We stayed in Medellín for 4 nights, relaxing, enjoying the fact that it’s not a touristy place and the summer weather every day. The area around the hostel is so modern it doesn’t feel like South America in the slightest, like Santiago but more interesting. The 2nd full day here we went downtown, walked around amongst the throngs of locals, I don’t think I’d ever seen this amount of people just out and about, not due to any event. There’s several pedestrian streets in the centre, lined with shops and cafes and plenty of street vendors selling everything under the sun. Architecturally the city is mainly uninteresting with standard brick high rise apt buildings, there are a few more interesting churches or govt buildings in the centre though.
Next day we were particularly lazy, just venturing out on the (clean, orderly, modern) metro to one of the cable cars taking you high up on the hill side for a view overlooking the whole valley Medellín is in. Amazingly, the cable car is part of the metro system and included in a single ticket (0.75 usd).
The view at the top is good, however strangely enough there is absolutely nothing at the top cable car station, just a road and bus stop, no shops or restaurants or anything. So we went back down the cable car to the base station which is in the middle of a quiet residential area with one main road full of cafes, grabbed some empanadas for lunch (they are made with corn pastry here) and chilled out with some exotic fresh tropical juice at one of the cafes. Fresh fruit juice is available everywhere here, with fruits that don’t even have English names coming from the jungle. I wont pay more than $1usd for a large glass, and that’s not a challenge.
Moving on from the juice to la comida tipico, Colombian food is good, filling and heavy on beans, rice (which has a little more flavour than the Peruvian stuff) and meat. Fried or baked plátano (plantain or banana) is with almost every main dish and there’s about 4 varieties of plátano at the supermarket. People have banana trees in their front gardens here. Arepas are a good corn pancake, available at street venders, cafeterias and at supermarkets, best con queso. We tried cazuelas one night, this is a hot pot with various kinds of meat and other ingredients, mine had beef, pork, beans and plátano and was delicious.
At the lowest key, least social hostel bbq I have attended on the trip (food was good though) I discovered that Argentinean box wine is actually drinkable and does not cause hangovers like the Australian ‘goon’. Even if you consume a large quantity of it. Strangely, the hostel here is full of mainly Americans, Aussies and British, lowest European contingent I can think of anywhere I’ve stayed.
I know everyone reading this is likely wondering how terrifyingly dangerous Colombia is, due to it’s reputation especially Medellín. After 4 days here I haven’t felt unsafe once, including walking around the city centre upon arrival after dark when I didn’t know where I was on a map. The city is generally affluent and moving forward well, modern and as far as I can tell and have heard, safe. We’ve wandered around randomly in several sections of the city, not run in to any bad areas. The people here are great too, everyone we have contact with is ranging from friendly to tripping over themselves friendly to getting the owner or someone who speaks English to help us. I haven’t had locals this helpful and friendly since Japan. Nice way to end the trip, just like it was a nice start in Japan.
We’re now in Manizales, built on the side of a mountain with mountains, jungle and coffee farms surrounding it. Plenty to do here for the next few days. The 4 hour minibus ride on the paved but windy mountain ride was the most harrowing bus drive on the trip. The road is fine, the problem is all the large trucks and buses on it going very slowly up the steep grades. This results in the minibus’s and cars overtaking on near blind curves and a fair bit of jerking around. Overall it wasn’t too bad though, only had one moment that could’ve been particularly dangerous with oncoming trucks but they slow down for you here, the trucks let people pass them and get back in the lane quickly, it’s pretty civilized in that manor. The scenery through the jungle and mountains was great the whole way and the bus was new and comfortable so there isn’t really too much to complain about overall for the bus ride.
Next Monday I fly to Miami, I’m into my last 7 days before returning to America now. 54 weeks on the road so far.