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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Medellin, Colombia


Wow. A completely juxtaposing city compared to Bogota. Once we arrived at Terminal del Norte we were efficiently taken off the bus and given our bags. We got booked our onwards bus here and then got more cash before catching a taxi to our next hostel, Happy Buddah Boutique Hostel. All the taxis in Medellin are metered and it cost us 14,000 pesos (just under £5). From the outside the hostel it looks awesome and in a nice area, Poblado, near Parque Lleras. The streets that surround the hostel are reminiscent of Koh Tao, Thailand. Quaint tropical-esque streets with a more "up-market" vibe - caf├ęs, sushi, etc..

We played a bit of ping pong before asking where to go and what are the "must-sees." First, we needed food. We were tempted by a nearby Domino's but at the last second spotted a local restaurant. For 5,500 pesos (£1.70) we had a soup, chicken with rice, lettuce and a banana, and a fresh mango juice. Awesome. This is what South America should be like! 

On a different note, the women here are unbelievable. Being European and tanned we ended up getting a lot of attention from locals. 

Post-lunch we decided to go up to the metro cable that overlooks a large chunk of the city. Again, a massive city that stretches across the landscape. We could only go up so far as the top section was closed for the public holiday. Typical. We got off where we could and just had a bunch of locals staring at us. The hostel said stay away from the hillsides. Somehow we went straight there. It was fine but you got the feeling you probably shouldn't be here. 

We headed back and stopped off at Bogota Beer Club and had a jug between us. We then bought some beers from the supermarket, smuggled them into the hostel and got ready for a night out. It was crap. We've found that unless you nail the cities at the weekend, the atmosphere is non-existent (in the low season anyway). We had some beers in the bar, circled the area and settled for a burger and chips.


Today we woke up late-ish. Callan and Pete were now in Medellin so we ate the free scrambled eggs on toast with coffee with them. After some more ping-pong (It has become very addictive), we decided to go to the acquarium and sort of learning centre at Universidad, called Parque Explorer. Dylan got close with a local en route. 

There were lots of different science-based physical activities we could do outside before heading upstairs to some reptiles. After this we headed downstairs to the acquarium, which was pretty cool. No sharks though as most of fish came from the Amazonian-area. After this we went to the Mind, Film and other interactive areas upstairs. After spending 4 hours here we decided to leave. There were crowds of school children there and being 4 Western guys we got a lot of attention. As Dylan said, "now I know what it feels like to be One Direction! - I like it."

We noticed a very popular street-shop sort of thing that sold deep-fried empanadas. They were incredible and by far the cheapest and best I'd had so far. At only 1,000 pesos (25p) each we bought three. Then as the locals did, we covered each bite with chilli salsa and some unknown sauces. My mouth waters as I write this. 

We bought rum and mixers and headed to Parque Lleras where we drank like teenagers all over again whilst listening to some Disclosure. I said hello to some local girls who then approached. Then two minutes later a guy appeared - we assumed their pimp but couldn't concretely say. We left shortly after to shower, buy another bottle of rum before getting ready for our last night as the Tripod + Pete. We started off at some random bar, which happened to show this year's VS Fashion Show - amazing. We then found another bar called La Clinica, which had two women in a nurses outfits and a couple of wheel chairs! 

As previously mentioned, the clubs/bars were quiet. After a while, we ate some street food before coming up with a game plan. I went back as I couldn't be arsed to spend money in an empty place. The boys stayed for a bit longer. 


Today we were up early for the Pablo Escobar tour around the city. Rather than explaining everything about him, Google him...but basically he ran the Medellin Cartel in the 70s, 80s and 90s, which supplied most of the world's cocaine before he was killed by police (although he did kill himself as he'd rather die in Colombia than be a prisoner in the US.) He paid $1000 to anyone who killed a policeman. 800 police had died and many more civilians (around 5,000) as a direct result of drugs and the intense rivalry between the Medellin and Cali cartels. Forbes had him down as the 3rd richest man in the world at the time although I have no idea how they came up with that as he only ever dealt in cash and burried the majority of it. The tour was good but a bit too expensive for what you get. We paid 60,000 pesos as we got to see his mother's house, the car he started his empire in (by smuggling cocaine in it from Bolivia) and what we were told - his brother, Roberto. Roberto was in hospital so we met his daughter. Roberto, although at one stage had a "wanted" fee of $10 million, is now supporting the quest to cure HIV. All the money we pay goes to the foundation (apparently). 

I'm not remotely a drug-person but cocaine in Colombia is so cheap. From what some people at the hostel said, one gram is less than £3. Back home it is apparently £50 for the same amount.

We were finished by 12:30 so ate more empanadas and played ping-pong. I'm the reigning Tripod Champion. We then chilled on the sofas before having sushi down the road. Dylan and I leave tonight for the Caribbean so bought some Cohiba Siglo XI's for £7 - very cheap. As we're boarding the train to the bus terminal, Dylan got left behind as the doors were unforgiving and shut without mercy. I'm now writing this on the bus to Turbo, our hub to get to Capurgana. 

Medellin has been such a delightful place. Safe, interesting and so much better than Bogota. The people hate the affiliation with danger and Pablo Escobar. The city now buzzes, the metro is cheap and clean, and it's not to be missed. 

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