A good way to cope with driving in Bogotá is to treat it like one big adventure. I had this revelation just after hitting a pothole that sent my backseat passengers into orbit. “Yippee, we’re landing on the moon” shouted my daughter with glee. This didn’t come from nowhere: a week before in London’s Science Museum and we had paid for the Apollo Lunar Touchdown Experience which lurched us about in hydraulic chairs with some not-so special effects. But now we were back in Bogotá and… getting it for free.
So I experimented a bit. The bigger the pothole, the bigger the bump, the bigger the screams from the back seat: “We’re landing on the moon.” They hadn’t had so much fun since I convinced them that Orlando Airport was actually Disneyland (Well, there is a statue of Mickey Mouse, escalators, fountains, nice food and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper).
Given that the Bogotá Pothole Moon Landing is quite tough on the spine and car suspension, I set out to see what other themed activities are available for free on the roads of this great metropolis. I was not disappointed. Here is my back bending list below.
The 68th Avenue Zero G Ride – skilled design of the 68th Avenue flyover with El Dorado has enabled a momentary zero-G experience if you accelerate at the right moment while cresting the slope. In fact, this is two rides rolled into one as seconds later you get a free Moon Landing.
The NQS Chicane. Like many of Bogotá’s through-fares, road designers thoughtfully added and subtracted traffic lanes often at random to provide a thrilling – and free – chicane experience, best enjoyed on the NQS at faster speeds (outside peak hours) with Bruce Springsteen cranked up on the stereo.
The Haunted Tunnels – not for the fainthearted, you will catch your breath as ghost and zombie-like forms flicker in your headlights as you descend gloomy underpasses. This ghoulish graffiti comes courtesy of the Mayor of Bogotá and Justin Bieber.
Spot the Traffic Cop Infraction. A game of observation: how many law-breaking motorcycle police can you count? Devise your own point system: 1 for jumping a red light, 5 for driving against the traffic flow, 10 for short-cuts across the pavements and 20 for texting-while riding. Watch carefully, you might see two infractions at the same time! Extra points!
Escape From Bogota! In this adventure fantasy game a whole city has been held hostage by invisible forces that conspire to prevent anyone leaving easily. Can you escape the impenetrable wall of traffic? Tackling this task takes nerves, time, a strong bladder, and considerable sneaking down the inside lane.
Break into Bogota! Similar to the Escape game above, but in the opposite direction. Especially fun with the family on a Sunday.
The Tow-Away Challenge. A game of mental pressure that tests you to the limit. How well will you do? Park in a downtown area, then wait in a nearby café, to emerge when the rainbow coloured “Bogota Humana” Tow Truck Team has shackled your car and plastered Do Not Touch stickers over the doors. Can you survive the emotional roller-coaster of seeing your vehicle taken to a distant lock-up?
Will you pay slightly less than the car’s true value to get it released? Spoiler alert: The tow truck guys will park just around the corner and wait for you to offer them a bribe, which while honing your negotiation skills greatly reduces the stamina-testing thrill of this challenge. Note: this game is never free, and may land you in prison.
The Bus Shunt. In the Bogotá Driving Theme Park, this thrilling jolt will catch you unawares. How will you react being back-ended by a bus? Will your rear bumper stay on? Will the bus escape into thick traffic? All bets are off with this one – anything can happen.
The Nacho Chicken Run. Roll up your windows for a rip-roaring ride-by of the National University – affectionately known as-‘the Nacho’ – while riot police lob tear gas at revolting students. Will your nerve hold as the caustic fumes seeps through the car vent? Will the student fight back with home-made bombs? Will the cops get the wind-direction wrong and smoke out Teusaquillo? Never a dull moment on the Nacho Chicken Run.
The Mall Trap. This character-building test relies on the fact that there are eight lanes to drive into the shopping mall, but only two to get out. So having unloaded your cash in the shopping centre, knuckle down for an hour of bumper-to-bumper close quarter car control navigating out of the parking maze mall while the kids drip ice-cream all over the rear seats.
The Butchers’ Block. This is a fun one! On Bogotá’s main highway south, cars triple-park to buy cheap meat sold kerbside. Trucks, buses, cars, bikes and carts are shoe-horned into a single left lane. Will you make the squeeze? But hang on a minute, here comes a traffic cop. Will he direct traffic and clear the tailback? No way, he has just stopped to shop. He rides off on the pavement (10 points!) with his discount donkey meat. The fun carries on!
So there you go folks, stop griping about driving in Bogotá and just get out there and enjoy it.