells like horse pee, food, and garbage (bags are lying around everywhere). We even managed to see 2 Batavus Old Dutch bicycles riding around but it was such a quick notice that I had no time to photograph them and it made me sad indeed :(. I believe they were either both white or one white and the other some dark colour. We took a tour on one of the traditional icons of the country–a chiva. Chiva in itself means a small female goat but they named these rickety buses that for some reason. Originally they were old trucks with a stripped down bed that they built wooden benches on and a rickety roof and they painted it wild colours. They transported farmers and peasants with all of their crapola (goats, chickens, you get the picture). Now they are like tour buses and even on a Monday, it was packed!
Bogotá smells of food and car exhaust. There are 8 MILLION people jampacked into this valley and congestion became so bad that now people with cars are limited to driving certain days of the week. You still cannot escape all the smog. My boogers were BLACK. So they've also been investing in infrastructure for a bus system called Transmilenio which is pretty neat to ride on but eventually everyone is packed so tightly in this metal sardine can that if you're riding with someone, it's very possible to not be able to get through the crowd together to both get off on the stop. It rained like all week and all the statues and monuments are covered in graffiti by the unhappies.
However, Bogotá has one thing the rest of the world can model: Ciclovía. This is a weekly event on Sundays and festivals that they close about 124km of the city's roads and open them to anyone who wants to take a stroll or ride their bike, with kid, with dog, whatever. The other side of the street that is open to traffic experiences major congestion. However, the closed side the air is actually BREATHABLE for once and we had a nice 4 hour walk down the road. What they lack are bike rental shops and we didn't want to go to the center of the city where some "gringo" did bike tours and was the only guy in town who rented bikes. But now we have the motivation that next time we come, we will take our folding bikes with us! It really was a sight to behold. Bicycle enthusiasts come from all over the world to ride Ciclovía. I saw one Batavus dutch bike and several vintage English bicycles, mostly with rod brakes so I figured they were old.
Bogotá is at the forefront to really improve the liveability of its city because it actively WANTS to get the cars off the streets. By promoting this program, they not only encourage commuting by bicycle as a friendlier and quicker way to get around town, but imagine the enormous health benefits! They are really poised to become the Amsterdam of South America. Here are some photos in all of their bicycleness splendor. Enjoy!
|Me after arriving in Cartagena|
|Example of the vendor cargo bikes all over the city|
|The curbs are so high they park bikes "Italian" style|
|Another vendor bike|
|Sardines on the bus system in Bogotá|
|Lots of people ride bikes outside major cities as well|
|OMG fresh fruit I miss you!! Lulo! Maracuya! Mora!|
|Just a cool bike. You can see it's been raining...|
|The typical bike you see in Colombia|
|There are 2 bike commuters and you can see the bike lines up ahead|
|One of many rest stops along the way with drinks and repairs|
|Anyone is welcome here! Roadies to scooters!|
|Banana seat bikes!|
|Teaching her child how to ride a bike|
|And there were lots of folding bikes!|
|Lots of children out riding. This is so good for the city|
|The police are everywhere in Colombia|
|One of many awesome fruit stands|
|This guy had awesome roller blades|
|Some people didn't care what they rode...they just wanted to ride|
|One of the many English bikes|
|and she rode it that way all the way down the hill|
|Apparently there are no laws against this which is AWESOME|
|These guys are the leaders in the program|
|Don't hate. She might really need those training wheels|
|Really REALLY old bike with a double fork! (about $150)|
|some old motorbike WITH PEDALS!|
|This is really a find! Crazy Colombians|
|Super old saddle|