Medellin was a turning point in our round the world trip. It was the first city on our trip that we didn’t have firm plans for the number of days that we planned to stay. This sort of freedom took a load of pressure off our shoulders as we could stay as long as we liked, or leave as soon as we wanted.
We ended up really liking Medellin. It’s hard not to like a city that has perfect spring temperatures year round, especially when we were coming from the oppressive heat of Cartagena. The city itself was quite large but easy to navigate using the subway system and cable cars. The Geo Hostel where we stayed was in the perfect neighborhood for us, right near the action and filled with 20 and 30 somethings.
Things That We Saw and Did
Since we took a night bus from Cartagena to Medellin we arrived into Medellin quite early in the morning. Our hostel did not have our room ready yet so we left our bags and went out to explore. We hadn’t done much research on Medellin before we left so we didn’t know quite what to do. Our brains must not have been working or we would have gotten on the internet to check out what we should see and do but we did not.
I figured that most major cities have lots of sights in the downtown area. We hopped on the train and got off on what looked like one of the major stops. After that we walked around aimlessly looking for breakfast, or at least something that was not an empanada or fried chicken, an extremely difficult task. Once we finally found some eggs and ate, we continued walking around. We saw a few different churches and museums as we wandered.
The downtown area wasn’t my favorite part of Medellin. There were people staring at us like they had never seen a foreigner in their life which made both of us a little uncomfortable, especially since we had our DSLR camera in our camera bag. We made the decision that we were done with downtown and ready to head back to our hostel to wait for our room.
Soccer Game (on TV)
When looking to get a bite to eat for lunch, we noticed that there were bars filling up fast with customers wearing Colombia soccer jerseys. We learned that there was a world cup qualifying game against Peru the same afternoon. We decided when in Rome do as the Romans do. We went to a bar, grabbed a bite to eat and drank some local brews in front of a TV.
After our first drink, we noticed that the nearby park had a jumbotron playing the game. People were walking around the streets with beers. We decided to close out our tab and purchase beers at the convenience store instead of paying the inflated prices at the bar. Once we were at the park we heard some very American sounding English. I introduced myself to a group of 4 and after talking for a while I found out that 2 of the people in the group were from Michigan, where I grew up. I then learned that one of the Michiganders went to MSU and graduated with a marketing degree (my same college and major) the year before me. What a small world we live in!
We exchanged contact information and made plans to meet up the next night to watch the Cubs playoff game. After the game we all had such a good time together we decided to go clubbing and the next morning headed to Guatape, a town 2 hours away. It was nice to make friends on the road and break up our constant togetherness with other people.
One of the things that we knew we wanted to do in Medellin was go on a cable car ride so we could get a panoramic view of the city. We were originally going to take the cable car which was connected to the San Antonio station. Our plans were foiled when the cable cars were under construction until after we left the city. We figured we paid for our metro ticket and headed down to the end of the line.
Once we got to a certain point, the neighborhoods started to look a little sketchy. We got off the train and took a few pictures of the city from the train platform. Andy at this point spotted a few cable cars moving in the distance. We asked a police officer, our go to whenever we had questions, where the cable car was. We communicated in our broken Spanish and found out that there was another cable car line line at the Acevedo station, a few stops down. We made our transfer and rode the cable car K line to the end. At this point we had 2 choices, pay 4,600 pesos or $1.60 to catch the L line cable car to the end of the line or turn back.
We decided to ride the cable car to the end of the line. When we were waiting for our cable car we saw a group of 3 girls speaking English. We did the math and figured that they would be in our cable car which was exciting for us since we wouldn’t feel awkward taking pictures. We were also excited to speak English again and learn what their story was. Turns out they were all part of the Peace Corp, working on the coast of Colombia. After taking a few pictures and admiring the scenery which changed from city to a tree filled hillside, we reached the end of the line.
Once we got off the cable car we realized that Arvi Park was there. We had no clue there was a park at the end of the line but were excited to explore it, especially since we didn’t have anything on our agenda until later in the evening. We visited the information center and got a map of the park. There were free parts to the park where you could hike or parks that had more activities but had admission fees. We decided that we would visit the adventure park (Riqueza Arqueologica y Cultural) which offered zip lines and other sorts of adventure sports.
Before we went to the park, we decided to get some lunch. I was sick of empanadas and wanted something healthier. We found a vegetarian restaurant and decided to eat there. Andy and I placed our orders – him for a chicken quesadilla (yep, you can add meat at this vegetarian restaurant) and I ordered a vegetarian lasagna. We were told it would take a little while to get our food but we were in no rush. After waiting for 30 minutes in the empty restaurant our food arrived. It looked, smelled and tasted amazing! I would gladly wait 30 minutes for such a delicious meal any day.
After our bellies were full we hopped the park operated pink bus to the adventure park. Once we arrived we were told that the ziplines were full for the day. Knowing that there would be other fun things to do, we paid our 15,000 pesos or $5 admission and headed in. As we started walking we cracked up. This park was an adventure park for children, not adults. Making the best of accidently going to a children’s park, we watched a 4D movie, swung on a huge swing and walked around.
We headed back to the cable cars around mid afternoon as the last cable cars leave at 4pm. We were keeping our fingers crossed that if we left early we might have the luxury of having our own cable car. We were on track for that until 2 girls ran and hopped on our car, for what reason I am not sure as there was an empty cable car directly behind us. Either way, we had a scenic view on the way down which was nice.
Museo El Castillo
Because of a Colombian holiday, all night busses from Medellin to Bogota the night we had planned to leave were full. We booked a night bus the following night which gave us an extra day in Medellin. This afforded us time to see Museo El Castillo, a castle within walking distance of our hostel.
We started our walk knowing it was a distance, but not realizing exactly how far the walk was. After a long, sweaty, mostly uphill, 30 minute walk we had arrived. We purchased tickets at the gate for 10,000 pesos or $3.50 each then went up to the castle. Before we could begin the tour we had to check our bags, including my purse. We read the rules, including no photos in the castle, then waited for the tour.
Since there was nobody else around when we were there, we were lucky that we were able to get a private tour. The tour itself was only in Spanish but the guide was quite good at annunciation which helped us understand much more than we would have been able to understand otherwise. After 15 minutes of walking around the castle, our tour was completed.
We decided to set up the tripod and take some fun pictures outside. It was great for us as the castle was relatively empty, making it the perfect backdrop for our pictures. As we were taking pictures I heard a loud bird noise. I looked up in the tree I saw 3 huge macaws. It was one of those moments on our trip where we both took a step back and realized that we really weren’t in the US anymore.
Shortly after we started taking pictures it began to rain. We tried to wait it out but it just kept raining. We headed to the gate and asked the attendant to call us a taxi, a good $4 investment as the rain turned into a downpour during our ride.
I didn’t really know what to think of Medellin before we arrived and had no clue if I would like it or dislike it. I can report back that we both liked the city quite a bit – there were a lot of things to do, we always felt safe and the weather was great.
There were police all over the city, especially in the neighborhood near our hostel, which made both of us feel quite safe. The only time that we ever felt unsafe is when we got off the tram to take a few pictures of the vista. This was totally our fault as we should not have been in this neighborhood. From the tram, the neighborhood look perfectly fine, as there was a school with children playing everywhere, but as we walked around we noticed most of the adults staring at us. Once we realized our error, we quickly made it back to the cable car station and everything felt safe again.
As with everywhere that we have visited, the weather reports have been completely wrong. It said that we were going to have constant thunderstorms but really we only had 1 bad storm the night we left. The crazy thing about Medellin and rain is because it is so hilly, that when it rains there are just sheets of water pouring into the gutters. It is actually quite a sight to see.