Woke up kind of late on account of last night’s tangent. Yowchy! Took a trip down the street to find a breakfast joint and found a decent, cheap spot for a typical Colombian breaky. Back to the hostel to check if our laundry was done. Drisdelle’s was done and neatly folded, and MacKay’s was in the dryer. Mine was lost in space. This is a full 24 hours after we put it in. Not terribly efficient considering we were supposed to be checked out by now.
Back to the lounge area for more hammock splash. We’d just missed the Escobar tour so we were coming up with a new plan. I also took some time to look into flights from Medellin to Cali. Although we never really wanted to leave this place, the adventure was calling us Southwards and flights within Colombian turned out to be super cheap. 80 bucks. Maybe 20 bucks more than the bus, but 11 hours shorter. We’re in. Booked em for the evening.
There was a middle-aged American guy sitting with his Belgian friend. He’d come to Medellin and found a good Colombian girl to shack up with. He was full of ‘useful’ advice, “You’ll fall in love 10 times a day here” (more like 10 an hour). He told us to hit the bars outside the Zona Rosa district, “If you can pay the rent you’ll find a girl on the outskirts to settle in with you”.
My laundry finally came out so we packed our packs up and left them in the hostel while we went out to actually explore Medellin. We jumped in a taxi and rode across town. There was a quick and dramatic shift in demographics as we cruised across town. We dropped out of the lush greenery and modern look of Zona Rosa down into the inner city briefly. High rises, billboards, and business buzzed past the window in a blur and then we were down by the Porce River. Down here under a bridge we slow-mo’d past a shanty town of hardened street people en masse. Garbage everywhere. Some making fires out of it to huddle around out of the impending rain. Many laying on the naked ground, strewn randomly. There were shelters made of plastic and cardboard, the wind pushing hard against their shoddy architecture, threatening to tear them apart. Some torn apart.
We came away from there into a district on the outskirts of town that was a mild improvement. Most of the Medellin buildings are made from brick, the red dominating the local color. We were nearing the Acevedo metro station. Our plan was to take the metrocable, which is a gondola, up to the Santo Domingo area, and then the metrocable from there to a National Park called Arvi that is supposed to have killer views looking down on the city. The buildings here were in rough shape, some completely crumbling down, some patched up with sheet metal. Strangely opposite to most cities, as we ascended into the mountain where the view kept getting better and better, the infrastructure was getting worse and worse.
We got let off at the Avecedo cable car, bought a ticket, I think it was 5 bucks for the 3 of us, and hoped on the gondola straight up to Santo Domingo. Brilliant mode of travel through a vertical city. Way faster and way cheaper than taking a cab or bus through the switchback roads up the hillside. It took only a couple of minutes to get to the Santo Domingo stop.
Some pics from our cable car ride:
We went over to the Santo Domingo to Parque Arvi cable car and it was blocked off. Wtf? We talk to a construction dude and he tells us it’s under maintenance today. Tomorrow it’ll be open. Just our luck. Alrighty then. I guess we could cab it. We go out and find a cabbie. He looks at us in slight disbelief. Maybe he doesn’t understand? Parque Arvi? Ok. Ok we’re gone.
Very soon after we get in the cab we realize his reluctance. About 2 minutes into the ride it turns into a dirt road. A bad dirt road. We’re back in Mongolia briefly, driving across non-roads. He takes us through a district on the very edge of town that has chickens and dogs all over the ‘road’. Zero gringos up in these parts. People are giving us just blank stares, like it makes no sense at all for us to be there. White dudes. In the back of a cab. The only cab around. Hmmmmm. i look at the map on my phone. Parque Arvi. Scanning. Enhance. Enhance. Don’t see it. MacKay Spanglishes some info. It’s over the hill. Ok sure, over the hill. We press on. Slowly.
After about a half hour of dirt and rocks at 15km/h I whip out the phone map again. This is gonna take all day. Where is that damned park. I pan out. Pan out. Oh shit. Over that hill means the mountain. And we are only 1/8th of the way. Abort. Abort. MacKay, re-spanglish an exit strategy.
