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My thoughts on Medellin, Colombia & la Zona Cafeteria

COLOMBIA | Saturday, 11 February 2017 | Views [254]

Now outside of Medellin, Colombia...what can I say about Medellin, Colombia?

I've thought about it for a while, trying to formulate an opinion of the city. Complex, industrial, and the most modern of all Colombian cities--now growing fresh atop memories of drug/guerrilla violence and oppression. It was the city I was most curious about before leaving the US, having heard so many rave reviews about its current progress and state. Needless to say, I was expecting a lot. And that's where my downfall may have come from--as with expectation almost always comes disappointment. I’m sorry to say I didn't enjoy Medellin and wished for an out almost instantly upon my arrival.

First of all, I stayed in Poblado. The safest most backpackery area, also the most westernized and touristic. Literally, outside my hostel window was a KFC next to a Dominos. Lining the streets were restaurantes, tiendas and droguerías all overpriced. Fair enough. I can imagine as a Colombian trying to make a modest living I too would take advantage of the oversaturation of backstreetboys on tour. And when I say this, I mean it. There were SO many men. Everywhere. I've never felt so outnumbered as a female. It made me feel pretty uncomfortable at times.

From the small window of time spent in the city, I perceived that partying for the traveler is a main priority. Doing cocaine and drinking until wee hours of the morning is also a priority. For me, it wasn't. And this is a reason why the city, or to be fair, why Poblado didn't impress me. Might it have been different if I had stayed at a quieter hostel? I don't know. I just know my experience.

I actually got mad witnessing what I did. Mad that what seemed to be a city recovering from an awful drug reputation was being shit on by gringos who (knowing or unknowingly) were re-opening the wounds that the country is striving to heal. You see, coming to Colombia for sex, prostitutes, and partying is like being invited over to someone's house and taking a huge shit on their floor. It's reversing the country's progress. It's fucked up that one Colombian boy, who couldn't have been over age 14, came up to me on the street and offered me cocaine like it was a Hershey's candy bar. My only response to him was a confused “cuantos años tienes?” (How old are you?). He simply smiled with a grin and asked again. My heart almost broke in half. And it kept breaking each time it happened, which was maybe 4 times a day.

But hey, it wasn't all bad. I met some amazing humans in Medellin! I spent a few days with a stunningly beautiful Brazilian solo female traveler,(follow her travel blog--tripbyvan), two awesome Delta employees from the US who made me feel at ease during a really hard day (also their total bromance was friendship goals), and met up with some Australians & Canadians whom I met in Taganga.

If i could recommend anything to do in Medellin, the free walking tour is it. Just do it. It is worth every “free” penny. Learning about the history of the city is incredibly interesting- and what's more- learning it from a theatrical Paisa (an Antioquia naive) makes it even more special.

So, after 5 days of inhaling smog and riding the crowded metro, I decided to peace out and take a nauseating & both breathtaking 8 hour bus ride in the winding mountains to Salento- aka Zona Cafeteria. Without any doubts, the right choice.

This region is lush, fruitful, and of course, has some of the most magnificent coffee production on the planet. I however have not had ONE good cup of coffee here--all the good stuff is exported or too expensive for my penny pinching budget. Why have a smooth 6,000 COP cup from a touristy cafe when there's access to an unending fountain of face twistingly bitter hostel coffee por GRATIS? I’m waiting to bite the bullet and splurge when I soon tour “Don Eduardo's coffee finca” ten miles outside of Salento. This is where the primo beans are grown, picked and harvested. I am excited to taste & learn about the coffee culture here, which has industrialized and emblazoned so much of Antioquia.

Also among the pros of Salento: a more relaxed pool of people for the “coffee bean picking.” I've met a wonderful group of friends here from Norway, England and the US. We've spent the past few days hiking in lush Corcora valley, making short spaghetti western films (coming to a theatre near you) and trekking to far out waterfalls in Boquía. Today we all dispersed. Some went to Santa Rosa de Cabal, some to Medellin, and I stayed put. Such is the beauty of traveling- learning to let friendships be in the moment without preconceived notions.

I think I may spend more time in Zona Cafeteria than anticipated--(ok, I really haven't anticipated much). All I know is that the nature is putting me at ease after a stressful week in the hustle bustle of Medellin. Hopefully I can find some sort of work exchange to cut travel costs and “disfruta Salento.” But for now, I'm taking it day by day. Not sure what city I will end up in next-- you and I will just have to wait and see.



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