Halloween should be Bogota’s Rio Carnival

Her face and figure are familiar to millions. Dressed in a pink power outfit, complete with bleached blonde hair and spiky stilettos, she even came in her own giant pink box.

Bogota’s very own Barbie was my favourite costume last night, but the real-life doll was not without competition.

This is a city that does Halloween. It really does it. There is barely a soul on the insanely over-packed streets who isn’t in some sort of a costume.

Halloween was my favourite night of the year, last year – I went to a huge ramshackle colonial-style house in La Candelaria that was specifically rented for the purpose.

There were folk dressed as the Mad Hatter, Hugo Chavez, Cat-In-The-Hat; even two giant cartons of milk. I’d never seen anything like it.

But the venue was so unique, I thought people had made a special effort. Cocooned away from the traditionally heaving party areas of Bogota, I was unaware that the rest of the city were doing the same.

I started last night with a trip to my local hair salon. I went to have my hair blow dryed and my nails done. But after being greeted by Cleopatra, Bat Girl, the Wicked Witch and Bob Marley, I experienced the guilt of someone who was only planning to dress up with a mask and a feather boa.

I came away with my eyes painted like a peacock.

Walking down into Bogota’s Zona Rosa (I went to a party in La Villa) was like being thrown into a carnival. Everywhere you looked there were cats, bumblebees, witches, robbers, even a human-sized M&M (she was a red one, before you ask).

My boyfriend was killing himself laughing at a group of people dressed up as a Spanish bull run (complete with ‘bull’) while I was dodging vampires and Freddy Krugers (shudder)

I even saw a giant toothbrush linking arms with a lump of plaque and made a mental note to tell my dentist friends at home.

I particularly enjoyed the elderly couple out walking their dog. They were loving the atmosphere but were obviously keen to get in on the act; the dog was dressed as Batman.

My favourite ‘new’ costume of the night was Natalie Portman in Black Swan; I saw several girls who’d copied her intricate make-up and matched it with that deeply sinister winged ballet dress.

My favourite quote of the night was the lad who wanted to dress up like ‘Where’s Wally’ but arrived to find the costume was sold out. What city in the world ‘sells out’ of Where’s Wally?

But why mention Bogota’s huge Halloween effort?

Because no-one outside the country seems to know anything about it.

Bogota on the October 31 weekend should be an idea floating in the mind of every would-be Latin America traveller.

Every year thousands of backpackers make the effort to be somewhere near Rio in March, because, for them, Carnival is a ‘must do’ on their trip.

But how many of them realise there’s a huge, huge fiesta happening just over the border five months earlier?

It’s great. It makes a six-month South America trip so easy to plan; start in Venezuela in September, hit Colombia in October and follow the traditional route round to Brazil. Easy.

Spread the word people.

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