Monday, December 2, 2013


Hi All,

Well, I am finally back and ready to share the sights, sounds, aromas, and experiences of my travels WAY SOUTH of the BORDER.

As I was whisked away south to the top of the Andes Mountains, I had a few concerns. Bogota, with its 9000 ft above sea level altitude, gives even the most "in shape"body an unexpected lung workout. I had visited there in 2000 and did have considerable difficulty breathing, so my concerns were justified. However, this time I was much thinner and in better shape, so I hoped/prayed it wouldn't be too much of an issue.

The first day was going to be a busy one. After arriving at the airport at 4am for a 7am flight,  the Jet Blue departure check in was mobbed with people. The doors were locked. What happened? A potential bomb scare? I was already on "high alert" because of my concerns and flying. One would think, after traveling around the world with my former career, I wouldn't mind flying…. well, back then it wasn't an issue. Now …. Just jitters, nothing too major.

A fire inside had caused all this commotion. Oddly enough there were no fire trucks. I had my suspicions. The truth may have been concealed to keep the masses calm. No one freaks over a fire, but a bomb scare… you bet!

Anyway, checking in wasn't too bad. The lines moved quickly and after stripping through security, I made it through customs. It took about 90 minutes total. For those of you who travel internationally, you know that was a miracle in itself.

My buddy, informed me that his brother had invited us to a charming small village about 90 minutes south of Bogota for the weekend. A place called Boche. If any of you ever traveled on the roads in South America, let's just say they are like heaven in this country, even under the worst construction conditions.

Thankfully the flight was an overall good experience. We landed in Bogota, on time, in hazy 50 degree weather. I had met my friend's brother before on my first visit and he was as gracious as ever. We loaded the luggage into the car and off we went on a the treacherous roads of Bogota. Our first stop …. another brother's condo to repack for the weekend and then off to Boche.

A good thing my breakfast was well digested by this point. The pot hole ridden streets and the rolling hills (imagine more mountains on top of this hilly plateau. San Francisco is prairie land compared to this…)

Unbearable traffic bottlenecked everywhere. I learned that Bogota has TEN MILLION people and each citizen seems to have a car! Imagine they are only allowed to drive on odd or even days, depending on their license plates! And yet, the traffic was still bumper-to-bumper. What is even more distracting … NO LANES…. these drivers create their own, AND, add motorcyclists to the foray, squeezing in between! One really does appreciate our rules and pavement here in the states after THREE weeks of that.

After a few hours of unnerving traffic, we were on our way out of the city. Thankfully the altitude didn't seem to affect my breathing, but the car exhaust certainly did. AKKK!

Motoring through the Colombian countryside was a visual feast. Peddlers selling amazing fruits, arrepas (Colombian pancakes.. sort of), incredibly beautiful flowers, and all sorts of goodies which I could hardly make out. After about an hour we stopped for petrol. Now this was a shocker … full service … with a SMILE …. AND …. free COFFEE! Yup. The charming attendant handed each of us a steaming, aromatic, and unbelievably DELICIOUS cup of coffee. I was blown away.

Most of the small towns we traveled through were old, peeling, and congested. Stray dogs pranced through the narrow streets where the locals sat on their front stoops chatting with one another. It was like stepping back in time. No high rises, no chic business people, not trademark stores. Only an hour outside a major city, it seemed time stood still for decades.

We arrived at Boche. A charming haven of elegant terraced condo homes, dotting the mountainside. Here is where all the wealthier citizens of Bogota have their country homes. We entered the gates of a lushly landscaped pagoda. Bougainvillea draped, palm trees swayed in the cool, humid breeze, and roses of every color exploded to life. Was I still in South Florida? I couldn't believe my eyes. Tropical vegetation flourishing on the top of one of the tallest mountain ranges in the world? Amazing…

As a non-speaking Spanish guest, I was challenged. Although my friend's family did EVERYTHING in their power to make me feel comfortable, I felt like I was in a paralleled universe. They all spoke at once… non stop chatter. My friend did his best to keep me involved in the conversation, but it was just too overwhelming for him and for me.

