Image: Bogota, El Cerro de Monserrate 3150 m Bogota, El Cerro de Monserrate 3150 m
Image: Gold! Museum del Oro Gold! Museum del Oro
Image: Or host, Lelia; Tina and Marcella Or host, Lelia; Tina and Marcella

Bogota - city of gold and thin air
Sep 1, 2005    
Arrived Colombia late last evening and Lelia picked us up at the airport. Went to her and Captain Phil's apartment in central Bogotá. The air was cool and fresh, we sniffed altitude - an on old friend we haven't met for too long.

Military and police trucks shot through the night, there's unrest in the thin air. Only a few years back, Bogotá was one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Yet it took just one man to change that. The situation is improving and the recent president is loved, in action and spirit much like our former Mayor Goulliani. After 4 successful years in office, Colombians are now scrambling to make his re-election possible.

Slept 10 hours flat in the penthouse, which has 5 terraces. The couple bought it at a really good price from an American friend - who was in a hurry to leave the country after he was kidnapped, and spent 1 year in hostage.

The flat was a big change from Lelia's and Phil’s previously crammed quarters. Leila has a stiff knee since a bout of Polio at childhood. Phil fixed surgery for her and other kids in US - and that's how they met. 4 years later, when Lelia turned 19, Phil showed up in her life again. When Sid, the daughter arrived, the living situation became urgent and now Lelia can't believe her luck. They are fixing up everything, skylights, patios, dark hardwood furniture from a nearby village - the kind that would cost a few thousand bucks in Manhattan but is picked up at 100 dollars here.

The amateur radio sits in the small office - it's Lelia's line to her tiny family. Phil and Sid (now 7) are down on the boat already, and we'll leave for the Amazon early tomorrow morning.

Spent the day checking the Gold museum, stunned by the endless rooms packed with gold artifacts. No wonder the Spaniards flipped when they arrived. It was almost too much after a while - the gold became routine. Emeralds provided a change of scenery.

We got the inside scoop in the emerald district. Lelia is a gold jewelry designer and emeralds are her specialty. We looked at the different qualities. A tiny, brilliant green rock was 1200 US dollars - emeralds can be pricier than diamonds when good.

Another life threatening cab ride took us to a hill, and a steep cable car ride hauled us up to the Catholic church at Mount Monserratte. Tall pines framed a mountain and city view. An enigmatic mountain restaurant sat on top of the hill - dark woods, black metal chandeliers, small windows offering glimpses of the surrounding peaks, and a huge fire burning in the dining room fireplace. Didn't stay to eat though - tasted all kinds of weird street food from the vendors instead - pig stomach hash was one interesting experience. Our doc wouldn't have approved.

Are getting really excited about the Amazon, have not really grasped what we are up to until Lelia began to show us some pictures and tribal gear from down there. She also promised to teach us Salsa and Meringue on the river.

Previous Dispatches

ExplorersWeb on the Amazon Queen   
This week, ExWeb is heading to Bogota to check up on Captain Gonzales and his Amazon Queen. American Captain Phil, a former Vietnam veteran, is using his paramedic past to provide tribes along trouble


Who is decapitating fisherman's bodies on the Amazon river?    Aug 15, 2005
May 10, 2004 17: 56 EST

"There is a legend on the Colombian Amazon about a strange light seen in the sky at night over Lake Tarapoto. Fisherman often won't remain on the lake at nigh

Later dispatches -