Worth the Climb

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During my time in Bogota, Colombia I embarked on two gorgeous hikes in the Andes mountains. The views were breathtaking, and I was often lulled into a long, peaceful trance as the green hills cascaded in front of me for miles and miles. The air was clean and crisp, and the physical challenge of it all was strenuous, yet rejuvenating.

Hike number one was through the town of Guatavita, a sacred place about 1.5 hours outside of Bogota where the ancient Muisca tribe once reigned from 600 to 1600 C.E. Before the hike began, we were taught all about the Muisca – they worshipped Zue the sun god and Chie the moon goddess, believed that we should spend vast amounts of time in self-reflection, and were extremely creative.

On a guided park tour through all of the mountain’s lushness, we were lead up to Lake Guatavita – a beautiful blue lagoon that was a powerful, spiritual place where the Muisca people performed many rituals, and it is where the legend of El Dorado was birthed. To this day, many believe there are gold treasures nestled in the bottom of the lake.

After the hike down from the lake we briefly visited the local town, which offered a few small restaurants, shops, and vendors. Here is a bit of what I captured during our trek:

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View from the top of the hike
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Lake Guatavita

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Hike number two consisted of a longer expedition through the rugged forests, vast plains, and sky-high mountains of Suesca – we climbed rocks & boulders, crawled through cold & claustrophobic Colombian caves, and walked for a total of about ten miles.

About these caves…IT. WAS. NOT. EASY.*deep sigh of relief* I will say this was one of the most challenging things I’ve had to do both physically and mentally in my adult lifetime. Navigating through the caves required a decent level of skill, upper body strength, and mental discipline.

We had a total of five major physical tasks we had to complete to proceed to the next part of each cave – this included scaling and squeezing through rocks, swimming through ice-cold water, and climbing rickety ladders made of wood. Think of American Ninja Warrior but inside of pitch black caves deep under the ground.

About 12 of us did this insane activity together and we were each others’ cheerleaders. There were tears, moments of frustration and panic, and finally a sweet feeling of accomplishment at the end.

Views from the hike and inside the caves:

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For me, making it through to the light of day at the end of the caves filled me with overwhelming elation. It was a pristine moment of growth, and I felt it in every inch of my bones. I now feel like I can do absolutely anything in this world – maybe even skydive, and that’s saying A LOT (I have a crazy lifelong fear of heights).

The whole thing was an obvious metaphor for life, really – you’ll have to push through places and moments that seem totally impossible. You’ll have to gather every ounce of your strength, and even dig deeper for more that you didn’t know was there, while riding the wildest emotional rollercoaster. But in the end, you’ll absolutely always make it out.

I’m now in Medellin, Colombia for the month of March, so new posts coming soon!

Besos,

Ash

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A City Wrapped in Symbolism

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The streets of Bogota are veiled with never-ending displays of symbolic graffiti. Vast murals share stories of political corruption, spirituality, and expressions of love on nearly every building side. The city recently stopped the criminalization commonly associated with graffiti, which has allowed artists to spend much more time working on their pieces. In result, Bogota is now a true showcase of modern street art.

Last weekend I went on the city’s most popular graffiti tourstarted by Australian street artist Crisp in 2009, to learn more about the street artists and the messages behind their work.

I expected our guide to recite a long list of fun facts that I would likely ignore while snapping a ton of photos, but instead I was immensely intrigued with every carefully crafted narrative layered into each piece of work.

Street artist Dj Lu, often called Bogota’s Banksy, is known for his powerful, politically charged stenciled murals throughout the city. His work is raw and real – portraying dark tales of corruption, warfare, and globalism. Below are different shots that all comprise one huge mural done by himself, in collaboration with other street artists.

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Capitalism being carried on the backs of the poor; the poor holding onto nature as a form of hope.

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Debunking western standards of beauty.

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The cost of war – “seca y reza” meaning “sins and prayer”. The details include insects with machine guns as wings.

