I woke up on one of the couches in the common area of Luna’s Castle. Murphy’s wiggling my big toe again to get me moving – Fernando is pulling the car around so we can load up and hustle to the airport for our 7:20 flight to Medellin. So groggy – very little sleep – but I quickly throw everything together, lashing my tent / sleeping bag combo to the top of my backpack with bungee cords. Murphy slept even less than I did, we’re in fine form.
Fernando zips us to the airport in no time, giving us the lowdown on all the neighbourhoods we drive past, the guy is a natural-born tour guide. We jump out at the international departures, handshakes and bro-hugs. We get in line and unlike VivaColombia’s ticket sales the day before, the line moves quickly. Bags checked and we’re off to immigration in less than ten minutes.
Immigration and customs were the part of this process I was worried about. I have a stamp in my passport saying that I’ve temporarily imported a car to the country and I knew they’d look for my entry stamp, but the two are on separate pages. Even though the paperwork for the hand-off to Fernando was legit I just didn’t want to deal with any confusion or bureaucracy. As the immigration official took my passport and started flipping through in search of the entry stamp she was visibly struggling – my current passport is ridiculously full of stamps and visas – so I quickly offered to take it from her before she found the vehicle stamp and I flipped it to the entry stamp’s page. Alright, everything’s good, exit stamp and I’m through. We’re in with plenty of time so we nab some breakfast and chill.
I have no idea what happened on the plane besides being crushed between Murphy, a big dude and a seat ahead of me that was fully reclined. Not that it mattered, for the first time in my life I slept through take-off and continued to do so through almost the entire flight. Murphy was out cold hard too.
We land in Medellin airport with no idea of what to expect from customs, but we strongly suspected Murphy’s long hair and our bugged-out appearances would land us in secondary inspection, and initially it looked that way. While most passengers were taking their luggage through X-rays we were told to go in a different direction. Rather than secondary inspection it was zero inspection. For whatever reason they let us skip all the regular security procedures. Really can’t explain it.
Drisdelle’s flight from Bogotá doesn’t land for a couple hours so we have time to kill. A sketchy “cabbie” follows us around for a while, staring us down, and only offers his services by walking up very close and whispering “Taxi?” like he’s selling blow or black-market organs. No chance we’re getting in a car with that dude. We go upstairs and find a place with coffee and beer and partake in both. Despite the beer’s unappealing-to-an-English-speaker name of “Colon” it’s not too bad. After a couple drinks and some blogging we see Agent Getz with his bags in tow walking through the main part of the airport and wave him up for a quick debriefing and then rustle up a cabbie.
We go out to the road to find a cabbie with a marked cab (rather than a sketchball like the one who approached us earlier). I pull out the directions to a hostel that Fernando gave us and ask a guy if he knows the place or understands the directions – of course, no problem. He’ll drive us for 60,000 Colombucks, about 30 Ameribucks. Sounds good, we jump in. Could’ve taken a shuttle into town to save a few bucks but we’re pretty wiped (Drisdelle hadn’t slept either) so we just want to get somewhere where we can shut down. About 5 minutes out of the airport while we’re winding through the hills on the way to Medellin he asks for the directions again, looks something up on his phone and calls someone. Oh, he doesn’t actually know where it is. Then when he figures it out by calling a friend he says it’s too far and will cost us more. He suggests that we go to a place called Zona Rosa en Pobleto instead, he knows some hostels there. Too tired to fight and disinclined to pay more than $30 for a cab ride we say fuck it and go along with it, thinking about what a greasy bastard this guy is. It turns out he was probably right, the Zona Rosa was awesome.
The descent from the airport into Medellin is fabulous. A fairly large place with a population of about 2 million. Starting from a decently high elevation and a steep decline of switchbacks, the view of the city spreading through the valley was spectacular. Red roofed buildings densely packed on the valley floor and sprinkling their way up the mountain sides. We got the cabbie to stop so I could hop out and snap a pic or two.
We also passed by a gated complex with a steep driveway and the cabbie tells us it is Pablo Escobar’s estate. You can go and do tours of the place and I think he said there was a museum there. And we may have gotten this confused but it sounded like he said there were chicas at the estate you could get for $120. Sleep with a Colombian prostitute in Escobar’s estate? There was a twinkle in MacKay’s eyes.
The neighbourhood he takes us to is great, tons of nice hostels, bars, greenery, a river running through it. It’s very upscale and geared for tourism. In a a surprising turn from sketchiness the cabbie hops out at a hostel called Casa Kiwi and goes right up to the door to inquire about rooms for us. Down to business, I like it. They can’t accomodate us there so we all pile back in the cab and go around the block to another place, Happy Buddha. We’re able to secure a room, thank the cabbie, and toss our bags in the storage room until the room is ready.
