We arrived to Medellin on a very nice bus, thankfully – it even had wifi intermittently and TV screens in the seat backs! The TVs only showed movies dubbed into Spanish, but it was still a very comfortable journey. Our hostel was equally lovely, big spacious room with a flat screen TV showing loads of American TV shows – I got obsessed with this one show about a guy who came to rescue people from their crazy cats. A bit like SuperNanny for cats, it was nuts. Anyway. We didn’t just watch TV in Medellin!
We slept late the first morning as it had been a few days of early starts, and that afternoon did a walking tour. We have done walking tours in every big city we’ve been in and this was the best one. The guide, Pablo, was so funny and enthusiastic and knowledgeable and it was really really well done. We went to the typical tourist sites as well as the places that tourists are told NOT to go, watching tourists take photos of Medellin’s landmarks, prostitutes ply their trade in front of the churches, people dancing salsa in the main square, people smoking crack in a lesser square (again in front of a church!). It was an amazing view of the “real” Medellin – as well as the best anti-drugs manifesto I ever heard… in not at all a preachy way. But if you ever buy cocaine in Ireland after listening to Pablo describe how the cocaine trade ripped apart his country and made him and his friends grow up in fear, you’ve a harder heart than I do. I mean, we were standing in one place where a busy market was blown up in the 90s, killing several people, including a 7-year-old girl… and that’s what’s bringing you your high. Not to mention the gangland crime in our own country. Anyway, the mayor has done an amazing job cleaning up the city and reclaiming the no-go areas through democratic architecture and it was an amazing tour. We enjoyed it so much that we signed up to do other tour as well, two days later. The following day we went to this super hipster cafe and had the most amazing breakfast, before taking a metro and cable car ride over the city… Fabulous views, at least on the way there, as on the way back it got very wet and overcast, so we were lucky in our timing. There is a park with nature walks and activities at the end of the line, but we didn’t partake in any of that, as we’d arrived quite late in the day and were getting a bit grumpy and hungry.
The following day we had an early start with our second tour – this was a fruit tour. Our guide took us into a market in the centre of Medellin and we got to sample nineteen different fruits, the majority of which I’d never even heard of before. Many of them were very sour and many of them were very weird! But it was so cool to hear about them and taste them, as I’d often walked through the markets before and not have a clue what was on sale. I was always a bit scared to buy stuff in case I ate it wrong or it needed to be cooked or something! Again, very enjoyable and our guide was fantastic. That afternoon we gave in to my inner child and visited Parque Explora, which is this amazingly cool science museum. Outside they have giant model dinosaurs and machines to play on to explore various scientific concepts. They have an aquarium specialising in native species, and a smaller vivarium with insects and spiders. They also had an amazing interactive exhibit on the brain, which I loved, as lots of the concepts were familiar to me from the psychology course, and another with more random interactive exhibits. It was a place where I would stay all day, I loved it. It would have been way more fun had the signage in English been complete, but only some of the signs were in English. I would love for something like that at home. The Science Gallery is cool, but it was the Science Gallery on a giant scale. We’d intended to go to the Botanical Gardens that evening, but we’d stayed so long in the park that it was closed. We had a lazy day the following day, as we were quite tired and a bit coldy, our only real outing being the Botanical Gardens, and the next day was our last. We managed to catch most of the rugby, before getting our flight to Cartagena.
I really really loved Medellin. It’s been the only city on our whole trip where I’ve felt like I could really stay for an extended period of time. This was largely because of the people. They were RIDICULOUSLY nice. Some examples: in one of the so-called dodgy areas on our walking tour, we must have looked lost, as a man crossed the street to come over to us and in a mix of English and Spanish tried to give us directions; in the subway, I delayed a lady and stood on her and when I apologised, she smiled and apologised to me; in the subway, I looked at the map and said something about it to Michael and instantly a young guy took off his headphones and asked if we needed help to find our way… these people are genuinely amazing. The weather was also lovely, warm but not too hot and a little rain to remind me of home… AND I found an authentic Thai restaurant. Perfect! If I ever have to skip the country that’s where I’m headed!