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Published: April 16th 2018
The trip to Medellin involved a bus change in Bucharamanga and then a road of constant curves as it passed up and over the Andes. This makes it harder to sleep than you would think as you are constantly being jostled back and forth by the moving bus. We also learned that for 8+ hour bus rides we need two motion sickness pills since we were loopy even after pulling into Medellin. Becky laid down on a bench at the bus station to settle herself and got told by a security guard that we weren't allowed to sleep. It's 6:30 in the morning and we are clearly backpackers who just got off a bus, but he didn't take any excuses. It was either sit up or jog on. So we made our way to Medellin's modern metro rail, smartly adjacent to the bus station and took a train to our hostal near Medellin's upmarket tourist and expat neighborhood of Poblado. The first day we took it easy and explored Poblado and toured Museo el Castillo which is a French inspired castle built in the 1930s and was home to aristocrats until it was donated in the 1970s as a museum. It
has an interesting history and houses some impressive art surrounded by pretty gardens.
The next day we wanted to tour what Medellianos pride themselves on the most: the metro rail and the cable cars. We also wanted to visit the famed Comuna 13 neighbourhood which has been revitalized since being overrun my gang violence in the 1980s and 90s. The San Xavier line and cable car provided sweeping views over the city and Comuna 13. For $1 NZD people can go anywhere on the metro and cable car network meaning it's easy to get across the city in mere minutes. Add to this that the network was planned and built in the 1990s when Medellin was the murder capital of the world and you can understand why people are so proud of it.
To further understand Medellin and Comuna 13 we took a walking tour (which was just beginning as we walked past) to the escalators which were completed with funding from Germany in 2012. Prior to the escalators, the only access to the city, job opportunities, grocery stores and medical care for the steep and streetless neighbourhood, was by way of exhausting and long climbs
up and down hundreds of stairs. Local politicians and community leaders pushed for the escalators as a way to transform the community. The tour led by Laura from Zippy Tours was very informative and heartfelt. She lived through the most dangerous times and lost friends through the drug wars. The explanations behind the murals helped us understand the transformation and how they are daily remainders of the violence and the ongoing changes. At the top we were treated to a breakdancing performance and got to meet Laura’s family and tour her family home. Feeling inspired by the improved safety and prosperity of the neighborhood, we had a couple beers on a vibrant corner before taking the train back to our hostal.
Continuing with the tours theme we took the guided central city tour with Real City Tours. Once again it was nice to have an in depth explanation of the city's features in English rather than just wandering. We visited the main churches, plazas and shopping districts including where a statue was blown up by a bomb, killing and injuring many people. Instead of removing the damaged statue, the city decided to leave it as a reminder of
Medellin's past. After the tour we visited the Museum of Memories which is dedicated to all the people who suffered in Colombia's recent past.
For our last day in Medellin we went up the Santo Domingo cable car and on to Parque Arvi which provided views over the northern part of the city, and then walked around the botanical gardens. Medellin is unique to have easy access to these green landscapes. We then boarded a late afternoon bus to the mountain village of Jardin.
With an immaculate plaza and basilica, pleasant climate and beautiful green terrain the town is a weekend destination for Medellianos and has recently arrived on the Gringo trail. The hostal arranged a free guided hike taking in views of the town, a waterfall and a very cold swimming hole. For some reason we didn't put sunscreen on and neither did the other 6 on our hike so we all got burnt in the high altitude sun. Jardin is home to many bird species found only at this altitude so Becky was quite in her element. We did a guided bird watching tour with Diego who was very knowledgeable and excited about each
find. We visited the caretaker of the Yellow-ratted Parrot reserve who saw a spectacled bear the day before. We were not so lucky, but we did record around 60 bird species. We also went to the Cock of the Rocks (a very loud and bright red bird) reserve which really is a woman's garden next to the river where they like to hang out. It is likely the easiest place to spot these birds in South America. Other time in Jardin was spent drinking juice and beers in the plaza and crossing the river in a makeshift cable car for views over the town.
Tot: 2.576s; Tpl: 0.106s; cc: 8; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0485s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb