We were looking forward to exploring a bit of Colombia and decided to visit Medellin, once the worlds most dangerous city and home to the late Pablo Escobar.
Today it’s a much improved city and we enjoyed the cooler climate following the incredible humidity in Cartagena.Â Medellin is based in a large valley and boasts an efficient subway running along the river witha gondola that takes you up the side of the mountain and over the top to a nature reserve. Â The views of the city from the gondola were amazing and once we arrived at the park, we enjoyed our little hike through the trees.
After such a strenuous day, we needed a few cocktails and made our way to Zona Rosa, a lovely restaurant/bar area.Â We scouted around for the 3-for-1 deals and settled in for a few strong ones.
Not such a good idea travelling on an overnight bus with a raging hangover but we made our way further south to Popayan, a charming little town with lots of restored colonial buildings and many churches rebuilt after an earthquake in the 80′s.Â We experienced a new culinary delight – an Arepa which is a patty made of cornmeal and fried into a pancake-like bread and is filled with a mixture of meat, eggs, tomatoes, salad and cheese.Â Yum.
We have enjoyed Colombia but find it way too expensive, so we look forward to moving on to Ecuador.
In Medellin they have a "Metro" train service which runs along the floor of the valley. In a couple of places they have gondola lifts (think ski lifts) up to the neighbourhoods flanking the sides of the valley. All on one Metro pass.
Going up the gondola lift you get a glimpse of life among the less affluent suburbs.
At the top of one of the gondola lifts you can transfer onto a second gondola lift which takes you out of the city, over the hills and drops you off in a nature reserve. This is a shot looking back down at the transfer station on our way to the nature reserve.
Looking down on Medellin, how it covers the whole valley floor and is slowly creeping up the sides too.
Panorama view of Medellin from once we'd popped over the side of the valley - the city immediately falls away and the view quickly becomes forest.
You fly across a lot of forest before you get to the nature reserve - it feels wierd that there's no snow though.
View out the side of the gondola - unbroken forest for pretty much as far as you can see.
And here we are, pulling into the top station at the nature reserve.
Top station at the nature reserve above Medellin.
There are a variety of hiking trails up in the reserve to suit all levels of skill and fitness. Being in our beach gear (flipflops), we opted for a short 1.6km trail through the trees.
Hails hiking up a storm on the La Flora trail.
After a short while the paved pathway gave way to a great little trail through the trees.
Another shot of the trail, also showing off this type of tree you get here which grows up all twisted (see it on the right). Very cool.
We popped into the shops to pick up a couple of supplies and hails found her namesake drink - "Drake's Whiskey Cream"
Random street scene along the main commercial road on Medellin (it appears it was where most of the investment banks and stuff like that were located) - all very modern looking.
Cocktails up in the Zona Rosa, the area of Medellin with heaps of bars, restaurants, clubs and cocktail lounges.
How appetising can you get? This is a USD $12 mojito (although because we caught it in happy hour, we got 3 of them for that price).
Walked past a "hooters". We were tempted to stop but after checking the prices there we left with only a couple of "I heart hooters" stickers.
Trying to work out what are in these drinks - hard when the menus are all in spanish.
We tried the "Profecia" at the waiters suggestion. For those not proficient in spanish, we made out those ingredients as: Vodka, Gin, Rum, Triple Sec, Tequila, Bitters, Lemon Juice and Coca Cola.
And this is what the "Profecia" came out as - one strong drink!
Hails trying not to pull a face after having a sip of her cocktail. At least they served them up with bowls of complimentary popcorn to lessen the kick (and to help line your stomach).
Self shot in the zona rosa.
Normally you see a sign like this on a place, you think "haha, good one". In Colombia, on a house surrounded by electric fences and heaps of CCTV, you probably don't want to be the post man trying to drop off a letter...
Next town along - Popayan, after an overnight bus and not much sleep we wanted something healthy for breakfast so hit up a fruit and juice bar.
Strolling around Popayan, lots of old churches.
Another old church, although apparently almost everything was flattened in a big earthquake in the eighties and its taken around 20 years to get back to looking normal.
We took a stroll up to a park on a hill with a nice lookout view. Had to pose by the fountain at the bottom of it.
