Colombia - Medellin

As we entered the city of Medellin, all you could see was a city of red.  This was the traditional way of building houses with red brick and grey cement and it can be seen for miles and miles in every direction we looked.

Accommodation

Piet and I consider ourselves somewhat of hostel connoisseurs these days.  We’ve stayed in so many around the world that we can pick out the good, the bad and the ugly almost upon entering the building.  You can imagine our delight when we walked into Los Patios Boutique Hostal in Medellin to find an amazing welcome area with smiling and friendly staff members.  Passed our first test! The staff can definitely make or break your experience anywhere so to see how much people enjoyed their jobs and wanted to interact with the guests it just made our stay that much better.  The place itself is spotless, from the common area to our rooms to the kitchen (which is usually the most disgusting thing in a hostel).  We only stayed 3 nights and we regretted it immediately.  Whether we were hanging out on the rooftop patio, picking fresh herbs from their garden or working in their common areas we were always taken care of.

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One thing that we especially loved was the atmosphere of this place.  They want people to interact with each other and socialize so they put on fun events to get people involved.  What we thought was extra special was how much the owners were involved in the place.  They were always out talking to the guests, listening to them and making friends.  While we were there they held a salsa dancing class (I was gutted we missed it while Piet couldn’t stop thanking his lucky stars) as well as an empanada making class.  It was so interesting to see how much work actually went into making one empanada, especially considering they sell on the streets for as cheap as $1.  We did learn that they taste so much better freshly made than sitting in someone’s street cart all day!  Something I’m not sure I’ll be in a hurry to have again soon.

This place is so well thought out that Piet and I tried to rack our brains coming up with something we could complain about.  You know what we came up with??  The drying racks might be a bit too small for the dishes.  Isn’t that ridiculous, but it just goes to show how truly amazing this place was.

Tour Time

We had two tours planned for our time in Medellin and unfortunately mother nature didn’t like this very much and sadly our parasailing tour got cancelled because of the rain and wind.  I guess that’s what happens when you choose to come during rainy season.  Luckily though this didn’t stop us from doing our Pablo Escobar and Guatape Tour with Escobar And The Rock. After watching a few episodes of Narcos before coming to Colombia, we knew we had to see some parts of Pablo Escobars life while we were here.

We left the rain in Medellin and headed out on 4x4 Jeeps through the hillside on muddy dirt roads while blasting the 3 most popular Spanish songs on repeat the whole way up.  Where we were headed: Pablo Esobars 2nd Largest Property (apparently he had had around 400 houses in Colombia.. 400!!!) I can’t even imagine what the biggest property looks like because this one was huge. 

The main house where Pablo used to stay was in ruins because it’s where one of the other cartels tried to kill him with TNT.  Going through the ruins gives you sort of a chill thinking what it would have been like when he lived here.  The parties, the people, the money and drugs.  It’s rumored that Pablo never did cocaine or any drug besides marijuana but that he loved marijuana so much so that he made sure he always had a spot to smoke and chill out with an amazing view.  This property was no exception as we climbed a small tower to go and sit and relax in the exact same spot as he would have done many years ago.  Don’t worry parents- no drugs were lit up here.

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There’s a huge string of guesthouses and stables on the property that have now been made for paintballing. During out tour we somehow ended up in the middle of the paintball action and we were all running for cover and dodging the colorful balls as they flew past us.  It definitely made us think what it would have been like years ago when Pablo and the Cartel gangs used to hang around here.

After our exhilarating moments on Pablo’s property we were ushered into small boats to the city of Guatape.  Guatape is this adorable brightly colored town with the most unique “zocalos”.  Each house, property, business has to put a unique decal on the outside of their doors.  It’s pretty cool walking around the town trying to figure out what some of them mean.  Some are obvious- a loaf of bread for a baker, scissors for a barber and then others are just wild with animated Disney-like characters! We enjoyed a cup of coffee, brought to you in antique china cups and just watched everyone around us.  Everyone was so friendly and lovely here, I don’t know if it was the bright coloured city walls or what but we just felt at ease here. 

Our tour finished with us climbing El Penol, the 2nd largest rock in South America.  After climbing all 740 steep steps to get to the top you are rewarded with an amazing 360 degree view.  That is if you don’t pass out somewhere along the way.  Piet kept suggesting on the way up that we slow down and enjoy the scenery but we both knew it was because he was huffing and puffing so hard to stay by my side.  He blames the “heavy” backpack he was carrying for both of us but we both know it was a lot more than that!

The City

Because we ended up having a free day since our tour got cancelled we got to explore a bit of Medellin.  Unfortunately for us we were too late signing up for the walking tour so I was in left in charge to make our own tour.  For those of you just joining us, Piet and I aren’t exactly the museum goers.  You’ll often find us sitting in cafes and just people watching for hours on end so my tour guide skills aren’t always the best.  So armed with Google Maps (a MUST for travelers) and a potential route in my head we were off.  For being a city of 4 Million people the transit system is really easy and reliable to use.  We hopped on the metro and were off to our first stop- Plaza Botero where there are 23 enormous bronze statues scattered throughout the plaza.  Honestly we think these statues are pretty funny, all the bodies are quite bodacious and curvy, and often naked.  We couldn’t stop giggling like little kids at one statue of an incredible large fit man with a very tiny ‘package’.  Well we walked around the area and you could tell my tour guide skills were drastically decreasing.  It got to the point where we saw a free walking tour group and hung out at the back trying to pick up on some information while we could.  We tried to act as normal as we could, like we weren’t really listening but I’m pretty sure we fooled no one.  I think it’s safe to say we will be doing the free walking tours from now on.

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After leading us around the city, I knew we had to ride the famous cable cars.  Know for connecting the poorer communities in the hills with the main city it’s something Medellin is very proud of.  Both Piet and I couldn’t believe the level of poverty the higher the cable car went.  There were so many houses that had weird bits of plywood or patched tin roofs to keep it together.  And garbage, so much garbage throughout the neighborhoods and scattered all the way up the hills.  That’s one thing about Colombia we dislike- their lack of recycling programs.  Some places are starting to separate their garbages but for the most part everything goes in one bag and we always had this pang of guilt whenever we’d throw out our water bottles. 

Well we made it to the top- we went all the way up to Parque Arvi and were all prepared to do the 30 minute walk around when it started heavily raining on us.  We were huddled underneath a market stall for nearly 20 minutes hiding out from the rain.  Needless to say when the rain started letting up we hightailed it back to the cable car to head back down. 

Feeling slightly defeated on my fail as a tour guide we headed to the popular gringo area El Pablado to have a much deserved dinner and drinks.  In this area of the city you can sit and relax and people watch for hours and that’s exactly what we did.

Next Stop:  Ecuador (After many many hours in public transport)