Bogota and the Colombian emergency dentist

Our flight left very early (8th September) from La Paz to Lima, and we didn’t really have time to leave Lima airport before our connection to Bogota. We grabbed some food and got on our second plane of the day, ready for our 3rd country of the day, and Gemma’s tooth was hurting for the 4th time in the day.

The Colombian taxi driver was very helpful and cheerful, and our taxi cost us 40,000 pesos, which I didn’t think was too bad. We dropped our bags off at the Hotel Portal De Oxum, which is surrounded by flower shops. The room was very compact, but clean and comfy. Our first stop was an ATM for some cash, and it is the first (and probably last) time that I have withdrawn a million of anything from a cash point. We felt rich!

We pulled up (eventually) at Hotel Portal De Oxum, which is supposedly one of the best in Bogota. Surrounded by flower shops it all smelt very fresh and looked good, but the hotel was surprisingly tiny! After checking in, we took our packs to the room and found it very small, but clean and tidy. There are only a few rooms, which we considered a good thing. The breakfast was to be served between 8.30 and 9.30, quite a small window I thought.

We took a quick walk around a few blocks to grasp the area as best we could, but had to return quickly as Gemma was still in lots of pain. We stopped at a dentist, only to be told that it was an orthodontist. Now, some of you may think this is our subconscious because of Gemma’s tooth, but I am telling you the Colombian people have the best teeth in the world! 95% of people we saw had big, straight, bright white teeth. I suppose that’s a positive thing given our situation.

Once back at the hotel, the man on reception found us an emergency dentist and we were booked in at 8pm. We paid a ridiculous price for a taxi (massively ripped off because we weren’t concentrating!) and arrived to an office building, not typically dentist like. After zipping up a few stairs we found the dentist office, and a nice lady began poking around inside Gem’s mouth.

A root canal was the answer, apparently. However, work couldn’t fully be completed at the moment because there was an infection. Great. We paid around 600GBP for the full works upfront and booked ourselves in for 5 appointments over the next 2 days. Bogota is bad luck for us!

The next day we spent mostly in bed, trying to clear up this infection. After 2 dentist visits, the lady informed us that we needed to postpone our travel plans. Ouch. I left Gemma in the room and set about re-arranging flights, hotels, car rentals and everything else! I was told it could not happen and that it would cost us around 3000USD in total to shift everything. We don’t have that sort of money!

We told the dentist the next day that we couldn’t afford it, and she was kind enough to patch Gemma up (temporary filling) so that we could continue to travel and sort it once in New Zealand. Gemma wanted to stay in bed (can’t feel pain when you’re in bed) so I hopped on a bus to the city centre to try and find Monserrate, a town atop a mountain which is accessible by cable car from Bogota city.

I hopped off the bus and had a quick look around the square I was in. Apologies, no clue what it was called. I approached a policemen for directions, and I thought the standard ‘smile and begin talking’ would be sufficient. This copper was the friendliest man I’ve ever met, he grabbed my hand, shook it with vigour and said ‘Lovely to meet you. How can I help?’

Pay for a photo with a llama?
Pay for a photo with a llama?
The square
The square

I toddled off in the direction he pointed, and after 10-15 minutes found myself at the entrance to a University. I asked a student for more directions, and I was only 2 minutes away. On the final approach I saw a group of 10 confused looking Israeli travellers, and I assumed they were looking for Monserrate too. After guiding them in the right direction, we queued for the cable cars, only for them to be outraged by the price and decide to walk up (1 hour uphill) instead. I wished them well and hopped into the comfy cable car!
View on the walk

The views on the way up were amazing, and it wasn’t too busy which is good. There are over priced restaurants and shops on the top of the mountain, but the views can’t be argued with. There is also a nice church, which is worth popping into. I spent 45 minutes gawking around then headed back down as I knew Gemma wouldn’t sleep for long without me there. Please click on the photos to see better quality.

I walked back to the bus station along the same route, or so I thought. I saw a street performer on the way, a man dressed up as a female clown I think. Strange, but I had no time to stop! A nice group of African guys offered me a seat and a drink too, they were pumping music out near the University. I bustled through everybody back to the bus station, and jumped on the same number bus that brought me here.

Around 15 minutes into my journey I realised that I was going the wrong way. I waited patiently, thinking that the route must be a loop (sensible assumption?) but we came to another bus station, one where everybody had to alight. So I asked in my broken Spanish how to get to ‘Flores’ bus stop (flowers), as that was near our hotel. 4 hours after I had left the hotel, I got back!

We went to bed more excited to be leaving Colombia than we should have been. We have vowed to return under better circumstances!


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