Colombia :: Bogotá, food poisoning & the end of my adventure

“A developed country is not where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”
– Gustavo Petro, Mayor of Bogotá

I only got to see the cathedral in Bogotá and have lunch with my new, French friend Laura, before succumbing to food poisoning… It was bad. It was real bad.

But that’s not really Bogotá’s fault, so let’s not judge.

I spent a week in Bogotá and on evening #3 I ate an ice cream that came in a sealed container, from a shop that resembled a normal 7/11 (or “Narvesen” for the Norwegians out there). It was a clean and tidy place and the ice cream didn’t seem funky at all so I didn’t think twice about it until I woke up the next morning with pains and massive… well… shall we say “exit problems”?

But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

I started out at the R10 hostel (Hostal R10, Casa Dorantes, Calle 12b) in a lovely dorm room with a top bed for one night, then quickly turning it into a bottom bed as fast as I could (and thank GOD for that given how I would feel just two days later!). This dorm had great wifi and bunk beds with a functioning reading light in each compartment, ample, lockable space under the beds for bags and belongings and thick curtains that gave you fantastic privacy (again: thank God for that!).

I didn’t take any pictures of the actual beds except one showing how I felt after I had gotten sick. I had managed to take a shower and all my strength was used up… This picture pretty much defined my last three days in Bogotá… With the possible exception of me looking way too peaceful…

the R10 Hostel is in “La Candelaria”, affectionately called “The Heart of Bogotá”. The afformentioned “Catedral Primada” is here on the main square, “Plaza de Bolivar” (named after Simón Bolívar, the guy who led the countries of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama to independence from the Spanish Empire). There’s a statue of him there of course, but also the lovely cathedral that has been situated there since the colonial era. Well, at least if you count that it’s been rebuilt on the same spot four times… But who’s really counting, right?

When the Spanish conquerors officially founded the city of Bogotá (changing the original Indian name of the city: Bacata), they established in 12 huts and a hay-church, that -after being totally built- would take the name of Archbishopric Cathedral of Bogotá. The cathedral holds the remains of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, founder of Bogotá. The cathedral, its area 5,300 square meters, is the biggest in Colombia and one of the biggest ones in South America.

Other than the cathedral the Bolivar Square holds the Palace of Justice, the National Capitol and the City Hall. All of this was a 5 minute walk from my hostel through the signature narrow streets of La Candelaria, past street vendors selling emeralds (and “emeralds”) as well as handmade jewelry and trinkets. I ended up buying some replicas of famous Botero-paintings (ironically, Ferdinand Botero was from Medellin) and a couple of bracelets, otherwise just enjoying the street art, musicians and colours. Amidst enormous and random rain showers…

Laura, my French roomie at the hostel took me to lunch at a local vegan place right up the road from where we were staying – it was delicious food and they randomly sold hand sewn pads for women made from cotton. Brightly coloured too. Because why not have a “Restaurant and Pad”-place? If you’re gonna do one…

And then disaster hit. I went to bed feeling fine and woke up the sickest I had been on my trip since that one 36 hour stint in Zimbabwe where they thought I’d contracted Malaria. Only this time I wasn’t alternating between freezing and burning up, I was just constantly shuttling between my bed and the toilet. It was horrible, I couldn’t even get food in my mouth, I spent all day and then the night just shuttling… It was the worst I had felt my entire trip. But at least I was aware of that fact too, so I was grateful it happened at the very end of my trip. I had avoided it so far and that was a win in my book… Even if the very next second I didn’t feel I was winning anything as I headed for the toilet once more…

I went to breakfast the next morning not having slept much and managed to get some of the fruit in me. A few pieces of mango and apple for my very empty stomach. Then I took the chance and went across the street and bought myself a large bottle of Coca-Cola, a large bottle of water and a small bag of salted crisps/chips. Those were the only things my brain could even consider getting in me with any form of success.

Laura had left for a tour at this time and the only other people in my dorm room thought I had COVID 19 so they stayed well clear of me 😛

I brought my laptop to one of the common area’s couches, plopped myself down with my supplies and watched Agatha Christie’s Poirot the whole rest of the day.

My third day of being sick I knew I HAD TO get some food in me or I would be in serious trouble. Feeling like this I find that all I can do is run through foods in your head and see what doesn’t cause a violent repelling sensation in my stomach. My stomach decided it could handle a little pure meat and maybe some vegetables. No sauce or spices or anything like that, just are pure as I could find it.

Googling I found an Argentinian restaurant about 6 minutes away from the hostel and it was right next to a pharmacy(!) – Seemed like fate to me. I opened Bing Translator, wrote “I need something for Diarrhea”, switched it to Spanish and set off down the road.

At the restaurant I suffered through ordering steak with vegetables and waiting for it to arrive before I forced down about half the steak and a few of the veggies. After which I got up and went straight for the register to pay, trying to convince the guy that I had loved the food. “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I don’t know if he believed me, but I did my best.

