The bus ride from Santa Marta to Medellin is an expensive, overnight, 16 hour trip. We therefore decided to take the slightly more expensive 1 hr flight instead. Landing in Medellin after being on the Colombian Caribbean coast is like landing in a completely different country. All of a sudden you are transported to Latin America’s version of Northern Italy. It’s a landscape of ridiculously green rolling hill dotted with tiny haciendas, livestock, and beautifully maintained winding roads. While Colombia in general is far more developed then the other countries we’ve visited in Central and South America, when landing in Medellin you’d be excused for thinking you accidently took a plane flight to somewhere in Europe. The city itself is set in a beautiful valley surrounded by these same lush green hills.
We wouldn’t want to get soft enjoying all this first world goodness, so naturally the next morning we set off to visit the Medellin ghetto. OK, so it’s nowhere near as bad as it sounds. First of all, the ghetto in Medellin would be the good part of town in many of the previous cities we’ve been to. Secondly, we took a modern Metro to get there! Yes, that’s right, Medellin has an awesome public transportation system, which then connects to a cable car line with gondolas similar to the ones used in ski resorts, to get up to the “barrios”. This was a project of the same Medellin mayor who established a system to provide free education to all the kids in the city. The idea was to connect the “barrios” or ghettos to the rest of the city and it has done wonders to clean up those areas. In fact the area around the cable car line has some of the best views of the city and is now full of character and charm. Not to say that this isn’t a poor area since clearly more work needs to be done but just check out the pictures.
BTW unlike the Brazilian Favela’s, where you can’t go as a tourist without a special tour, tourists can feel quite safe in the Medellin barrios, especially during the day.
You’d think that after all the excitement of visiting a Colombian ghetto the day before we’d take it easy, but nah, we thought we needed to step it up a notch. We thought what better way to get great pictures and an adrenaline rush at the same time than Paragliding from the hills above Medellin. It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when flying 500 meters above the city with nothing below you but your dangling feet. It’s both exhilarating and yet somehow extremely peaceful and relaxing. Perhaps this video will help.
To finish our Medellin adventure off (for now!) we decided to go out to party in the evening. It was Saturday night in the city that is famous for having the most beautiful women in all of Colombia so clearly Kristine didn’t want to miss it for the world! We had a choice of going to a touristy area or going out to the bars with the locals. I think of you guys know what we’d choose, of course we went to the locals area.
The Avenida 70 in Medellin is lined with all types of dance clubs/bars open to the street so you can check out the crowd and decide whether you like the vibe before going in. There is generally no cover but you are expected to buy drinks if you want to sit down. The first place we hit was a basement that our buddy Darryn heard is one of the best salsa spots in the city. The place was very simple and a bit dingy but the dancing was something else! We all agreed that we’ve never seen dancing like this before. It wasn’t only that everyone was amazingly good, almost professional good, but also that everyone danced completely differently from each other. These guys and girls did not follow any of the rules taught in Latin dancing classes in Toronto. They were all “feeling” the music and the dancing was an expression of their own individuality. In comparison dancers back home look a bit like zombies all doing the exact same thing.
We loved our time in Medellin but decided we should try to see some of the “Zona Cafeteria” country side. After all, this is where the world’s best coffee comes from. We left our large backpacks in the Hostel in Medellin and took off for a week with just our small daypacks. We will be back for a day anyway before catching our flight to Ecuador.
Click here for more pictures!