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Published: December 8th 2014
After a huge few days trekking the jungles we took our very tired and mosquito-ridden bodies to Santa Marta and prepared for an overnight bus to Medellin. Overnight transportation is the best! Host to extreme political and civil unrest since the 1920s and more recently the home of ultra right paramilitaries, devout left anti-government hardliners and the center of the cocaine industry for the 80s and 90s, Medellin was a violent hotpot that saw over 200,000 kidnappings and 30,000 disappeared in the decades leading up to 2002. Despite this violent recent history Medellin is one of the great recovery stories of Columbia. With the death of (Juan) Pablo Escobar in 1992 and a hardline government crackdown on the cocaine industry throughout the last two decades the city (and country) is now one of the most progressive and developed in Latin America. Medellin is safe, vibrant and fun and hosts one of the best walking tours we’ve ever been on (Real City Tours
) and the best Metro system in Latin America.
We arrived early on Sunday morning to meet Liam and Amelia (friends from high school) and ventured up our first teleferico, over the top of Medellin’s barrios and into the
Plaza de la Luz, Medellin
The city has made an effort to convert some of the poorest, dilapidated areas into parks and nice communal spaces. This downtown plaza is now home to a massive light installation.
national reserve area the covers the mountain area above Medellin. The rain limited our adventures but it was fantastic to catch up with friends from home for the first time in months and hear of their adventures at the World Cup in Brazil and get some great travel tips for the countries and months still ahead. We bid Liam and Amelia farewell as they headed to the jungle for their first Ayahuasca experience and we continued to explore the city over the next couple of days. Unfortunately rain hindered our explorations but we were still able to immerse ourselves in the city taking in the many Botero sculptures, shopping, local Paisa cuisine, the city’s first micro brewery, and the other teleferico. Bogota
After another bus ride that was longer than planned we arrived in Colombia’s capital Bogota and checked into the La Candelaria tourist/old town district. Catching up with a fellow sailor from the San Blas trip, we visited the Museo de Oro (gold museum) to check out the treasures of the country including some from Tayrona and Cuidad Perdida. Many beautiful and amazingly crafted artefacts kept us entertained for hours!
A walking tour and a couple
Botero's statues decorate Medellin
The bird on the left was damaged in a bomb attack into 1993 while the square was crowded with a festival. 27 people died. Botero donated the replacement on the right. They keep the damaged one there with a commemorative plaque which is unusual for Colombians as we were told by locals.
more museums helped us gain our bearings on the city and bit more history of the country then we ventured up Cerro de Monserrate for a mountaintop view over Bogota. The furnicular train took us up to 3150m where we walked further (Courtney already feeling the tiring effect of altitude) to a chapel and viewing courtyard. After wandering around and taking in the view, we caught the cable car back down and found a spot to watch the Colombia v USA friendly soccer game. With a quick "No soy Americano!" after some wary looks as we entered the restaurant, we quickly explained we were Aussies and would be barracking for Colombia and with wide grins were welcomed to the cheersquad. A 2-1 victory for the Colombians covered by unbelieveably fast Spanish commentary proved very entertaining viewing for our afternoon.
In need of a celebration we rallied some troops from our hostels and booked seats on a party bus to a neighbouring town of Chia which hosts an infamous meat restaurant/nightclub Andres Carne de Res
. Leaving La Candelaria around 9pm, we were treated to complimentary drinks during the 1 hour bus journey before a long night of dancing! The dance floor in the
center of the restaurant provided much entertainment with us practicing our rusty salsa moves and attempting to chat to locals too. A face painter and delicious cocktails helped complete the novelty night out and by 3am we were ready to jump on the bus back to Bogota.
Another slow start was required the next morning before we checked out of tourist town and upgraded to the lovely uptown neighbourhood of our new friends, Daniel and Carolina, from our Lost City trek. After we dropped our things with our local hosts we headed for the Futbol Stadium. We’d managed to organized tickets to a quarterfinal football match between Bogota’s top team
this season) and Medellin’s top team
(reigning premiers and ranked 3rd
this season). We were warned not to sit in the North or South stands as these host the hardcore ‘brutas’/hooligans where we’d have to be more vigilant about our belongings and safety. We opted for the West side and had an excellent view, not only of the game but the off field action of the fans’ continuous cheering. The visitors’ chanting began about an hour before kickoff but as more home fans filled the stadium their various songs and huge
drums stole our attention.
A 3-2 victory to Bogota’s Santa Fe had the crowd going wild, storming the front railings with each goal. With our discrete preference from the home team, we were happy they won and convinced of our good luck charm status with both futbol matches ending in our favour!
Our amazing hosts showed the local side to Bogota with an amazing cervicheria dinner and some Zona T nightlight followed by a day out of the city limits in the countryside to visit Daniel’s veggie patch and eat at the delicious meathouse: El Tambor
We also managed to squeeze in a catch up with imminent newlyweds Simo and Natalia between all of their pre-wedding commitments. It was great to compare our experiences of Colombia and clarify a few things about an amazing country from local Natalia. All in all, we spent a little longer than originally thought but this final weekend in Bogota was the perfect way to finish off an amazing experience of Columbia.
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