More travels around Colombia
16.04.2012 - 21.04.2012 29 °C
After a few great but sweaty days in Cartagena we were ready to explore more of the country and head inland to the Mountains and Medellin. We purchased our most expensive bus tickets of the trip so far at $65 each and started on the 13 hour overnight journey towards the Andes. The bus was almost completely empty and fairly uneventful except for the fact that it was freezing cold with the airconditioning on full blast the entire time.
We arrived in Medellin not really knowing what to expect, which is true of pretty much everywhere we are planning to go in Colombia. About the only piece of information we had for Medellin is that it used to be the home of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. However, when we arrived early in the morning we were pleasantly surprised to find an extremely developed and modern city set in a valley between sprawling mountains. Medellin is full of culture and art and is the first city we have visited that has a metro. (Which made our stay there so much easier) Plus, because of the altitude and proximity to the equator, the weather is always "springlike" with cool temperatures and a lot of moisture, which was also a nice change from Cartagena. After arriving on the bus we opted to get a taxi to our hostel, because although we knew which hostel we wanted to stay at, we had no idea where in the city it was located. We stayed at the Black Sheep Hostel, and were lucky to get the last room they had available. The hostel is owned by a very friendly guy from New Zealand and I would definitely recommend the place to anyone visiting the area.
There is a lot to do and see in Medellin and we didn't waste any time getting out into the streets to explore. The first stop on our list was a visit to the Museo de Antioquia, which is home to the largest number of works by Botero. Botero spent much of his life in Medellin and has donated a tremendous amount of art to both the museum and the city. I really enjoyed his paintings of "fat" people and objects. I would say he is my new favorite artist, although I don't think I had a favorite before. After the museum we had a typical Colombian lunch and spent a couple more hours exploring the downtown area and street vendors. In the evening we headed out to Zona Rosa (Entertainment district) which was quite close to our hostel and had a great dinner at a Cuban restaurant.
Over the next few days we continued to explore the city and enjoyed it so much, we ended up staying longer in Medellin than planned. We probably would've stayed for at least another week, but we needed to get down to Quito by the 26th to meet up with my parents. During our time in the city we did a lot of wandering around the streets, shopping, and eating. However we also visited the botanical gardens, the Museum of Modern Art, and the highlight of the city for me was a Pablo Escobar tour. I will admit to not knowing much about Escobar, except that he was from Medellin and is very infamous for importing a lot of drugs to the United States as well as killing and terrorizing people all over the world and especially in Colombia. The tour we went on turned out to be quite interesting as they took us around the city in a small bus and showed us different places where main events of Escobar's life took place, where he was shot, his gravesite, and other points of interest throughout the city. It was really informative and gave me a new outlook on the city after realizing how much violence and danger there was not even 20 years ago. The very entertaining guide showed us pictures of the city right after some of the bombings that occurred, and what the streets looked like in the evenings, and it was amazing to see because the town looked absolutely empty and deserted. Which is a big change from how the city appears now. It was amazing to me to see how far the city and the people have come since the end of Pablo's era. Although there is still alot of cocaine trafficked out of Colombia, there is much less violence now and the people are much more open and friendly. That being said, we did meet a couple different travellers that were robbed at gunpoint, so there is definitely still a need to be careful (as with any city) and sometimes a little lucky. But overall, Medellin was a fantastic city and one of our favorites on the trip so far.
After 5 days in Medellin we reluctantly packed up our bags to continue our journey and head down to Manizales and the Northern tip of the coffee triangle in Colombia. I realize it has been quite a while since I have written an entry in the blog, but we have been travelling a lot and without a reliable computer or internet connection. So even though we have visited a lot more places and have quite a few more stories still to tell, I think this entry is long enough, so I will hold off for now.