When you think of Colombia, you think of cocaine, right? Or rather, coca – the plant that makes the drug. That seems to be monkey on most Colombians’ backs. So far the only coca that I’ve seen was in a tourist plaza near a church.
Towering over Bogota is Moneserrate, a beautiful white church dedicated to El Señor Caido (the fallen Christ). A cable car takes you to the top for a spectacular view and, of course, shopping. It’s here, in the shadow of the church, amidst stalls of trinkets and t-shirts, that I saw more coca products than I could have ever imagined: coca tea, coca leaves, coca salve, coca rum, coca wine, coca soda and more. Many of the indigenous people still chew coca leaves as it gives them energy. But, after a little conversation, the saleswoman told me that most Colombians in Bogota don’t consume or use coca.
A little further down from the coca stall were three vendors selling sausages, morcilla, plantains filled with cheese and guayaba, and other goodies.
The trip to Monserrate finished with a glass of Canelazo, a hot drink made from sugar cane alcohol (aguardiente), sugar and cinnamon water. It’s a drink consumed in the Andean regions. It had a slight anise flavor and it definitely warmed me up. Okay, not exactly a cocktail, but you get the idea.