I have been in Medellín for two weeks and I love the vibe and the energy of the city. Although in a city that has so much life like Medellín, where it’s just all go go and fiestas all the time, it’s hard to find a place that is quiet where you can sit outside in the sun, away from the smog that lingers in the central areas.
But alas I found it, as did half the families in Medellín, at the Jardín Botanical. A free park, full of hundreds of differnt species of trees, a butterfly house and some rather large four legged reptiles. Sunday is totally a family picnic day. It reminded me of Victoria Park on a rare hot summers day, minus the east London hipsters. As I sit in the afternoon sun, writing last weeks post, and getting strange looks from the locals all searching for the last spot of shade to sit under, I thought I could get use to this.
Getting around Medellín is super easy and cheap, as it is the only Colombian city to have a Metro, and thankfully its is dead easy to use. Either Metro A that travels North and South, or Metro B that travels out West. There are some cable cars and trams which I am yet to try. The Metro was built about 20 years ago, at a time when the city was just ending its besiege from the Medellín Cartel.
I have to say, it has to be one of the cleanest Metros I have ever used. It’s like stepping into a different world from the one outside. Super clean, yet no bins in sight anywhere, not even a scratch on the window or spot of graffiti to be seen. One of my local guides tells me, that the Metro is highly respected by the locals, it is seen as the beacon of hope that pulled the city out of the past. Also, being Piscen (being born in the district of Antioquia) they are just simply proud to be the only city in Colombia to have one.
But oh my, if you think rush hour in London is bad, it’s nothing compared to the evening rush hours here!! You would think it was the last shuttle to civilisation the way they stampede onto the train. Look out for pick pockets during this time, it’s not someone touching you up, believe me.
The locals don’t just respect the Metro its self, but those that use it. When it comes to the older generation waiting to get on, a seat is made vacant and an automatic parting of the people is made so the little old lady/man can get to their newly vacated seat. A single journey costs 2,400cop (60p) to most places.
Spanish school is proving difficult, why didn’t I do this earlier in my life I ask myself everyday, when I look at my tutor Julio and say ¨no entiendo¨. It’s so hard, but I am slowly picking it up. Verbos irregulares can go do one , there are so many and when do know if the word it going be masculino or femenina. As I often say to Julio “español es loco “, but im glad I have made the effort and put the time into learning.
Julio always asks me at the end of my class, ¨Que haces ahora¨ – what are you doing now, and my response is always ¨Voy para el almuerzo¨ – I go for lunch, which after 3 hours of intense study I definitely need. Lunch is the best time of the day to eat because you get value for money. Anywhere in the city you can find ´menu del dia´, which is a 3 course lunch with fresh juice for 10,000cop (£2.50), bloody bargain, I hope all of South America has it!
Did I say Medellín likes to party.. well it really does, and the hot spot where everyone heads to is Poblado around Parque lleras or to any of the surrounding streets to find the liveliest of bars and clubs. Chiquita bar is definitely my favourite, its kitsch decor is amazing and its super gay friendly. Followed by a good dance in Victoria Regina, for a Cuban salsa night, a super cool restaurant come club, where you can put your salsa moves to the test.
This time I plucked up the courage to ask this hot Colombian girl to dance with me. Now I’m not saying that I’m for turning, but this girl certainly could have given it a go. Apparently I need to slow my steps and listen to the music more. After a few more Hendricks and tonics I had it down.
Off to the club with the prettiest faces in town, Salón Amador to drink and dance some more until the bewitching hour or in my case sunrise. There is so much going on here its hard to know what to do, but thanks catalyst weekly there is no chance of me missing out on any of it, thanks to a weekly email and update on FB.
Having suffered a pretty epic hangover, my Saturday was a right off as too were my plans for a day trip. Bed and Netflix is all I wanted, oh and a Burger King.. so a day later than planned I made the two hour journey to Guatapé.
Two hours doesn’t seem long, but when your sat in a seat designed for Colombians who average 5ft5inch, and I’m 6ft1, two hours is a long time to have your knees hitting your chin every time you hit a bump. The bus leaves the North bus station next to Caribe Metro station at least 4 times an hour and costs 18000cop (£4.50).
However, it was well worth it. The views at the top of Piedra del Peñol (the rock) after climbing the 750 steps was amazing. The Stunning view of the Embalse del Peñol, a large lake beautifully sculptured by green peninsulares and home to some wealthy Colombians swimming in their pools.
Pablo Escobar once owned a large estate here called ¨La Manuela¨ ranch, where you can have a tour and even shoot each other with paint. From the rock you can catch a tuk tuk to the town of Guatapé, make sure you haggle the price, as 11000cop seemed a bit steep considering it was only 3km away.
Once in Guatapé you can take a boat out on the lake and visit some of the peninsulares or zip line across the water. Or do as I did, and sit and have their local dish of grilled trout while watching the action on the lake. There is much too see in the town, it is full of the most beautifully painted buildings, little shops and cafes to meander around, but not for too long as the last bus leaves at 18:30.
Tomorrow is the start of my last week in Medellín and at Spanish school, although I have loved it, I’m looking forward to a non city stop. San Gil is my next stop, for some country air via what will be my first overnight eight hour bus journey. San Gil is in the middle of the country, north of Bogotá in the Santander region, so come back next week and find out how I get on.
While trying to post this today, Medellín had the biggest storm that I have experienced, thunder so loud it made the house and everything in it shake. Resulting in no electricity for 2 hours, and still no wifi. So I sit in the local supermarket in order to post. All part of the experience I guess.