We continued along toward Monserrate, the mountain we would ascend to an additional 2,000 feet. We passed the tallest buildings in Colombia, with Michael remarking “they’re also regarded as the ugliest.” I liked them.
There was an international arts festival geared up to begin, and troupes of actors, jugglers, stilt walkers, and mimes suddenly filled the streets. Michael ran into a friend and they settled into a lengthy catch up chat. We were grateful for the rest and opportunity to take snaps. Part of the backdrop was some colorful high rise buildings, which Michael said were expensive new apartments.
I was surprised to see topless women among the performers. They were painted white, but they were topless. No one else seemed to notice them. I didn’t take photos only because I couldn’t get a clear shot without potentially seeming creepy. When we asked Michael about them later he said he hadn’t noticed them.
I saw a woman breastfeeding in a grocery store in Nairobi once, but that’s not the same. I’ve seen women sunbathing topless in France and men playing nude soccer in Berlin’s Tiergarten park, but that’s Western Europe. Maybe the Catholic Church really has lost its sway in Colombia. Maybe these women were from another country where toplessness is no big deal. Maybe in this particular neighborhood, “anything goes.”
There was a group of police officers nearby but they were all absorbed in their cell phones. Is it sad—or progress—that young, male cops were more interested in their phones than in naked women?
“In Minnesota,” I commented, “The police would arrest topless women.” That’s our Puritan background.
We moved on, passing through a neighborhood with art deco touches, like this door.
There was this contrast between the lovely old deco building on the right and the newer high rise on the left decorated with an eagle mural. The contained stream in the bottom right flowed for many blocks.
We continued to slog uphill, Lynn and I moving slower and slower. Finally, we reached the bottom of the mountain where we would catch a ride to the top in a funicular or a gondola.
“Do you mind if I leave you here?” Michael asked. “I’m running behind. It’s 2:00 and I’m supposed to meet my next tour. I’ll give you the money for the tickets; that’s included in your tour.”
Of course we didn’t mind, and he was gone. I see his posts on Facebook now and feel reassured that he’s not doing anything foolish provoke the authorities. At least, not on Facebook.
We were herded in to the funicular with hundreds of other tourists. Since I’m not an engineer, I always marvel that these things actually work. As per normal, all sorts of disaster scenarios flashed through my mind, including, This would be a bad time for raw-fruit-induced diarrhea to kick in.
The breathlessness was worth it.
There was yet more slow walking uphill at the top of the mountain to reach the restaurants. We stopped to take photos.
We picked the closest restaurant and were not disappointed. White linen, stellar views, good wine, and the first of many ceviches.
We had a leisurely lunch, then wandered toward the cable cars, which of course were up yet another hill. But again, the views were breath taking—no pun intended. We waited for half an hour with a hundred other people and no one complained; we were all gazing out the windows at the views.
Then, the descent.
At a junction, the car lurched and everyone went “Aaargh!!” then laughed sheepishly.
At the foot of Monserrate we hailed a taxi. When he dropped us off he played a shell game with money and we were fairly sure he ripped us off. But so what? He got 18,000 pesos off of us—$6. It wasn’t worth fighting over.
We had dinner that night at a Peruvian-Colombian restaurant where we were entertained by a jazz trio and two tables of fighting couples. The one nearest us—Germans, maybe?—sent her food back to the kitchen, complaining loudly that it wasn’t good, then sniped at each other and stalked out.
“I’d rather be alone!” Lynn said, speaking for us both.