At Terminal 1 at Dubai International Airport at 2am, ready to start my journey to Colombia.
My 4:40am flight to Addis Ababa had been changed to 5:30am. This reduced my 95 minute transit down to just 45, and although a little tight, I had made many transits in Addis before and even with as little as 30 minutes and had never yet missed a connection so decided not to worry too much.
I perhaps should have been a little more vigilant however as the Boeing 777 from Addis was significantly delayed and as it had just started the 4 hour flight to Dubai it would not arrive until at least 7am.
In hindsight this was a little perplexing, given that at check-in in Dubai they had given me my onward boarding pass for the 9:30am flight from Addis Ababa to São Paulo when it was physically impossible at that stage for me to make the flight.
Grabbing a bite to eat at the Marhaba lounge.
I headed to the gate for the flight to Ethiopia. After a quick look at the departures board I saw that the flight wasn't due to depart now until 7:30am. I realised I would definitely miss the flight to São Paulo and likely have to catch the following days flight!
I booked my fare booked through an OTA to Bogotá on Ethiopian Airlines and Avianca Brazil for only $1,253.
Given my cheap ticket I wasn't sure there was really a better option other than the probable 24 hour stopover in Addis so just resigned myself to having to arrive a day later than planned in Bogotá.
For the trip I had also booked three domestic flights in Colombia on Avianca for an additional $251.
Hence my eventual flight schedule for the trip was:
Day 0: Flying Ethiopian Airlines (ET) from Dubai to São Paulo via Addis Ababa (DXB-ADD-GRU).
Day 1: Flying Avianca Brazil (O6) from São Paulo to Bogotá (GRU-BOG).
Day 2: Flying Avianca (AV) from Bogotá to Medellín (BOG-MDE).
Day 6: Flying Avianca (AV) from Medellín to Cartagena (MDE-CTG).
Day 9: Flying Avianca (AV) from Cartagena to Bogotá (CTG-BOG).
Flying Avianca Brazil (O6) from Bogotá to São Paulo (BOG-GRU).
Flying Ethiopian Airlines (ET) from São Paulo to Dubai via Addis Ababa (GRU-ADD-DXB).
With the 2+ hour wait until boarding I crashed out on one of the loungers for a bit of an early morning nap.
The ET 777 at the gate in the now bright morning sun just after 7am.
Breakfast served soon after take-off. The Captain apologised for the delay and said the reason was an unplanned shutdown of the ATC system in Addis Ababa.
And a hot cup of Ethiopian coffee.
Flying over the capital city of Somaliland, Hargesia.
Cloudy skys looming over Addis Ababa Bole International Airport after we landed at 9:45am.
After queueing up at the rebooking desk, I was given my food and accomodation voucher. My flight to São Paulo and onto Bogotá had been rebooked for the following day, I was given new boarding passes all the way to Bogotá and was told that my checked suitcase would be retagged all the way through.
After catching a shuttle to my hotel, I headed to the restaurant for some lunch. There seemed to be quite a few other passengers at the hotel on unplanned stopovers in Addis due to the ATC system failure.
And finally in my room just before 2pm. I had been up since midnight so promptly crashed out and napped for a few hours.
I woke up at 5pm to rain bucketing down over the city. I briefly considered going for a walk but decided to just be lazy and watch some Netflix on my iPad. I also emailed my hotel in Bogotá regarding my now one day late arrival.
Spaghetti and chicken stew for dinner before having an early night and ready for another attempt at travelling to South America early tomorrow.
After a quick shower I headed downstairs for breakfast.
And then caught the hotel shuttle back to Addis Ababa Bole International Airport just before 7am.
The ET787 waiting at the gate. Luckily there was no issues with today's flight to São Paulo was still running as scheduled.
Watching the safety briefing soon after boarding. It was great to be finally underway again after the 24 hour delay.
Coke and snacks served soon after take-off.
Watching Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton in the film Red Sparrow.
Some Breaking Bad while having the chicken and rice for lunch.
After a bit of a snooze I woke up somewhere over the South Atlantic. Colombia had been on my travel radar for quite a while and it was great to be able to finally visit.
Beef and rice while catching up on some Narcos. I had only recently started watching it and was great to get a dramatized and albeit slightly fictional insight into recent Colombian history before my trip to the country.
After landing ontime at São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport I grabbed my bags from the overhead and disembarked.
I had my boarding pass for my next flight and they had told me in Addis Ababa that my suitcase was checked all the way through so I was expecting to simply walk to the departure for the flight to Bogotá.
At the end of the jet bridge was a airline representative holding a sign with my name on it. Apparently the airport didn't have a transit facility so I had clear immigration, collect my suitcase, recheck my suitcase, collect a new boarding pass and then head back through Brazilian immigration.
