My second day in Bogota, Colombia I decided to take a bike tour. The owner is an American from California. I didn't get to meet him, but his employees were delightful. Jaime, a local, was my tour guide and spoke perfect English. The tour started off very calm and relaxing as my tour-mates and I easily peddled past old infrastructures, and monuments while listening to Jaime give us historical facts on each stop.
The 4-hour tour took us through the many districts of La Candelaria, a colorful neighborhood in the center of Bogota. We cycled and stopped at museums, parks, murals, statues, a coffee factory where we sampled authentic Colombian coffee (Juan Valdez), the Red Light District and more. I was completely overwhelmed and in awe of the visual and auditory stimulation around me. There was so much to take in, see, smell and hear. I can say that I was experiencing sensory overload and I loved every minute of it.
The last leg of the tour turned into what I felt like was an episode of Fear Factor. We got drenched with torrential rains, seemingly out of nowhere. The day began so clear and sunny and suddenly it was dark, cold and wet. As the rain came down, the streets became busier, and the sidewalks more crowded. My relaxed bicycle tour was suddenly a test of cognitive and physical endurance. Our tour guide, Jaime, decided to expedite the tour because of the weather and this is the beginning of what I felt like was an audition for Fear Factor.
I am an active person, but there were many times my anxiety got the best of me. I wondered if I could ride over the slick streets, broken-up sidewalks, and construction zones that appeared to be laughing at my insecurity that I hid behind my dark sunglasses with white trim. They say the eyes are the window to the soul. If anyone could see the terror in my eyes behind my sunglasses, I'm sure I would have been nominated for the Guinness World Record for the most "wild eyes". The streets (in my mind) appeared to become narrower as we peddled along impatient drivers honking their horns. The rain came even harder and then the thunder added its fury by rattling the sky. Jaime morphed into a Colombian Lance Armstrong by picking up the tempo of the tour. This was all too much for me. I watched as my fellow tour-mates who traveled from European countries like Germany, France and Switzerland mounted the sidewalks with their bikes like a piece of cake. I wondered if I could do the same without completely embarrassing myself or ending up in the Emergency Room. God I hope not. My Spanish is decent, but not enough to discuss medical care in a foreign country.
I stood up on my bike and mounted those sidewalks, swerved around construction cones, and peddled the last bit of the tour uphill all in the rain, which was a full-on storm at this point. Finally it was over! My tour-mates and I crowded into the tiny bike shop drying off and laughing. By this time the sunglasses were off and my anxiety now turned into accomplishment. Bogota brought something out in me that has always been there. In fact, "it" surfaces all the time depending on the situation. "It" is the "fight." You know we as humans either Fight or Flight. Well, I had no choice but to fight through this obstacle-course called a bike tour.
I watched as all of my tour-mates one-by-one jumped into Taxis or Uber rides back to their hotels and hostels. I was one of the last to leave. I waited for my Uber completely drenched, yet proficient in the art and skill of bike riding through Bogota.
My love affair with Colombia has just started. Colombia felt like home. I felt accepted. I felt challenged, but in a good way. I felt loved. I will return. I don't know when, but I will one day.