I sat and observed. The casas were just what one would expect. Terraced, white washed villas with terra cotta tiled roofs. Sweeping oversized tiled terraces, overlooking the lush, green mountains. Stunning. Flowers bursting from terra-cotta pots added vibrancy and incredible beauty. Winter there is misty, cool, and damp… perfect for keeping the mountainside emerald. A sweater is a must. No heat in this country. So layering to keep warm is necessary. Thankfully the aromatic, hot coffee flowed. Truly the elixir of life.

Not soon after, the table groaned with sumptuous Colombian cuisine. My buddy is a gourmet chef. But for his family her went the traditional route. Red beans and rice, fried plantains, spiced ground beef, avocado(no guacamole, that's Mexican… LoL), amazing freshly baked pain, filled with local fruits. I wish I could describe the aromas wafting from the table. It was just incredible.

That evening we played LuLu… a very interesting Colombian card game for MONEY of course. I lost, but had fun.

I was looking forward to the next day for my hike around the town and mountains….

These pics will give you a good idea of just how beautiful nature at its purest can really be … I hope you enjoy them…

Yes, those are birds in the trees…. what a cacacophy of twittering….

Here's a few friends I met along the way …

Well, these are just a handful of pics I took in Boche. I hope you all enjoyed them. I truly enjoyed this part of the trip. the air was fresh and fragrant. The vistas endless. And, the serenity unsurpassed. Escaping the insane activity of Bogota for a few quiet days here was certainly one of the highlights of this trip.

On Wednesday I will delve into the life, sights, and sounds of Bogota. I hope to see you then. On Thursday I have a very SPECIAL POST, so I hope you all can make it then.

Thanks for stopping by today. I MISSED you all terribly, and now that I am back in the states with INTERNET, you will be seeing me.

Have a WONDERFUL day everyone!!!


  1. It's so great to see you back, Michael. I missed you! These pictures are amazing and I especially love your friends you met along the way. :)
    I can't even imagine the Bogota traffic, I hate driving in major cities here so I know I'd never manage that.
    I so enjoyed this post and felt like I was on the adventure with you. Looking forward to more and to Thursday of course. :D

  2. Some great photos! Glad you got through the fire or bomb scare or whatever it was. The traffic sounds awful though. Might be faster to get out and walk.
    Welcome back, Michael!

  3. Your title made me think of The Sound of Music! What could be better?
    So happy to see you back and at it. It's obvious from your photos that this must have been amazing! Wow, what a way to get away.

  4. Enjoyed the photos, Michael, especially since my younger daughter's boyfriend is from Bogota, and he still has relatives there as well. Some of his family resides here in Canada. He and his family (the ones here) are delightful, friendly and warm, like I'd expect your friend's family is. I'm going to check out all your posts on Colombia!
    Thanks for sharing the photos, I love seeing places around the globe.

  5. Beautiful photos! I'm glad you're back—looking forward to reading more!

  6. Oh it looks amazing! What a great trip! Hope you had a really fabulous time!

  7. Hi Michael - sounds like you had an amazing trip. Love your descriptions; really brought everything to life, thanks. I'll be back to catch up the next installment! I've really missed visiting blogs these last couple of years, but hope to be back a bit more now

  8. SO awesome! Thanks for sharing your adventure with us, Michael. I can only sort of imagine that amount of traffic, having been in Istanbul - but at least there they have proper lanes! So weird about the alternate driving days rule.
    All that bottomless coffee is making me envious. I love that stuff!
    And hey, a new card game -- I love learning card games!
    Great photos!

  9. Sounds like a wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing it and the pictures. I missed you.

  10. How amazing- I've heard about the traffic there- sounds like a good place to have a bike.

  11. I'm glad you're back. Bogata sounds thrilling if you're reading about it and maddening if you are experiencing it! Loved your photos. I missed you. :-)

  12. Free Columbian coffee! That's as good as the smile.

    Nice to have you back, Michael. Looking forward to more stories and photos.

