Thursday, 7 January 2016

Basking (and biking) in Bogotá

We can often be quite selfish beings, or at the very least parochial. So while the El Niño weather phenomenon is causing significant hardship for many across Colombia and beyond in terms of severe drought, in Bogotá, to all extent and purposes, it's been rather pleasant, save for the odd price increase in some staple foodstuffs.
A recently constructed cycle path alongside Autopista Norte in Bogotá DC, Colombia.
Bogotá has some decent cycle paths; there could always be more of course.
The recent months of decent sunshine and dryness in the nation's capital have been, from a personal point of view anyway, well received. Bogotá, perhaps more than others, is a depressing place to be when the heavy rains, as they do, inundate the metropolis. Streets and footpaths turn into rivers, it's cold (relatively speaking), dark and the desire to leave your abode is low, unless you have your own door-to-door transport, preferably a boat.

When the rainy season visits Bogotá it generally makes you question, more than usual, what you're doing here. So the wet weather hasn't really been missed, for the moment in any case.

Now it must be noted that coinciding with this extended, exceptionally dry period is Colombia's chief holiday season. For roughly the past four weeks it's largely been work to rule, if you work at all that is. The country's on a go slow and will be for about another week. What this means for Bogotá is that there are fewer people and consequently less traffic about. Commuting in the capital is almost fun. This is an important factor: the rain may make the traffic that bit worse but it's not a whole lot better in sunshine when the place is in full swing.

Bogotá's new mayor, Enrique Peñolosa (centre) likes to get around on his bike.
Mayor Cool: Enrique Peñolosa (photo from Facebook).
Alongside this, for the last few weeks I've had a bicycle (a woman's one albeit) available to me for getting around. Not only does it cut down on rising transport costs but peddling around the city at this moment in time is rather enjoyable — not quite an oasis of tranquillity, but enjoyable nonetheless. Using the bike is something that has been officially promoted here for some time and will be even more so with new mayor Enrique Peñolosa, a man who never seems to miss a photo opportunity with helmet on, atop of his bike.

I'd generally been reluctant to use a bike in Bogotá for a number of reasons. Firstly, if I'd a class a good distance away, arriving all sweaty or soaking wet or both didn't really appeal. If the class was inside an hour's walk away, I'd go by foot. Then there was (and is) the security issue: Where do I securely stow the bike so it won't get robbed? Not all places are bike friendly and you run the risk of it being stolen tying it up in public.

However, right now with 'my' bike, both those problems don't really come into play: I don't have many classes so it's usually just for social reasons I cycle and where ever I go I tend to have a secure place to leave the bike.
Children having a water fight in Bogotá: in other parts of Colombia they're fighting to find water right now.
Water fight in Bogotá; in other parts there's none to drink.

All this could change in the coming weeks. If and when the rain returns, biking around Bogotá will be much less fun, nay impossible on some routes. When the masses return it will be more chaotic.

Then there's the small matter that in a few weeks I won't have access to the bike I’m using — it's a perk that comes with the nice apartment and temperamental cat (there's always a downside) I'm currently looking after.

Thus, it's a case of enjoying things while I can. It's a given that I'll have to vacate the apartment and leave the bike behind. Plus, it's unlikely that this sunny weather will keep up. If it were to, our water might be regularly cut off for conservation purposes. Goodness, we might begin to feel the adverse effects of El Niño then, just like the rest of the country is right now. Oh spare us the hardship, please.
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