Panaromic shot of the city of Popayan from up at the lookout point.
Just chilling out, checking out the town.
Our little canon camera has a "miniature" mode which mimicks the effect of a tilt/shift lens on an SLR. Loved how this shot turned out.
Another one of the old churches, this one on the main square in town. The local style here is to whitewash all the walls. As you can see, we were racing some ominous looking weather home.
Stopped off at a restaurant for some lunch - hails felt like something healthy so ordered the chicken salad. Turned out to be a mayonaise salad with just enough "solids" to help it keep its shape. Still it was tasty and the left overs became delicious toasted sandwiches the next day.
Dyl for the win - about a half kilogram slab of steak, rare, served on a sizzling hot cast iron plate along with baked potato, rice and baked plantain in syrup for dessert.
May 22, 2011
Stop number 1 in Colombia would be Cartagena, a city founded back in the time of the Spanish Conquistadors and with parts of it little changed from all those years ago. We found a hostel in the old walled city, with its tiny streets and Spanish colonial architecture. Most of the streets are just wide enough for a car to go down, and above street level almost all multi-story buildings have balconies reaching out to each other over the sidewalks.
Its been an amazing place to walk around, but we were shocked by how expensive it is here, prices are often at levels we haven’t seen since European ski resorts.Â Even in the big supermarket down the road, Exito, which is where all the locals shop, prices are 30%-50% more expensive than next door in neighbouring Panama city and they weren’t cheap there to start with. Because of all that we haven’t done much here apart from walking around and exploring the old parts of the city and are looking forward to heading out of here deeper into Colombia where hopefully we can get away from these “seaside resort, tourist-ripoff prices”. For comparison, we’ve been using the price-for-a-bottle-of-local-beer to work out how expensive a place is. Here they charge up to $4 – $5 USD for a standard size bottle of local beer in a bar or restaurant. In a supermarket they’re around the $1 mark, which is a lot. Even the hostels here are expensive – $10-$12 USD for a dorm bed, whereas quite a few countries we’ve been in before here you could get a private room for that much. In face, private rooms here seem to go for the $50-$60+ range! It might be because the dollar has weakened and the colombian peso has gained in strength or something but its been a bit of a shock to our system.
Anyway, enough of the ranting about prices, we’ve had a good time exploring this place and will look back on it fondly – it reminds us a lot of Antigua in Guatemala. Tonight we’re off to Medellin further South into Colombia where we hope to spend a couple of days (and hopefully find prices much cheaper).
Here’s a selection of photos we’ve taken on our strolls around town.
The entrance to our hostel, a cool little placed called Makako Hostel.
Generic view in one of the squares in the old walled city. Actually not so generic - under all the arches are sellers of traditional local sweets - think lots of coconut ice and candied nuts and stuff like that.
Another square, photo taken from up on the wall surrounding the old city, built to defend the town from pirate attack.
View down one of the streets in the old walled city - they are all narrow streets, most buildings have balconies sticking out over the sidewalks.
One of the main theatres - built out of "marble bricks" and looking very fancy.
Just a random painted balistrade.
Hails crossing the road near a mango seller. The buildings are painted such awesome colours.
A shout of our hostel (thats it in the background with the brown wooden balconies).
Another random view down a random street. The old walled city has really kept its charm.
A sidewalk juice seller.
A local party bus driving past.
Some statues in a church courtyard.
Stopped off at an Aussie cafe for late lunch the one day. All the beers were served in beer coozies. Awesome.
Lime seller walking past with his wares.
Spotted this box of fruit loops in the supermarket. They have purple and green and even more importantly BLUE fruit loops! Had to buy it and test it out.
Yellow and orange and green and red and purple and blue fruit loops. With a free plastic spoon (not pictured).
Close up of the fruity-loopy-goodness.
Hails sampling a local columbian beer - this one called Club Columbia.
Awesome nighttime snacks - Snyders Pretzel Pieces. This flavour is the "Ring Stinger", a.k.a. Jalapeno.
Watching the world go by from the balcony at the hostel.
A quick rain shower to wash the streets.
Night time view of our hostel.
Nighttime view of the main old gate to the walled city.
May 15, 2011