April 12, 2018
The morning in Pereira offers little that is memorable, other than the fact that the sky is clear and the sun seems to be blessing the land again, even these relatively torpid climes. The room is as characterless as it was yesterday, only much brighter. A breakfast far from memorable at the bakery down the block, with a hot chocolate that is probably the worst I have had in this country, where the said beverage can be exceptional.
I pack, and alas, there is no time left for writing in my journal. The taxi drive to the airport takes us through hardly more memorable neighborhoods, although provides an opportunity to chatter about the actualities of contemporary Colombian politics and society, a favorite polemic to engage in with cab drivers in the country.
The airport could be a quaint affair, if it weren’t for the chaos at the check-in counter. Hordes of people cluster around the counter with apparently little progress occurring, and certainly no evidence of the ability to print boarding passes. It is not at all clear as to why so many people are waiting – are they on standby? Avianca has relatively numerous flights to the capital every day, so it makes little sense that people should get too obsessed about getting onto a particular flight.
The coffee shop on the lower level of the airport provides a few moments of redemption, inasmuch as it offers probably some of the best coffee I have had in the region. The security clearance is relatively disorganized, and at the gate, boarding is already in progress. Random seats through the plane are free, including the one next to me. Very surprisingly, the seat features a relatively generous pitch, not leaving me cramped, and moreover, the seat is actually quite comfortable.
I expect the flight to be very bumpy, given the amount of clouds we are flying through and that we are flying over several mountain ranges, but not all: the one-hour slight is as smooth as imaginable, with no more than a few moments of slight turbulence. I joke to the disinterested woman sitting next to me that it seems that weather in Bogotá may not be so bad after all as we approach the capital, but upon landing are again in a torrential downpour. The wing of the airport we arrive in may be very modern and spacious, but the processes deployed here could use some improvement, given that my backpack arrives wet on the conveyor belt.
The rest of the experience of leaving the airport is straightforward, including hailing a taxi, the driver assuring me in his placid, relaxed manner that he knows the area I am travelling to. The journey seems promising, another lengthy discussion about the country unfolding with a taxi driver as the car inches slowly through the bottlenecks. Surprisingly, once we are close enough to the centre, I recognize the surrounding, the driver surprised to hear that I had walked the area, hence know much of the city already quite well. Not that the outer areas are that memorable, and when we reach a particularly ugly street, I rightfully conclude that it is Avenida Caracas.
Further towards Carrera 7, then up, and we are on the right track until reaching the Circonvalar for the purpose of descending down Calle 71 to reach the apartment building. Except that I don’t see the number of the house where it had been mapped, and as we proceed slowly down towards Carrera 4, the number does not appear anywhere. We do another loop up Calle 74 to the Circonvalar, then down 71 again, and don’t spot the building. Now I descend at various places, asking people on the street, police, porteros, and so on.
Some people are incredibly helpful, but where the building should be according to the number, it is not located. Time goes by, and the search for the AirBnB home. As I don’t have a cell, I ask the cab driver to call the number I have, and unbelievably, he is confused as to what he should be dialing. I decide to pull the plug on this farce – there is a spacious Starbucks on Carrera 5, and it is time to sit down at my laptop and message the host as to what I am missing.
At the Starbucks, pleasant and exceedingly friendly banter with the staff, but an important mission awaits. The address I have does in fact correspond to the address provided in the messaging sidebar with the host. I message her as to what the address is, and she responds with an entirely different address, nearby, but different. It turns out the address in the invoice is correct, but different from the one displayed in the messaging sidebar.
Really. And this is a host that has dozens of glowing reviews. The state of AirBnB in this country never fails to amaze me – and that in a negative way. I am left incredulous by this glaring issue on the part of the host, and she has conveniently recused herself when I arrive finally, having left the key with the portero.
Another big issue with AirBnB is homes are typically shown in a more glowing light than would be merited. In this case, the apartment is reasonably well-sized, although somewhat smaller than I would expect for the price being charged. Nonetheless, much of the city is fairly hideous, while this particular area is very choice – and correspondingly expensive. The apartment is fully furnished, although perhaps too much so, to the extent that it is difficult to arrange one’s own affairs.
A lot of time has to be spent trying to figure out what is where and how it works, and so on. But these are in the end minor issues for me – what matters is being in a real home, not some characterless shell, as exemplified by the box I was staying in in Pereira. And unlike the last apartment I had, it is not too far towards Los Cerros to get completely lost in the steep serpentine roads.