Marvellous Medellin was a complete surprise. A huge crowded city which at first encounter fails to impress. Crazy traffic, polluted, encounters with homeless people, refugees from Venezuela and drug addicts it was a shock to the system. The history of this city is one of murders, drugs and complete violence. Since the drug boss, Pablo Escobar, was murdered by the police in 1993 the city improved immensely. I started to explore the city.
The Plaza de Esculturas, with 23 huge sculptures by Fernando Botero (1947)was mightily impressive. So was the museum on the same square. Medellin has a spring like climate, so it was lovely weather to explore. There are lots of green parks. The city has striking public art!
I had seen one of the large human sculptures of Botero in Armenia. Not realising the artist was Colombian!
Barrio 13 with its huge murals, is a showcase of social engineering! Not so long ago it was the most dangerous place to wander through. Disappearing people and children was a daily occurrence. Gang violence, drug dealers and other unpleasant practises were the order of the day. The government decided to step in, offered electricity and other bribes, I believe free education was one of them, and managed to turn the whole area around.
It is now a huge tourist attractions and a stark contrast to the other Barrios, who haven’t been so fortunate to get a make over! I thoroughly enjoyed myself exploring all the art on display. I visited the Arvi park which you can only visit by cable cars! Not a pleasant experience! I did an hour tour through the jungle, looking at different orchids, plants and bird life.
Afterwards I decided I better start practising for my hike to the Lost city, and walked for about five kilometres to the waterfall. This lovely family stopped gave me a lift. We ended up spending the rest of the afternoon together. They were even kind enough to drop me off right at my hostel! The kindness of Colombian people is overwhelming.
I decided to make a day tour to Guatape, catching the local bus. It is a lovely historical village with a huge monolith, that you can climb. It has 740 steps, I looked at it, decided in this heat 1580 steps was too much for my knees and my overall well being! So no go! According to the opinionated Hungarian woman on the bus next to me, I MUST climb it, why else did I go to this village? I am totally allergic to the word MUST, so I immediately declined the climb altogether. This lady had just spend the last two hours telling me all about Australia and Cooper Pedy, how to get there, how to go “noodling” and overall HOW to be Australian! Interesting woman!
Some people you can not have a conversation with, so I just let her talk about her experiences of the two weeks she lived in Australia, and let her believe she was now definitely an ” expert” on everything Australian! She was shocked I travelled ” without a plan”!! This was NOT good in her opinion! I would only have BAD experiences! I smiled a lot! Didn’t say much, definitely becoming “Zen” like! No longer have the need to go into discussions with people, who have strong opinions! Not that long ago I was one of them myself!
Guatape was lovely. A colourful little town, which is famous for its reliefs on the facade on all the buildings. Apparently they were made to deter chickens from pecking at the buildings, and to discourage children to play ball games against the fragile concrete facades. Whatever the reason behind it, it makes for a very attractive display in the small town.
I also made a day trip to Santa Fe de Antioquia. A wonderfully perserved colonial town, which was founded in 1541. It was the start of the Colombian holiday season, so the bus station was chokker block full. Two bus companies had no buses going, or they were full, didn’t quite get what they meant! I went to a mini bus company who told me that there was a one hour to two hour wait before the next bus! Hm. What to do? I decided to wait for one hour and see how it all went. I had no other plans for the day anyway. After less then half an hour the men called me and asked me if I was travelling alone? Okay, they had one seat left for a bus which left in five minutes!
The traffic was absolutely shocking! Big traffic jams, bottle neck near the toll booth. I decided to just go to sleep and see what would happen! Santa Fe is, according to the Lonely Planet, famous for its carved doors! I walked for over six hours and I saw only one carved door! So that was a bit of a disappointment! However the town was filled with over fifty attractions. I manage to see only twenty, but in the heat that was quite a good effort!
Also there is an old bridge, 1895, designed by Jose Maria Villa, who also designed the Brooklyn bridge! I had no intention of going there, but as I had over an hour to wait for my return bus, I managed to get a cheap offer to visit the bridge on the back of a motor bike taxi. So off we went!he asked if I wanted to walk over the bridge, which I didn’t, so he actually drove the bike over it to the other side! I took some photos, and did not want to visit the souvenir stalls and buy crap I didn’t want!
So back we went! A lovely “slow” drive through a forest. Wind blowing, cooling me down. Here in Colombia speed is a macho exercise, the faster you go, the more macho you are! Especially if you actually make a phone call or text while driving along! I have seen more accidents in the four weeks I have been here, then in my whole year living in India! I had planned to fly to Cartagena from Medellin, but due to the holidays, prices had tripled! Okay, the bus trip was “only” thirteen hours, so I did that! Cartagena , I am on my way!