I told the airline representative that I had already had my boarding pass and that my bag was supposed to be checked through, but he was insistent that I had to collect my bag and recheck it.
Luckily there was no queue for immigration and I was quickly through to the luggage belt where the bags were already coming through. After waiting for 30 minutes however my suitcase still wasn't to be seen! It was 55 minutes to departure for my Bogotá flight and given that I still apparently had to check-in again, pass through security and reclear immigration I couldn't really wait any longer or try and queue up at the lost baggage.
I didn't want to miss check-in and spend the night in São Paulo so decided to just hope that my suitcase was actually checked through to Bogotá and that the airline representative in São Paulo had been misinformed.
Although it was only 45 minutes to departure, Avianca check-in was luckily still open and they quickly reissued me with a new boarding pass.
Boarding had already begun for the flight after I managed to rush through security and immigration.
The Avianca Airbus A321 for the 6 hour flight to Bogotá.
And into the clouds above São Paulo.
Watching the film, Beirut on the IFE. I luckily had an exit row so there was plenty of room to stretch out.
And enjoying some chicken and mashed potato for my second dinner.
Making our way across Brazil and on our way to Colombia.
Sandwich and a glass of water served just before landing.
And finally stamped into Colombia after arriving at El Dorado International Airport! Luckily my suitcase was one of the first to come through and it was a relief to see it after all the confusion in São Paulo.
Catching a prepaid taxi into the city centre.
And in my room for my now one night stay at Hotel Casa dela Vega in La Candelaria. The hotel was in a refurbished historic 19th century building and very reasonable at $68 a night.
Despite not getting to bed until after midnight I was wide awake by 5am due to jetlag, so headed out for an early morning walk through La Candelaria, the historic neighborhood in the city's downtown.
And back at Hotel Casa dela Vega enjoying a tasty first meal in Colombia.
I then headed out to explore the city some more. A very long TransMilenio bus.
At 10am I met up outside the Museo del Oro for the Beyond Colombia Bogotá free walking tour with our guide for today, Santiago.
At Santander Park beside a statue of Francisco de Paula Santander, a Colombian military and political leader. Santiago explained that after independence from Spain, Colombia was originally part of Gran Colombia, a northern state of South America that included the territories of present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, and parts of northern Peru, western Guyana and northwestern Brazil. The state then devolved into its sucessor states in 1831 and with Panama later separating from Colombia in 1903.
Outside the graffiti-ridden 16th century Iglesia de San Francisco.
Looking across Avenida Jimenez De Quesada to the headquarters of El Tiempo, the largest daily newspaper in Colombia.
Stopping on Carrera 7 where Santiago told us about a period of time in Colombia called the Bogotazo and La Violencia.
A memorial to Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, a Colombian politician who was assassinated in April 1948 and led to the Bogotazo 10-hour riot that left much of downtown Bogotá destroyed. This subsequently led to a violent period of political unrest called La Violencia from 1948 to 1958.
An eclectic and colourful mural as we walk down a side alley.
Plazoleta del Rosario with a statue of Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, a Spanish explorer and conquistador in northern South America and the founder of the city of Bogotá in 1538.
Walking down the colourful Carrera 2.
And where we stopped at Casa Galeria.
Santiago then gave a brief introduction to Chicha, a South and Central American drink that is made in Colombia from cooked maize with sugar and then fermented for six to eight days.
Tasting almost like a sweet beer, it definitely wasn't too bad!
We then continued our walk down Carrera 2.
Outside our next stop, Selina bar & Restaurant.
And getting to try a shot of Canelazo, a spiced cinnamon rum drink that is drank in the Andean highlands.
Outside the Miguel Urrutia Art Museum on Calle 11.
Located also inside was the Botero Museum, which houses 123 works of the Colombian artist, Fernando Botero.
La carta, 1976.
Los bailarines, 1988.
Born in Medellín, his signature style is known as "Boterismo" and depicts people and figures in large and exaggerated volume.
Una familia, 1981.
The Big Hand , 1976–1977. Santiago said that the middle finger gesture was definitely intended!
Outside the Teatro de Cristóbal Colón, the National Theatre built in the Neoclassical style in 1885.
And a pigeon perched on top of a statue of Camilo Torres Tenorio on the edge of Plaza Bolívar.
After thanking and tipping Santiago for a great walking tour, I headed back to Casa Galeria to grab a bite to eat with three Arepa Campesinas and a hot cappuccino.
Looking down on La Candelaria below.
The BD Bacatá in Santa Fe and the tallest building in Colombia at 260 metres tall.
And a panorama looking west of the city of 10,200,000 people.
