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Pablo's Country

More travels around Colombia

overcast 29 °C
View 2012 RTW on Drifters's travel map.

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.

Posted by Drifters 13:34 Archived in Colombia Comments (2)

From Panama to Colombia

Our unsuccessful attempt at sailing the sea

sunny 36 °C
View 2012 RTW on Drifters's travel map.


It has been almost 10 days since we wrote anything and most of you probably think we are sailing and conquering the seas. Nothing of that matter.
We have been in Colombia now for almost a week and have been enjoying ourselves and being too lazy to write! Plus the camera broke so we were not able to upload any pictures until today.

Let me start from our last entry. We went to Portobelo and were honestly trying to get on a boat to Cartagena, Colombia. But because of our time limitations we could not wait for more than a couple days and had to sail right away, and there were no boats available for us. So we opted to fly instead, but not before we explored the lovely little town of Portobelo.

We got there some time in the early afternoon on April 9th, taking a couple of buses - first an express bus from Panama city to Sabanitas and then a diablo rojo to Portobelo. It took us about 2 hours to get to Portobelo, probably one of the shortest and least troublesome bus rides we have been on, so we were happy. Once we arrived we stayed in Portobelo Hostel, which is owned by Captain Jack. There were some other options in town, but they did not look clean or fun. We stayed in the dorm this time to stay true to our backpacking nature and also for the lack of private rooms in the hostel. Luckily we pretty much had the whole doorm to ourselves and it was pretty good.


Portobelo is a sleepy carribean town that time forgot (and also the tourists), which packs a lot of history. The town is a UNESCO World Herritage site with remnants or four spanish forts dating back to 16th century, Church of Christo Negro (Church of Black Christ) and Customs House dating back to colonial times as well. Being there now you would not think that a THIRD of all New World gold had circled through the port of Portobelo in colonial times, and that it was one of the major Spanish ports that sufferred frequent pirate attacks. All the forts are free of charge to explore all to yourself, and the Customs House has a little museum. Needless to say, we set out to explore right away, and since 3 of the forts and Customs House are within walking distance from each other we covered them in half a day. It was splendid to sit on the wall of the fort and watch the sunset! After that we bought some hot dogs and a bottle of rum and had ourselves a real pirate picnic on the back of the hostel. Since I have never cooked hot dogs on the grill before I managed to cook them in their plastic casing, which added more twists to our pirate adventure. Then we went upstaires to Captain Jacks bar and partied with him and a few other people. It was a lot of fun to meet sailors and lislten to their stories and the Captain himself is quite a character too.


Next morning we rented kayaks and went to explore more of the Portobelo bay. The weather was spectacular and brilliantly hot, and we paddled accross the bay to Fort number four and had a few pictures there, and after that exited the bay and went to the deserted beach. It was fantastic! Clear blue water in a little cove, great beach with only a couple people on it and sounds of the birds and monkeys all around us. There we swam and had our lunch, and then met a couple of travellers, which were staying in the hostel with us. It was a fantastic day on the beach and once we made it back to town we finished up with BBQ chicken from the local chicken shack and a few beers. Next day we went to see the Iglesia de Christo Negro and then jumped on the bus back to Panama city where we stayed overnight and then flew to Cartagena, Colombia early in the morning.


Cartagena met us with brilliant hot weather and sunshine. We arrived here along with another three hundred thousand people, which were attending the Cumbre, 6th congress of Americas, hosting 33 leaders of all the Americas. So for that event 5,000 additional police and SWAT were brought into town and we received the cleaned up version of Cartagena. We took a taxi to town form the airport ($6) and opted to stay with a familliar hostel Mamallena, that just opened its sattelite in Cartagena. Then we ventured into the colonial part of Cartagena, had ourselves a fantastic lunch and went back to the hostel for a major nap. Later in the day we had to go find a place to celebrate a wonderful event in our lives - Ryan's Birthday! So, we wandered around the old city, which is beautifully restored, and looked at all the people and buildings, taking tons of pictures and admiring the sites. Cartagena is so stunning, for me it really rivals San Juan, PR, where I first discovered colonial architecture and did not see anything close to it untill I arrived here. Anyway, we did find a quaint little place with tapas and some wine and finished our day there celebrating Ryan's birhday.


Next morning we got up, switched hostels after witnessing a gigangal cucaracha on the pan we were going to use for breakfast, and went to two museams - Cartagena Museo de Oro (Museum of Gold) and also Museo de Arte Moderno (Museum of Modern Art). It was great to see ancient Columbian artifacts in the museum of gold and learn Columbian history. Also, we were introduced to some new artists in the Art Museum.
Later we came back to our new hostel and just relaxed for the rest of the day. You might think we do a lot relaxing. Well, did I mention it is hot here? It is hot! It is the hottest I have ever been in my entire life I beleive. So after a few hours of walking around you do feel litterally like a used up paper bag. People here take siestas, I beleive, to avoid being in relentless sun and humidity all day. You have to get used to it.

Next day we set out to expore the Palace of Inquisition, which houses some exciting torture equipment, historical artifacts of Cartagena history and some temporary exhibits. The Palace is beautifully restored and it was great to see before and after pictures. After that we went to Castillo de San Fellipe, where we have heard, were some misterious tunnels for exploration. It took us about 20 minutes on foot from Colonial town, and, boy, it was quite a castle! Accorging to the history, this fort was impenetrable and is the only Spanish colonial fort that withstood all of the attacks made on it. We spent about an hour there climbing around and going into every tunnel Ryan could find. It was very exciting! Then we walked back to the hostel thorugh all the police and SWAT teams guarding Old Town and the Cumbre.


The next day we had only one thing on our agenda in Cartagena - to have lunch in La Cevicheria, because Antony Bordain ate there before. I know, I know, we cannot help ourselves, we are fans. Cevecheria was fantastic if only for the lack of beer for Ryan (Sunday is a dry day here in Cartagena) and we properly enjoyed every morsel of expensive seafood we ordered and the sitings of Brasilian Security detail running around. Yes, there were tons and tons of journalists here as well as security detail from every country, so we almost felt like we were superstars. Almost. After that we went to our hostel, picked up our bags and got on the bus to the Terminal to take another bus to Medellin.
The bus to Terminal was very colorful and went through Cartagena slums, and we got ourselves a real picture of things there. Upon arriving to terminal we got ourselves the most expensive bus ticket we have ever bought ($65!) and proceede to freeze on it all night long to Medellin... Here we are now and it is ablolutelly beautiful here too!!! So long, until next entry, we cant wait to go explore!


Posted by Drifters 09:09 Archived in Colombia Comments (2)

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