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A wider shot of the mural.
Another mural from Dj Lu:

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Notice the woman in the middle carrying a baby, holding a tic-tac-toe sign with weaponry images; signifies that nobody wins in war.
APC (Animal Poder Crew), also popular in the Bogota graffiti scene, has tons of prolific pieces plastered throughout La Candelaria. The crew was started more than 10 years ago by graffiti artist Stinkfish – known for his stunning mixed media work – and has grown to be an international collective of artists throughout Latin America and Europe.

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‘The Indigenous Metamorphosis’ – APC

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Cats – Animalez (part of APC)

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A piece by Stinkfish that combines photography, stencil work, and traditional freeform street spray painting.
Well-known Los Angeles-based artist Kiptoe has several murals in La Candelaria, with more of his work featured in various major cities throughout the world – including Italy, Tanzania, and Brazil. His work is bright, big and captivating. The mural shown below was completed in under four hours and portrays the lusty story of two lovers separating and saying their goodbyes.

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“Hasta Que Nos Encontremos De Nuevo” or “Until We Meet Again” – Kiptoe
Nomadathe son of Colombian illustrator Rodez, is known for his colorful, multidimensional work. Below you’ll see his image of a large beetle type of bug, which uses bright blues, greens, and purples.

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Nomada
The brother of Nomada, Malegria, is also a street artist but offers a much different style of work. High contrast black and white murals often have one pop of metallic color (like the gold accents below) and feature lots of eyes. His style is said to be similar to ancient Aztec-style pieces that use many small lines to convey one big illustration.

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Malegria

More beautiful street art we saw during the tour:

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For more about the Bogota Graffiti Tour, visit their site here: http://bogotagraffiti.com/

XOXO,

Ash

Bogotá Views & D.C. Blues

Waking up to a dreamlike view of the Andes mountains and the fresh air in Bogotá every morning has offered a nice contrast to the heaviness of Mexico City. I no longer hear the tamale man circling around our block with a megaphone trying to sell his delicacies or the echoing of dozens of dogs barking in the street. My chest also feels way less tight from all the pollution we were living in. But mannn, I’m missing those Nutella stuffed churros that were just a three-minute walk away.

The layout of our new apartment has us feeling like we could be in any major U.S. city or spending a spontaneous weekend in South Beach, Miami – we have a white leather couch with two matching dining chairs, a lime green ottoman, large shag rug, with accent pillows and chair to match. It’s all bright as hell and modern, and it’s much better than the falling bedroom ceiling and the God-awful sulfur smells we dealt with in our Mexico City spot.

Our small balcony offers a vivid view of the regal mountains on the upper left of us with tons of business and apartment buildings down below. It’s been 10 days and we like it here – the only beef I have with Bogotá is that I have yet to find the perfect empanada. *sigh*

Lately, I’ve been really missing home. I’ve even made my favorite Nigerian stew with fried plantains twice in the past week to fill the little void I’ve been battling. My Facetime dates with my three younger siblings are bittersweet – I do love seeing their faces and answering their redundant questions, but they’re getting even taller, started cooking their own dinners, and are writing essays about going to college in five years. I’m super proud but want them to slowww downnn. At least while I’m gone.

Practically every day since January 1st has offered perfect weather. With sunny days and cool, crisp evenings, I forget what rain and snow and bitter winter winds feel like. The most I’ll need at night is my light leather jacket. But oddly, I miss my east coast winter days – wrapping up in my chunky scarves and throwing on my long black boots with every outfit. I would also kill for a boozy Sunday brunch with a delicious bowl of southern shrimp-n-grits. Gahh.

D.C. isn’t going anywhere, and it’ll surely be the same when I get back in December. I’m working hard on being present, and fully immersing myself in the now.

Favorite Bogotá moments so far: taking a cable car up the Monserrate mountain and obsessing over the views, finding the perfect sushi spot, and dancing to live Afrolatina music at El Campanario.

Not so favorite moments: playing a dangerous traditional Colombian game called Tejo (it uses explosives WTF), walking miles around dusty construction, and being stared at blankly when speaking pretty damn good Spanish.

I’ve been spending most of my time this week in my apartment, mostly because I have a stupid little cold. But I plan on exploring much more of the beautiful city of Bogotá. Here’s some of what I’ve captured so far:

Downtown Bogotá  & Museum District

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Day trip to Monserrate

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XOXO,

Ash