Much to our luck there was a little market with heaps of stalls selling clothing, jewellery and all kinds of trinkets. We didn't buy anything much as just last week we sent home almost 7 kilograms of things from Quito. Nonetheless it was still fun to have a look around, this part of the city felt very trendy, lots of little cafes and groovy (expensive) clothing stores.
The next day we explored around town a bit more, found an organic fruit and veggie market, and had a delicious BBQ dinner at the hostel whilst watching Medellin's football team DIM play and win their semi-final!
Monday we headed out on the Real City walking tour. I cannot recommend this FREE (almost) tour enough. It's 4 hours, but the time honestly just flys by. We were lucky to have the charismatic and charming Pablo as our guide, assisted by Carolina, who was learning and also fantastic.
The tour takes you from El Poblado to downtown via the Metro. It gives you information on Medellin and Colombia's history, the good and the bad. We visited churches with prostitutes, multiple Botero statues and friendly parks where you can buy a hit of crack for less than 50 cents. I won't say anything else as I don't want to give too much away, but when in Medellin take this tour!
The next day we booked a day trip to Guatape through our hostel with DO IT IN A VAN. The trip included 2 incredible fresh cooked meals for breakfast and lunch, a stop and swim at a beautiful lake (and a big jump off a bridge if you were keen) and of course a stop at Guatape.
Guatape is a town an hour or so from Medellin, situated on the lake mentioned above which was formed in the 1960's when a large hydroelectric dam was built. Out of the town there is a gigantic rock, and when you climb to the top after all 740 stairs there is an absolutely breathtaking view.
Pictures really do the talking here.
We have mixed feelings about this tour. The information we received was very interesting and the tour guide was very knowledgable, however she was perhaps a little cold and dark, and at times hard to hear/understand. It’s hard to judge though as the topic of Pablo Escobar is still incredibly fresh in the minds of the people of Colombia, and particularly Medelln. Almost everyone from the city was in some way affected during his years of power. We didn't learn anything about our tour guide's background, or if she had been affected during Escobar's reign of terror over the city. So many people lost loved ones who were directly targeted by Escobar's hit men for opposing him, but many people were also killed due to careless collateral damage -simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whilst far from our favourite tour thus far, I can see how this would appeal to plenty of people, so please don't let us put you off taking part in this well run tour.
Nonethelss the information was interesting and it really brought home how lucky we are in Australia.
Whilst Medellin has a very dark recent past, it is a modern, absolutely beautiful city; full of open squares, parks, great shops and restaurants, solid infrastructure and public transport and greenery. The "Paisas" (people from Medellin and surrounding areas) are absolutely amazing. Seriously in general the friendliest people we have met in South America thus far. We should also note here that despite it's well known violent history, Medellin is by far the safest we have felt in ANY large city we have been in thus far in our 6 months in South America.
Many "Paisas" (and Colombian's in general) are well aware of the incorrect negative stereotypes - coke, killings and kidnappings - that many ignorant foreigners associate with their country and Medellin. Whilst these have been problems, Colombia is a large country filled with an abundance of natural beauty, resources and an industrious population that is moving forward into an incredibly bright and hopefully peaceful future. Several Colombians we have spoken to are looking forward to putting the past behind them, and are stoked that foreigners are happy to travel through their beautiful country - apparently the presence of many happy tourists represents a great change and step forward to locals!
Sorry about the lack of pictures from the Real City and Pablo Escobar tours. We were just way too interested in the facts to stop for photos. I guess you'll just have to get your ass to Medellin and see it for yourself!
Next stop Salento, I hear the bus ride is an absolute bitch.