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Kat & Andrew's Worldwide Adventures

Cities - Medellin & Bogota

COLOMBIA | Thursday, 10 November 2011 | Views [1154]

We had gotten so used to just turning up at a hostel and not having any problems that we hadn’t really been prepared for the hostel in Medellin being fully booked. After 17.5 hours on an overnight bus, we were tired and the city is so spread out that it was a tad overwhelming trying to figure out where to go next. Wed already paid a large taxi fee and couldn’t afford another fare to the next place on our list. Thankfully there were a few other hostels in the area but no private rooms were available, and besides, they were far too expensive (70,000 pesos – 38 US!) so we settled on a dorm room. Accommodation in Colombia keeps getting more and more expensive every place we go too…

We were there for 3 nights and shared the room with 2 Germans (Niko & Leon) and 2 Americans, all of which are currently living in Bogota are in Medellin for the long weekend. Thankfully they are nice and not obnoxious like a lot of people in the other dorms there. The party outside our room continued well into the wee hours for two of the nights with loud music and yelling drunks. One of the nights the girls snored like a demon! It was so loud we had to have sleeping pills and put our ipods on. The final night we decided to pay the difference when a private room became available!

 

We weren’t originally going to go to Medellin - we had planned on doing more around Santa Marta but it had turned out to be too expensive. All of our options were out of our budget range and due to safety reasons; I didn’t want to stay in Bogota the extra days so we stopped there instead. (I had been reading travel warnings stating that Bogota’s hostels are being attacked and robbed by armed men, one girl even got raped.) Originally what lured me to Medellin was doing a Spanish lesson but unfortunately they didn’t get back to me. (I would love to do one of the 2-4 week courses most places offer but we don’t have the time or money…)

 

We didn’t achieve much for our first day there as we were shattered. We just stocked up on supplies from the supermarket to keep costs down…

The following day we went up a cable car and were rewarded with spectacular views. Medellin is built all in red brick and the small buildings with basic tin roofs stretch for miles; they are built up on the mountain sides with small crumbing roads and no grassy backyards.

Afterwards we wondered around the chaotic city centre before returning back to the hostel before torrential rain began. We later learnt that some of the guys at the hostel got robbed in that area.

In the Zona Rosa where we stayed, it was nice being in a place that had decent foot paths again compared to most places we’ve been on this trip so far (and PROPER showers unlike Santa Marta & Tayrona!).

 

I made the mistake of wearing jeans, sneakers & no sunglasses as it was over cast when we left the hostel – but I was absolutely roasting. Yet all the locals everywhere we`ve been wear the same & most don’t wear hats or sunglasses, no matter what the temperature, I don’t know how they manage it!

 

Our final day we should have been out sightseeing, but to be honest, it was so nice just to chill out. We had to catch up on a lot of research & organising for places we are going to next. Unfortunately wifi didn’t work in our room and all I wanted to do was stream TV episodes in bed hehe. My nose has been playing up since we arrived, maybe due to the high altitude, it`s rather frustrating.

 

There was a place I read about that I would’ve liked to visit as a day trip, but it still would have meant sitting on a bus 3 hours each way to see it and frankly, I’m already sick of buses!  And another place-

When we first entered the beginning of the outskirts of Medellin when the first light of day began to creep over the mountains, I looked down into a valley and saw a small cluster of red brick buildings nestled at the base of a towering mountain range, covered in low hanging cloud. It looked so mystical and really blew me away in my half asleep state.  I would’ve loved to find a way to get out to this charming little village but with my basic level of Spanish and my poor current motivational state, it was not to be.

 

The following morning we made the trek with all our baggage to the nearest subway station to get to the bus station. Another 9 hours bumping away and rolling around corners – transport here isn’t exactly comfortable! But for the first time ever, our bus actually stopped for food. Hurrah!! We also passed some spectacular natural scenery and interesting little villages along the way.

 

In Bogota, Niko (our dorm room friend from Medellin) kindly offered that we could stay with him and his 3 Colombian flatmates. They live in an apartment on the 20th floor in the city centre and they are all very friendly and welcoming people. It`s been a fantastic few nights here hanging out with them. They are all very intelligent with jobs such as civil engineer, teacher of some sort of science (forgive me for forgetting the fancy name!) and working at the bank as well as being students. One of them enjoyed working on his English with us and I enjoyed trying to translate questions he didn’t understand in English to Spanish.

 

During the last 2 days here, Andrew and I explored the city centre. There is nothing in particular that is impressive but it`s also not dull and boring either. `The vibe on the streets is very laid back despite the threat of danger we are constantly warned about. The weather is currently rainy and overcast with the odd clear patch, so we didn’t make it up the hill to the view point to look out over the city. We did however go to a free art museum that featured a lot of Fernando Botero – a famous Colombian artist whose speciality is in fruit and rather rounded people (his most famous piece being a big boned Mona Lisa) and a few Picasso paintings hanging around also.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed the police museum where we were shown around by a young man who had fought against the guerillas recently. Out of 20 in his group, only 5 of them returned and he is now doing tours for the remainder of his draft due to injury (shrapnel of his friend blowing up on a land mine). He explained that Colombian males are drafted from the age of 17. If they completed high school they only need to serve a year, if not, they have to do a year and half. Most of the police in Colombia are aged 18-25 and they stand around street corners with large mean looking rifles. It is possible to get out of the draft if you have the money. In certain division’s in the military they are captured and tortured by who they think are guerillas but are really just their own team making sure they won`t crack. He said that they all have to sign contracts stating that `they won’t cry about it`! He had quite the sense of humour!

Some even have to survive alone in the jungle for 6 months & had to keep a puppy alive with no supplies. If the puppy dies, they fail, if it survives, he has to kill it and eat it to prove that he can disconnect from his emotions. Rough!

 

We were also shown the clothes Pablo Escobar was wearing when he was killed in 1993 (and the tile covered in blood from his head!). He was the 8th richest man in the world and the biggest drug cartel. He was responsible for hundreds of policemen’s death as well as hundreds of others & had a reputation of being very brutal as well as being Robin Hood and giving money to the poor. Colombia is a lot safer now than it was 5-10 years ago as the president is putting a lot of the country’s funds into the military. All the major drug cartels have now been eliminated and they are working on cancelling out the guerillas.

There was a tour in Medellin where you could go see where Pablo Escobar ran his operations, where he lived and where he died as well meet his brother! We decided not to spend the money….

 

Tomorrow we are set to fly into Leticia – the capital of the Amazon. I am super excited but as it will be extremely out of my comfort zone, I am super nervous. I`m not a fan of spiders and large bugs, let alone snakes (in which we don’t have to worry about in NZ) and poisonous things! But the monkeys, birds, dolphins and weird and wonderful creatures you don’t see anywhere else – THAT is what I am going for. Wish us luck!

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