A late (but very short) flight from Bogota and a 40 minute drive from the airport on a road that would be perfect for fast and furious 8 meant that we didn’t get to the hostel until around midnight. As we were checking in, the patio area was buzzing and a familiar face caught my eye. Dev, the English guy I met in BA at the very start of my trip was sitting outside, what were the odds! After a quick chat with Dev, I hit the hay. I was wrecked but it was his last night here so he was away out for the night. It was good to see him again and funny how people cross paths like that randomly in such a big continent!
The hostel we stayed in was great, The Black Sheep, but it didn’t provide breakfast. This was a first for us on this trip so we headed out to a nearby cafe and got ourselves sorted. While we were there we waited for Harry (Sinead’s neighbour for home home) who was back in Medellin to meet up with us. Harry brought us downtown to a restaurant that served a really nice Bandeja Paisa. The traditional dish of medellin, containing chirizo, beans, rice, pork crackling, avacado, rice etc. it might not have been the healthiest dish in the world but it was so tasty and massive too!
For the rest of the day we chilled out and then got a load of beers for the night ahead. Anticipating a similar buzz in the patio as the night before we were disappointed. Only one guy about, Shahin, A Persian guy who grew up in Los Angeles. We all drank until about 2 or 3 am anyway. We’d leave it for another night to explore medellins nightlife, when the hostel was a bit busier.
On Friday it was a case of another city, another walking tour. The tour had come highly recommended so I was really looking forward to it. ‘Real City Tours’ was the company and the guides name was Camilo, he was great. The tour took about 4 hours and it was mainly Camilo telling stories about Medellin’s history. What became apparent during the tour was the passion of Medellin people. The transformation from the worlds most dangerous city 30 years ago to a city nowadays that tourists love to visit gives them an immense sense of pride. Several times during the tour, locals stopped to listen to our guide before proceeding to welcome us to their city. I had a notion that people of Medellin would have an affection for Pablo Escobar because although he was a criminal and very dangerous he was known to help the poor people too but I couldn’t have got it more wrong if I tried. In general the people of Medellin dislike him so much that our guide used a code word to talk about him on the tour incase a local heard him and might start an argument for talking about ‘the famous criminal’. After the tour we cooked some food and planned an early night as we had booked ourselves in for the supposedly unmissable Gautape tour for Saturday morning. And yes the hostel was hopping again that night… The night we didn’t go out…again.
When I arrived on Wednesday night, the first thing Dev said to me was “do the Guatape tour”. “What is it?” I asked. “Just do it, don’t google it, just do it. Trust me.” was his reply. Now… I googled it, of course I did, but it looked amazing so we booked it for Saturday morning.
Our guide picked us up at 9:30am in this cool old school can. He had long hair, mustache and and a big sombrero. He was like somethings out of a Mexican cartoon. I had a feeling this guy would be fun.
Before we had even left Medellin he was cracking jokes and getting us geared up for the day. On the way up the mountain side, the driver pulls over and let’s a local hop in the front to give us a bit of a sing song. Our driver took off up the with this guy pretty much perched on the dashboard singing away. It was so random. Our driver made it very clear before the singer got in that it was free and there was no pressure to tip him. I didn’t have any small change so I couldn’t tip anyway but the guy was really good! We stopped a bit further up to take in the view of Medellin. Another large city in the middle of the Andes. So scenic. Not long after that we navigated on to a dirt road down a little lane and pulled in to what looked like some bodies house. Breakfast time. Eggs and spinach, fruit, bread, guacamole, coffee and hot chocolate. I was not complaining. The eggs were great. Top notch. And I’m pretty sure it was our driver’s mothers house. After breakfast the driver asked if I wanted to go on the roof of the van for a while. I laughed. Another joke. Or maybe not, he started to layout a mat on the roof rack and asked who wanted to go up. About 8 of us went up for about 5km on the dirt road before we got to the main road again and got back in the van. So random, sitting on the roof of a van driving through the Colombian countryside. Next stop was at a fruit shop where our driver gave us something I’ve never seen before. It was juicy and crunchy and everyone seemed to like it. I still don’t know what it was though. (Edit: turns out the fruit is passion fruit and I’m just an uneducated fruitless man). Next stop was a small town that was built to replace another town that was demolished so a dam could be built. Then we stopped at the site where the dam had flooded.
Then our driver gave us some sweet bread that he picked up from a street vendor as we drove on again. Next stop was an 18m bridge that you could jump off into the water below. I didn’t, I’m still missing the danger loving edge. Sinead, Harry and Shahin did it though. They all said it hurt, 18meters is pretty high!!
So far on the trip to Guatape, we hadn’t even got to Guatape yet but the tour had been amazing, done so much. So finally we get to the rock with the viewpoint, as the sign says on the way up to the car park, ‘the best view in the world’. 750 steps up the most unique staircase I’ve ever seen and a breathtaking view to go with it.
Afterwards our guide cooked lunch (from some sort of makeshift kitchen in the back of the van and we ate picnic style. The meal was the nicest meal I’ve had in South America. And everyone else said the same thing. A great cook! After the rock (which was the main reason for the tour) we headed into the actual town of Guatape for a look around. It was nice but it was nearing the end of the day now so after a quick explore we just grabbed a drink and chilled out in the square before heading back to Medellin.
On the way back to Medellin we stopped off at another viewpoint to see the city lights in all their glory at night time. This trip was one to remember. Can’t recommend doing it enough! And at 90,000 Colombian pesos, it was worth every penny and more.
After missing out on a night out in medellin on The Friday we more than made up for it on the Saturday. A guy called Dan, from England, was quiet good at getting everybody to drink as a group together instead of having our own small groups so their was about 20 of us in the patio area drinking together before we headed out for the night. We went to a few bars and I think we ended up in a salsa club or something but the night was getting hazy at that stage!
We had planned on getting the cable car on Sunday but the hangover was too much for us all. Sunday was a right off. The only thing productive about Sunday was my Oreo McFlurry. We spent most of the day on the couch watching the Olympics and feeling sorry for ourselves.
Monday was flight day but before the flight I still had to see the cable cars of Medellin and the outdoor escalators. We took the cable car up to the park and had a scout about before heading back down. The views were incredible even though it was a bit cloudy to start with. The park was massive with several trails but we only had time to go for a short walk down by a river that brought us to a very busy campsite. On the way back down from the park the skies had cleared up and view from the cable car was great. It was also great to see the different sides of the city from above with some areas clearly poorer than others. After that a quick stop on the outdoor escalators to see the graffiti in the area and to just experience the randomness of outdoor escalators. To be fair they are not actually random but rather there to help locals access the lower parts of the city from the mountainous areas.
With box one and two ticked for the day it was time to head off to the airport. This time the adventure was to take us to the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Namely Santa Marta, Taganga for some scuba diving, Tayrona Park for a couple nights sleeping in a hammock and then Cartagena.