While hanging out near the check-in desk a backpacker waiting for a taxi approached me and asked whether I spoke English or Spanish then offered me weed. Nah, I’m good. In a French accent he says “I’m on my way to the airport and have to get of it, you can have it for free.” The man drove a hard sell so I accepted. Sweet, a couple grams of free weed, even if it did look like shitty weed.
Outside on the street we grab a table on the sidewalk at the bar of the neighboring Milaka Hostel. a nice Romanian guy, the owner, introduces us to some local beers from the area and we take a moment to chill and take in the scene. What a nice area, lots of trees and plants along the streets, the sound of rushing water from the river, muy tranquil. Such a welcome change of pace from our chaotic run through Central America and the Panamanian Pandemonium. And then there’s the woman…
While we were in Panama a lot of the bars had people on the street trying to entice us to come inside and get drinks at their bar. Most of the time they’d say there are some Colombian girls going to be there. We must have heard that from every place we walked by. So we were interested to see if Medellin could live up to the hype. It blew the hype through the stratosphere. There were times sitting at that table when we couldn’t even talk to one another, heads on swivels, mouths agape like some ogling characters off of looney tunes. Curvy, slender, sexy eyes, pretty faces. I’ve never been to a place more stacked with hotties before in my entire life. It was mind boggling. We were joking that there must be some nazi-style DNA laboratory and clone shop around to produce this ridiculous quantity of quality females. We also debated spending the rest of our vacation, and possibly our lives, in Medellin.
The Romanian owner, let’s call him Rowner, puts the English/Estonian European qualifiers on, we grab some more beers, and this guy walks by selling incense. We’re not interested so he approaches the only other person at the bar, this young Japanese guy that’s been in the corner looking at a tablet and giggling. He’s wearing a shirt that puts even Agent Getz’s collection to shame, it makes him look like a chesterfield from your grandmother’s place. Underneath is a second blue button up shirt peeking through with potentially obnoxious patterns on it as well.
There is an odd back and forth between Japadude and Incense man, like he’s never seen the stuff before and there’s an incense burning display all done in charades as neither can really communicate with the other through talking. Japadude makes some high pitched noises and there’s a fair amount of giggling and polite palm to palm bowing. Those were some good selling charades from Incense Man, Japadude picked up a whole bag full of incense from him. Then they walked off down the street together, Japadude handing his purchase to the Romanian owner. That’s weird, where is Incense man taking him?
After they go around the corner Rowner gives us some information. Japadude has been staying there for a month. Real nice, polite, and quite guy. He doesn’t really do much. Then the other day he went out and he’s been acting really strangely ever since. Rowner thinks he may have got slipped some drugs or something. He’s flighty, impulsive, and unpredictable now. The other day he bought 3 million pesos worth of groceries and brought them back to the hostel. That’s roughly $1500 USD. Filled up the whole front foyer. A little after that Japadude gave about 600 bucks worth to some homeless guy he’d met earlier in the day. Rowner thinks he’s from a well-to-do Japanese family and that he honestly wants to help people. But he’s a little worried about him lately.
We moseyed to a place around the corner for lunch called 3 Tipicos hoping to get some traditional Colombian food. While we sat there a thunderstorm kicked off and the rain was coming down hard. This didn’t deter some street kid from stepping out at red lights and performing a practiced routine on the devil sticks with a balance my ball cap on my nose finisher. Ease down to his knees, still balanced, back up, slap the left leg, still balanced, slap the right, end with cap falling back into place on top of the head. Then he’d go knock on car windows for some change. Kid probably made a few bucks over the course of lunch.
We also saw Japadude and Incense Man walk past again. No idea where they were going. Japadude was holding an umbrella over them both while they walked. Very strange.
After lunch we were zonked from the food, the beer, from travelling, and not sleeping. We got into our room at the Happy Buddha and had a huge, happy nap. Woke up a few hours later and we all showered up and got ready for night time in Medellin. It was a Sunday so we weren’t expecting too too much.
We hit the hostel bar for a few beers while deciding where we wanted to take the evening. Good to see Japadude being weird out on the street. He was throwing some light-up ball toy into the trees along the street knocking out flip flops and other things lodged up there, then awkwardly trying to catch the ball on the way down with what looked like zero coordination or athletic skill. But he didn’t care. He was just a giggling walking chesterfield throwing neon balls into the street and nearly getting hit by cars with every missed catch.
We hosted the 2014 Medellin Great Craft Beer-Off where we hit up both the Bogota Beer Company and the Medellin Beer Factory and critically compare the two in several key categories to decide which is the better establishment. We started at the BBC. Their IPA was surprisingly good and we dipped into a meat platter called the Museo De Oro after a gold museum in Bogota. We saw a plate of nachos float past and had a slight case of FOMO. The meat plate was good too though, chicken, sausage, and beef with vegetables on a skewer, a bowl of small golden round potatoes and a couple of dipping sauces. Service was insanely slow and we decided not to even bother with a second beer.
