Monday, March 28, 2011
High in the Andes
I went for a few days of R&R, heard good things from friends who had been and looked forward to sightseeing, hiking the Andes, dancing the night away and maybe even some hang gliding.
I even took my running gear thinking I'd work in some mountain running.
Nobody mentioned the altitude sickness.
Day one was rough. I'd been up since 5 a.m., and spent about 10 hours traveling. When I arrived at the hotel I had to find a place to cash some travelers' checks, and was directed to an AMEX office at a mall around the corner. Walking across the street at a mild incline had me gasping for air.
By the time I got back to the hotel, I was exhausted. My lungs were burning. I downed a Club Colombia beer and slept for the next 14 hours.
The next day was better, but I never got used to the thin air at 8,600 feet. Didn't stop me from spending dawn to dusk exploring every nook and cranny of the city, from La Candelaria (the old colonial district downtown) to Usaquen in the north. So many museums and cafes and restaurants to see!
And Botero everywhere.
All that walking left me with no appetite to run, especially after taking the funicular up to Cerro de Monserrate, a beautiful cathedral on a mountain overlooking the city at 10,400 feet. Just walking the steps up to the cathedral took my breath away, let alone the view!
The real hike came Sunday, when I went to explore Laguna Guatavita, a circular lake of legend and myth. The Muisca tribal chiefs would paint themselves in gold and hurl themselves into the lake. I felt like doing the same thing after hiking an hour about 3,000 feet from the parking area.
We were above the tree line, looking down at an incredible countryside.
It wasn't until my last day that I discovered Coca Tea, which the Colombians drink to combat altitude sickness. Oh, well. I'll be better prepared next time.
Meanwhile, it's great to be back at sea level, breathing the moist, salty Florida air and running again.
And now, here's Cut Copy doing "Sun God," the last track off their latest album, Zonoscope: