After days on the road, I end up in Bogota, which teaches me more on the FARC-story, on the intern migration to the capital due to violence on the countryside, and how the city tries to deal with its resulting exponential growth.
For the Dutch and Flemish readers, my articles got published in various media with among others, Knack and IPS.
They had warned me, almost all the Colombians I met the past month and who knew I would eventually end up here. Even though I was warned, I am not prepared at all. When the driver drops me off at the side of the street after a 10 hours bus drive, I am overwhelmed by the chaos.
Not only because of the darkness and the number of cars, busses and any other kind of motorized vehicle that fills the wide avenues. Moreover, their fumes and pollutants hinder both breath and sight. Now I understand the young guy on the bus, who loved his city, but was not very keen on returning after having spent some days in the countryside: ‘The air in Bogotá burns my throat,’ he said.
Now my throat burns, looking for a way to get to the bus terminal at the other side of the road. Considering the amount of traffic, it would be a mission impossible, if not the pedestrian bridge is there to rescue me and all the other pedestrians who are chaotically blending in the traffic congestion.
With my scarf wrapped firmly around nose and mouth – not only for the cold and dry air because of the high altitude of the capital – but to prevent the smelly air to catch my longs as well, I cross the traffic over the bridge. The city is immense, the lights of the houses reach as far as I can see, or at least as far as darkness and smog permit.
At the side of the bus terminal – that connects the capital with the southern part of the country – a small blue sign indicates the stop for the ‘alimentador’, the feeder. However, it reminds me on Jurassic Parc and I am expecting a huge monster to show up, the feeder is but a small bus taking the passengers of the bus terminal to the Transmilenio.
Spitting black smoke while thundering over its reserved lanes in the middle of the streets, the long, red busses of Transmilenio would fit in Jurassic Parc. However, back in the 1990s, its innovative character attracted international attention to the Colombian capital, which to date had not a good reputation abroad, narrowed down to violence and drugs.
Despite the current critical traffic and air quality situation in the Bogota, the city did various attempts to get itself back on the rails, which I will call the first and second city revival, but that is for the next post.