Next up was the MBF. Also a cool atmosphere, it had a great outdoor seating area. The girls were all dressed in German Dirndells (Sp?) which may make this an instant win over the BBC. They were out of a few beers that we wanted so we were forced to go with a pitcher of marzen. It was unremarkable. The nachos we ordered were also sub-par compared to the mountainous ones that had passed at the BBC. But still those outfits were so damned cute, could it make up for sub standard food and drink? It could.
There was a guy at the table next to us, cap on backwards, and a plastic glove on, he was eating chicken wings with them. As soon as he was finished he put his head on the table and was out cold for the remainder of the time we were there. Maybe we should have gotten the wings.
After MBF won the GCB-O we walked a few streets away where Agent Getz had spotted some bars and clubs on a previous scouting mission. This turned out to be one of the best party scenes I’ve ever been privy to in my entire lifetime. There was a whole square around a central park that was blocked off to traffic. Walking through it was running a gauntlet of music-pumping dance clubs and discounted cocktail bars. The atmosphere was top notch. These places ran the full gamut between intentionally dive-y to chic modern, upscale joints with swanky seating areas and lounge lighting. There was such a concentration of places we were completely overwhelmed and needed several passes through the area before just jumping on a patio and ordering up some margaritas.
Once again we sat silently as the street was a non-stop parade of all the most gorgeous woman on planet earth each done up in their night gowns and party attire. The comment “This is insane” was dropped every 30 seconds by one of us. “How is this possible, and why isn’t everyone here?”.
We rounded the corner and found a place with two guys playing along with salsa tunes on a keyboard and singing. There were a handful of ppl dancing and it seemed like an alright scene. A waiter snagged us and sat us in the middle of the fray with the promise of 2 for one cocktails. MacKay and I went the dry martini route, Drisdelle landed a couple Tom Collins. Our conversation was still circling around our disbelief that a place like this can even exist. The drinks weren’t hitting though so Drisdelle and I knocked back a shot of 18yr old Buchanan’s. alright, posse out.
We swung into the main square just to check out the scene. It was packed with people sitting and drinking or smoking weed. We’d somehow managed to land here with a holiday the next day. So our previous worry about missing a good night out in Medellin was instead replaced with everyone in town out and about, partying their asses off. Some scantily clad ladies of the night approached us in the park with their pursed lips and fuck me eyes. Smoking hot Colombian hookers. Thanks, but no thanks.
The entire time we were in the area these dudes with red boxes would come by and try to sell us stuff. Chicklets, Smokes, Weed and Cocaine were the prominent things on the menu. A couple of 12-year old kids were trying to sell us on some chicklets (which is funny cuz all the others were pushing coke hard). We said we didn’t need any and they chuckled and said something to the effect of “you’ll only end up with fatties if you don’t have gum.” “Man, we’re totally ok with that!” yelled MacKay, and we all busted up.
After some time in the street party zone we thought it was probably time to raise it up a level. We ascended some steps into a night club called El Museo. There was a DJ on stage pumping some fairly traditional salsa-fied dance tunes and the dance floor was cracking. We recognized a handful of the girls we’d fallen in love with previously here getting their groove on.
Not for lack of trying, we were still pretty sober. To get these guilty feet have got no rhythm whiteboys on a salsa dance floor with all the world’s hottest woman was going to take some lubrication. We jumped things up a notch and got a bottle of the local rum, coke and ice, and went to one of the cocktail tables off of the dance floor. Picking up on our pace shifting, the DJ switched gears into straight up EDM. Now the place was raving, girls were screaming, and a slight shimmy could be felt about the shoulders. Commence whiteboy chair dancing. Oh yeah, we’re getting into it.
Post-Buchanan’s shot Drisdelle has moved into glazed, silly grin, and shameless mode and is dancing beside a gaggle of super models pulling off a sprinkler move I hadn’t seen for about 20 years. The troops are rallied and MacKay and I are up beside him ‘dancing’ like a couple of Muppets on steroids. Some dude from the bar comes up to Drisdelle, taps him on the shoulder and says “No molestas las chicas”. HAHA. We’re rolling. Maybe his proximity was setting some onlookers off? Maybe this collection of Miss World contenders was spoken for? Regardless, our rum was finished and we got no moves, dance or romantic, to speak of so we ambled back to the hostel for a night cap.
Walking through the hostel to our room we heard some people talking from above us and through a little adventure detective work we found a narrow staircase leading to a little nook up on the roof. There were a handful of travelers up there having drinks and we asked if we could join. We pulled up seats and were immediately in the center of an already started pot circle. Fair enough, we politely entered it. There were a couple guys from New York there who were visiting Colombia for a couple of weeks, kicking around. An Israeli guy was also there, who’d been travelling around for months, going in the opposite direction as we were. Another batch of weed came out and this Israeli guy took some rolling papers and a cigarello tip and fashioned a cone blunt that was an absolute masterpiece in a matter of seconds. Damn. We jumped on a furry pink elephant and blasted off to Saturn and got back just in time for bed.