My savior…

I trotted over to the pharmacy and saw a woman behind the counter, shoved my phone in her face and watch her read and then understand. She looked at me, nodded and said “yes, ok!” and proceeded to sift through a lot of bags and boxes. She came back with some bags of powder and asked “One? Two?” I decided to be on the safe side and held up two fingers. She smiled emphatically at me and took my money saying “Good luck”. I gave a weak smile before heading back to the hostel, stopping only to buy new bottles of Coca-Cola and water.

By this time I had booked tickets to London waiting to head home because of the stupid pandemic (God damn disguting stupid COVID!) – Originally I was going to Riga in Latvia, staying there for a few days before getting on a “Historic Bus ride” from Riga to Tallinn, stopping by some of the famous, historic castles along the way, but given the COVID-situation I had to drop that plan. My Plan B was staying in London for two days visiting Melanie and Denis (the couple I housesat for in 2018) before going home, but NOW given my condition I just skipped everything. It was too late to get a refund from my London hostel, but I didn’t really care at this point. I booked a night at the airport hotel at Heathrow and hoped I would feel ok for the 10 hour plane trip across the Atlantic. At the airport I headed for one of the airport restaurants that had pure chicken on their menu – again going for the cleanest, purest food I could find and managed to eat a little more this time… I was feeling slightly better, but still wasn’t feeling my best. I spent £50 extra to book a window seat on the plane because I couldn’t face having to move in and out of my seat every time my neighbours wanted to stretch their legs (and also, the window seat makes for a better sleeping position).

Arriving in London I was beyond exhausted and just got on the airport bus as quickly as I could. I wanted to order some very bland food, a few Cokes, have a hot shower and a long sleep before my final leg to Oslo.

All of these things happened and except for a slight mishap thinking I lost my bus ticket the next day, then going back to my room, missing the first bus, then not finding my ticket in my room, THEN realizing while I was going to pay for a NEW ticket that my OLD ticket was IN MY WALLET… phew… Yeah, I was a bit out of it…

I got back to the terminal and headed through check in and security feeling a lot better… I think it was a blend of actually being a little better and adrenaline because I was heading home.

I met Isabell and Frida on the plane going to Oslo, at this point I was a bit manic hearing so much Norwegian for the first time in such a long time… It does something to you, not gonna lie.

Anyway, I got to Oslo, fetched my bags and was promptly stopped by two dudes in uniform asking me if I was Norwegian. This was new to me because it happened AFTER I had gotten my back off the conveyor belt… I had already shown my passport so I was a little nonplussed, but I managed to say “Yes..?”. One of them smiled at me and said “Do you have your passport?” which I did so I reached into my pouch, pulled out my passport and handed it to him. He backed off a little and told me to just show me the front of it (at this point I was thoroughly confused) so i flipped it upwards so they could see I held a Norwegian passport, at which point they said “welcome home!” and let me get the hell outta there. (This is when it dawned on me that all of this was because of te God damn disguting stupid COVID!).

Anyway, Tiril was picking me up at the airport since I wasn’t to take any public transport. Harald was picking up Susanna at the same time so I had a small greeting party waiting for me when I got out. It was so weird seeing a few of my friends after such a long time and not being able to hug them, not planning on hanging out with them… Not planning a “welcome home, me”-party… Not seeing all my friends… If I hadn’t been so exhausted, I would’ve been halfway between elated and depressed. As it were I was in a weird state of mind, focusing on getting to the car, being back in good ol’ Norway and wondering if we had enough toilet paper back home… Not because of my diarrhea so much as I had heard people were hoarding them like nothing else… It was weird. And I was sad.

But on the very, very positive side I came home to:

  • Tiril buying me a week’s worth of Imodium which FINALLY got my system back to normal.
  • A new pair of winter socks to keep me warm from Kathe
  • And to top it off my friends had bought me a year’s subscription of Masterclass for my birthday which made me cry ❤

Still, my trip was over. What I had just shared on SnapChat not two weeks ago became a reality and I’d be lying hard if I said I wasn’t spiralling down a black hole after I returned home. Add to the fact that my adventure, which I felt finally was something that defined and described me as something close to how I would define and describe myself, had most definitely ended, I couldn’t even see the people I loved. The first two weeks I couldn’t see anyone and after that I could only see a precious few… from a distance… The whole reason for coming home, being with and hugging loved ones, was gone. I was still Skyping with everyone, except now I was stuck in an apartment right back where I started with not much to look forward to.

It’s not often I am that negative, and I am FULLY aware this is a first world problem (I haven’t lost a single loved one to Covid, believe me, I AM grateful for that) – but everyone got a bit depressed during the 1,5 years of COVID restricions and I dealt with some pre-existing personal issues and a profound loss of self on top of all of it. Not gonna lie. I was depressed…

Video from Medellin – me realizing that things were about to get shit for me…

I’m going to sum up my last year’s spendings and favs like I did for the previous two years in a bit and then I’ll be done with the travel posts from my trip. I suspect this is why it’s taken me so long to do them… I don’t want it to be final.

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