We go a little further and MacKay explains that we simply don’t have the time to go the whole distance and unfortunately we’d like to turn around. Cab Dude has no qualms, he simply pulls a 53 point turn and gets us heading back towards Santo Domingo. On the way back down he’s courteous enough to stop for some pics though. While we didn’t get to the park, the view from up there was still fairly spectacular:
Back down and onto the Santo Domingo cable car. Quick descent to the Avenedo station and we decide to take the metro back to El Poblado. Great metro system, we got on no problem and were on our way. Stopped at the Plaza Botero in the heart of Medellin to check some shit out. The metro stops right in the city center and there is an amazing checkered building in a huge plaza with about 2 dozen statues done by the plaza’s namesake. Rotund and cartoony kind of characters all over the area added a fun and funky vibe to the place. We zig-bounced from spot to spot shooting pics:
Around the corner is a major shopping district. A long straight shot of vendors on the sidewalk and storefronts spilling out onto it. Everyone is angling at your attention trying to scheme you in on something shiny. The place is bustling midday on a Wednesday but we were in exploratory mode and didn’t really peruse the wares or grab anything.
We decide it’s about grub time so we find a spot that looks local-ish and swoop in to a table. Our server speaks no english at all. No problem, we’re actually getting good at this. Through multiple McBurger and Racecar Detectives episodes, and maybe 5 weeks travelling in all Spanish speaking countries, things have improved drastically. We order up three typical Colombian lunches, curious to see what those are, and a couple of Cokes. The food hits the table and while 5 of the 7 things on the dish look like various animal feces, it turned out being pretty delicious.
We pay up and Agent Getz scores a wink from the server. We hop back on the metro and hit up the El Pablado. Grab another cab and ascend up into Zona Rosa again. Back as Casa Kiwi we research what’s up in Cali. Hmmmm, doesn’t look like too much but it will be a good destination and launch spot.
Hop in another cab and we’re blasting our way back up the mountainside towards the airport. Our cabbie is hilarious. He’s describing how much he likes salsa music and chicas dancing. Asks where we’re going and we say Cali. He hot mimes that girls there have big tits and cans. He’s singing along to the music and punching on every symbol crash. He starts telling us about a place he went to recently and turns on his phone that is mounted on the windshield. He starts swiping through all of these pictures trying to get to the vacation. We start making fun cuz most of them are selfies. Ayyy-oo another selfie. This guy was a real character. He’s got one eye on the twisty upward climb and the other is on him swiping through a slide show of his last vacation. Looked like an amazing spot. He was spano-rambling on each pic, describing each spot in detail. Lots of great seaside pics and a zig-zagging staircase up to some overlook. And more selfies Ayyy-ooooo. The guy was all sound effects, chuckling into whole-hearted laughter, and talkative as can be. He stopped at a lookout over Medellin for us to get some pics.
We enjoyed the cabbie so much, and especially his selfies, that we decided we needed a selfie with him in it. Unfortunately MacKay got cut off, but I think the cabbies attitude shines through:
Get to the airport and nab some tickets. They need an emergency contact information. Well if this plane goes down we should probably direct them to someone who knows Spanish. Who do we know? K-Butt Shenanigans? Yep, that’ll do. K-Butt lived in Columbia and Peru for a while so we go with that. Didn’t tell him about it or anything so hopefully nothing happens, that’d be a weird conversation.
On our way through the airport, just before we get to security, there is a store that sells all this survival gear. Makes no sense. MacKay pipes up, “Yeah, let’s pick up a bunch of knives just before we go through security”. We get to the line-up and there’s a display of all the things that you’re not allowed to take on a plane. MacKay says Oh Shit! What’s up? Lighter. No man, my knife. Drisdelle and I crack up. Well fuck dude, we’re committed now. Sure enough we get in the security line-up and drop our stuff on the xray. MacKay gets pulled aside and has to explain the knife in his bag. He mime-talks that he forgot about it. They don’t really care, they’re just laughing at him really. Damn, lost the knife.
Get to the gate and our flight is delayed. Don’t really find out why, but it may have something to do with the thunderstorm firing lightning down on the tarmac. Damn. Beers? Beers. An hour later and we’re on. Get the very back seats on the plane. Seems appropriate. Pretty standard one hour flight except for the turbulence going through another thunderstorm on the way into Cali.
Off the flight, get our bags, no security shit, head outside and there’s a bus. They say they’re going into town so we hop on. The road into town gives us a brief taste of Cali. Not too much going on it seems. Fairly industrial. We’d read that it’s pretty rough here, but has been improving in the last few years. Also read that it’s the salsa capital of the world, which would be awesome if we could dance at all.
The bus driver sends us over to a hotel around the corner. It’s shit but it doesn’t matter. It’s late. Anything will work. We settle in and catch most of Friday the 13th part two in Spanish before crashing out. Tomorrow we’ll most likely bail on Cali and head to Popayan bright and early. A small town in the south of Colombia that’s supposedly really pretty according to the American dude with Belgian friend at Casa Kiwi. It’s also the first ever UNESCO Heritage site for gastronomy, so we’re looking forward to getting there and trying out some interesting local dishes.