Just after 4pm I caught an Uber back to El Dorado International Airport to catch my flight to Medellín. It was a shame I had to cut my visit to Bogotá by a day due to my late arrival but it was good to get a taste and perhaps plan a return visit sometime in the future.
After I went to check in for my 6:20pm flight, the agent offered to switch me to the 5pm flight that was departing in 30 minutes and which I gladly accepted.
Airside after passing through security.
And about to board the Avianca A320.
"Tribute to...". It was interesting to see each of the seats on the plane dedicated to an individual Avianca employee.
Lemon tea served on the short hop to Medellín.
Catching a taxi to the city after arriving at José María Córdova International Airport.
And my room for the next four nights at Sites Hotel in El Poblado for a very reasonable $68 per night including breakfast.
For dinner I headed to a local pizza joint and enjoyed the very tasty Mediterranea de carnes with neapolitan sauce, mozzarella, ham, pepperoni, black olive, caramelized onion and dried tomato. After a short stroll around El Poblado I headed back to the hotel to catch up on some much needed sleep.
After a decent sleep in a very comfortable bed I headed out to stretch my legs. Surprisingly they had closed off the main road to let people walk, run and bike on the Sunday morning.
It was great to see residents of the city out and about getting some exercise.
Although lower in altitude than Bogotá, the 1,495 m elevation as well as the hills meant I was limited to a slow and lazy jog.
It was great to explore the city however with its unique location in the Aburrá Valley.
And back at the hotel enjoying another tasty breakfast. Also at the buffet was deep fried empanadas which were quite different to what I had eaten two months before in Argentina.
After breakfast I headed for a walkabout in El Poblado. At the weekend markets at Parque El Poblado.
Viernes de Mujeres.
At Parque Lineal La Presidenta where there was a weekend Farmers market underway.
I couldn't resist some of the chorizo de puerco.
Fresh sugar cane juice being squeezed.
With ample limes for good measure.
A tasty lunch for only a few pesos.
After heading back the hotel, I met up with my driver and guide, Juan, for a private Pablo Escobar tour of Medellín.
The first stop of the tour was a short drive to Edificio Mónaco. A six storey apartment building built by Escobar and where he and his family lived in the top floor penthouse. Juan said that at the time Medellín had few high-rise residential buildings so the Escobar building was all the more impressive.
In January 1988 Escobar's rivals exploded a car bomb outside, leaving a 25 feet wide crater and injuring five people.
The building is now empty and is due to be demolished sometime in 2019 with the site being turned into a park or memorial to victims of Colombia's drug war.
We then drove on to the next stop, Barrio Pablo Escobar.
Located high up on the eastern slope of Medellín, it was definitely a lot grittier than the upmarket El Poblado.
Built and funded by Escobar, it is one of the many "gifts" the drug lord gave to the city's poorest inhabitants to secure their loyalty.
It was quite interesting to see the poorer barrio's situated on the steep hills and reminded me of the favella's of Rio de Janeiro.
Residents ascending the stairs to the Barrio.
Escobar worked hard to cultivate his Robin Hood image, distributing money through housing projects, sponsoring football teams and other civic activities.
A plaque in honor of Pablo Escobar. With his philanthropy it was not hard to see why a person who he is widely held responsible for some 4,000 deaths was also lionised as a saint by some.
A few photo's from the life of Escobar inside a small museum at the base of the barrio.
Next door was the El Patrón Barberia & Peluqueria.
With the famous mugshot of Escobar on the wall.
I had no need for a haircut but bought a few souvenirs instead.
We then drove across town to Los Olivos, a middle-class barrio in Medellín. Outside a building that is currently a Spanish school but was once the safe house for Escobar and and his bodyguard, Álvaro de Jesús Agudelo (alias "El Limón").
We then circled to the back of the buildings to the rooftop where Escobar attempted to escape when tracked down by Search Bloc.
Juan showing me a photo of the building on the day when Escobar was shot on the 2nd of December, 1993.
Members of Search Bloc celebrating over Escobar's body on the rooftop where he was fatally shot while trying to evade capture.
We then headed south to Cemetario Jardins Montesacro in Itagüí.
At the graveside of Pablo Escobar with a couple of other Narcos fans.
White flowers on the headstone.
A few metres away was the grave of Gustavo Gaviria, Escobar's cousin and right-hand man, the Medellín cartel's financial head, the brains of the organization and who met a grisly end in the Narcos TV series.
And back in El Poblado and thanking Juan for an awesome Narcos tour of Medellín!
I went for an evening walk in search of something to eat and settled on a Mexicana Molotov Hamburguesa for dinner.
And back to the hotel after a great first day in Medellín.