  13. Hey Michael, Loved reading your post today made me smile and took me on a wonderful vicarious trip - I so need to get away! LOL
    Sounds like a lovely time - well for the most part - I'm a nervous flyer these days too. Which I also find funny as it used to be so easy. Fear must come with age - lol - still, give me a ticket to Alaska or Paris and I'm out of here! In fact, it's the gift I'm giving myself, for my next birthday, a trip to Alaska. Can't wait, in the mean time I will enjoy your trip vicariously here. Looking forward to your next post! Welcome home and Happy Holidays! All of them - past - present and soon to be!

  14. What a fabulous travelogue, Michael. The photos are stunning. Thank you for so much for sharing. I love vicarious travel and can't wait to hear more.

    It's funny, I've become increasingly wary of plane travel over the years, but I'm not sure if it's due to 9-11, realization of my own mortality, or both. :)

    So happy to have you back!

    VR Barkowski

  15. Your word choice provided such vivid sensory imagery that it was no surprise the sweeping vistas from the pictures were a gorgeous match to your statements.

    Glad to have you back as well :-)

  16. I am in awe! What a wonderful trip-gorgeous photos and gracious moments~ I loved all that you shared I felt like I was there-your wording so vivid! :D I am happy you are home-there is not place like it, but so excited for you to take this journey and share it with us! YOU are always gracious and kindhearted~ Thank you Michael! Welcome home~

  17. Hey Michael,

    Delighted to hear you made it back safe and sound!

    Looking forward to reading your other posts, because I've never been to So. America, so it does interest me a lot :)

    PS: Cheers for supporting 50 States of Pray - I owe you a coffee - Columbian, of course :)

  18. Sounds like a fantastic trip. I can relate to what you mean about no lanes on the roads after trips to China and India. And in China, they can only drive on alternate days in Beijing because of too many cars too.

  19. Great pictures! and thanks for sharing. It sounds like an amazing trip and I can't wait to hear more about it. The hubs and I hope to get to Argentina some day. Sigh. So much fun.

  20. Eloquent articulation. Wonderful thoughts of your adventure. The accompanying photos, superb. I felt rather elevated and breathless in a really good way.

    You have shared and your sharing is admired. Your Columbian experience, another inspiration in your personal journey.

    Time for a coffee! :)

  21. You tell each tale so poetically, I wasn't sure this was a real trip until I was in a few paragraphs...kept waiting for the book intro to start! Beautiful pictures! Glad you're back and thanks for the blitz :)

  22. Hi, Michael. Welcome back! I enjoyed reading your post. All of the pictures are great. I look forward to learning more about your travels.

  23. It's so fun to get to travel through you. You painted a lovely enough picture with your words, but thanks for the actual pictures too. I imagine it would be strange to sit in a room full of people talking a language you didn't understand...kind of a good excuse to just zone out & enjoy the surrounds though, eh?

    Looking forward to the next update & welcome back to America!!!

  24. Michael, you didn't even need the pictures. You paint such a vivid portrait in my head with your words. You ARE a word artist! My husband's mountain climbed in South America 3X, so your telling of life there resonates with his stories. Looking forward to your next update. I imagine traveling with you is a true joy!

  25. Love the pics! So beautiful. I'd love to spend some time in a country that is untouched like this. Boche sounds like my kind of place. What an adventure! I'm so glad you shared a bit of your journey (Which was written so lovely, fyi) I hope you share more--it's really fun to read about and see the countryside! :)

  26. Hi Michael .. I finally made it - I knew I wanted to read properly and am so glad I did. It must be amazing to visit - and then to have the luxury to experience friends with that sort of lifestyle. Fascinating to read about .. and I love the thought of a Columbian table full of their food - with the scents and flavours before the taste buds kick in ...

    Now on to your next post - cheers Hilary

  27. I so love hearing about your trip!! These pics are awesome. What an experience. Always so great when you can visit a place with someone who has lived there. I'm hungry now for plaintains...