I have an uncle who has lived in Bogota, Colombia for years, and I’ve always wanted to visit him. Somehow, this desire was always placed on the back burner as other travel opportunities came up. I finally decided earlier this year that I would just do it, and settled on some dates to take Bridgette to Bogota. Sometimes, we’ve got to stop creating excuses and instead, find courage to move forward with things that are meaningful to us, because tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Funny enough, once we made this decision, a bunch of our extended family and family friends wanted to join us. They too, jumped right into buying tickets, and before I knew it, we had 12 people that would be traveling with us to Colombia!
For Bridge and my itinerary, we would have 2 layovers. The first one would be in Mexico City on our way to Bogota, and the second would be in Guadalajara, Mexico on our way back. When we booked our flight, we were eager and excited to visit 2 additional places on this trip, but as we all know when it comes to traveling, things don’t always go according to plan…
We took a red eye flight from SFO and arrived to Mexico City in the wee hours of the morning. Bridgette was able to sleep for most of the 4 hour flight, but I didn’t sleep a wink. Even at 5am, the customs lines were ridiculously long…
After about 45 minutes, we got through customs, and then booked a taxi through one of the taxi counters at the airport. Our first stop was the historic city center of Mexico City. At 6:30am though, nothing was open yet so we just wandered around the beautiful town square to take pictures.
At precisely 8am, we went into El Cardenal, a restaurant I had previously found online that was rated very high on Tripadvisor and recommended by a number of blogs. We took a lovely stained glass elevator to the second floor and got seated right away. Instead of being offered coffee or juice, we were offered frothy spiced hot chocolate and concha con nata (sweet Mexican bread with super rich clotted cream) , which we eagerly accepted.
Bridge ordered a breakfast enchilada and I ordered the huevos rancheros, but we were a bit disappointed by the flavors of both dishes. I think we would’ve been happier to have stuck with just the pastries and hot chocolate!
Shortly after breakfast as we were strolling around the area, Bridge started having a stomachache. She didn’t need to go to the bathroom but rather, felt so weak she wanted to lie down. I had no idea where to find her a place to lie down as there weren’t even benches around, but Bridge happened to remember that we had passed by a hostel near the town square. We slowly retraced our steps and eventually found the hostel. We went in to ask if there were any rooms available. They had a bunk bed available in a shared room, and offered to rent us the 2 beds for USD $20 for 2 hours. Ofcourse, I was not keen on sharing a room with complete strangers in a city we were not familiar with, but we really didn’t have any other options, so I paid the $20, took the clean bedsheets that were given to us, and then made our way to the shared room.
No one else was in the room when we arrived, but our beds were not made, so I guess that’s why they gave us the clean sheets. We stored our backpacks in the lockers next to the beds, laid our clean sheets on top of the dirty ones, and then attempted to get some rest. Bridge fell asleep in like 3 seconds, while I had a difficult time doing so because I was so terrified of potential insects or rodents. I eventually drifted in and out of sleep but constantly heard people coming in and out of our room.
When my alarm came on 1 hour and 50 minutes later, relief swept over me as I quickly woke Bridgette up, gathered all our belongings, and checked out of the hostel. Bridgette felt much better after the rest, so we continued our exploration of Mexico City.
We perused through a ton of street markets, toured the Metropolitan Cathedral, and had a light lunch on the 8th floor cafe of the Sears building, which gave us a gorgeous view of Palacio de Bellas Artes. We also visited the National Palace, where we got to see the famous murals by Diego Rivera.
After the National Palace, we were strolling along the open markets again when I suddenly realized in a panic that our passports were gone. Fortunately, Bridge recalled right away that the guard at the National Palace had taken it from us upon entry, but never returned it to us when we exited the building. We hurried back to the palace to retrieve our passports, all the while feeling very grateful that this happened while we were still in the area and not at the airport for our next flight! I couldn’t believe I would leave our passports behind, but when you don’t get any sleep, your brain doesn’t quite work the same way.
We started heading back to the airport in the late afternoon, ready for our early evening flight to Bogota. I was exhausted with all that had gone on during our 12 hour layover in Mexico City, and looked forward to some rest on the plane. As we lined up to board the plane, Bridgette suddenly had a massive nose bleed. It was like someone turned on the faucet, and blood poured out of her nose like running water. I couldn’t get my Kleenex fast enough but luckily, the couple behind us shoved some in our hands as we frantically tried to find a way to stop her nose bleed. We got it under control, but by then, Bridge’s clothes were quite bloody. When the flight attendants saw her and her bloody mess as we tried to board, they asked us to step aside and suggested that we seek medical attention. After some persuading, I managed to convince them that we were fine and to let us get onto the plane. Once we got onto the plane and in our seats, Bridgette’s nose bleed came back! I was prepared with a ton of Kleenex this time, but as we focused on her nose, she began coughing out blood, like thick globs of blood! I nearly passed out as I tried to keep up in disposing all the bloody Kleenexes.
Once again, we got the bleeding to stop, and I finally settled into my seat ready for some rest as we waited for the plane to take off. 1 hour after the scheduled take off time, we were still not moving. Another 30 minute goes by and then announcements were made in Spanish. No attempts of an English translation were made by the flight attendants, so I had no idea what was going on as everyone around me started talking loudly. I asked the women next to me if she could translate, and in her limited English, she explained that something was wrong with the plane and we would need to move to another plane.
I seriously wanted to cry. I hadn’t slept for nearly 36 hours at that point and all I wanted to do was to get to Bogota so I could sleep in a real bed. But alas, there was nothing we could do but to gather our stuff once again and deplane with everyone else…
We were directed to another gate…the gate that was the furthest from our current gate (ofcourse, Murphy’s Law right?) where we waited for another hour and a half before we were asked to line up for boarding again. As we boarded this second plane, Bridgette had another episode of a massive nose bleed!
I had to once again convince the flight attendants that this was totally normal, that Bridge was fine, since they did not want to let us get onto the plane. They did eventually let us board, but shortly after we sat down, they sent a doctor over to take a look to be safe. He adjusted the position of Bridgette’s head to help stop the bleeding and gave us some cotton absorbents to use, then gave the flight attendants the clearance to keep us on the plane.
After the 3+ hour delay, we finally took off and even though I was dead tired, I still didn’t sleep a wink on that 5.5 hour flight to Bogota. We arrived to Bogota at 3am, and by the time we cleared customs, picked up our luggages, and arrived to the service apartment my uncle arranged for us, it was close to 5am. I felt completely delirious by that point so I just flopped into the big, comfy bed and finally fell into a deep, deep sleep….
This was, no doubt, the hardest layover we’ve had. In hindsight, we were definitely too ambitious to do a 5 hour red eye flight and then a 12 hour layover in a city that required so much walking. Even with our 2 hour rest time in the hostel, we logged nearly 20,000 steps that day just exploring the city, and it was in very hot and humid weather too! The silver lining though, is how these experiences really help to shape Bridgette (and myself!!) into being more resilient and courageous. It also gives us a lot of stories to share, because when the hard part is over, we can actually look back and laugh about it….like that time when I made the stupidest decision ever in Cannes, France…