MEDELLÍN ! 20-28/12/2022

Note to myself: write short stories 🙂 

I wanted to include so many details to remember them when I will be old … but it also means that I am spending soooo much time on writing these instead of just enjoying and being in places. The things and experiences I want to remember, even the smallest details I am still remembering and everything else is not that important. This way I can focus way more on just living here 🙂

That means for you, dear reader, that it will also be easier for you to keep reading, because it won’t take you so much time to 😉

So I am in Medellín. Going from the airport to the hostel, I take public transport, cheapest and fastest way in Medellín I’ve been told. And now I can say that it’s true. In less than 1 hour I was standing in front of my hostel.

📍Purple Monkey, Poblado, Medellín.

It is already late (10pm) when I arrive, so I will go to bed soon, but after 6 days of (almost) no internet, I open my laptop to quickly check some e-mails and messages at the rooftopbar of the hostel. A little bit later I am already talking with some people who are staying in this hostel as well about traveling (ofcourse), living abroad, remote working, possibilities and dreams. A really nice conversation and I end up going to bed past 1am. When finally in bed, I fall asleep immediately.

The next day I decided that I will plan my days in Medellín, instead of waiting around for other people like I did in Cali. A lot of possibilities, but I make a schedule with my personal must do’s. Afterwards, I went to have lunch with some new friends from the hostel: menú del día. That is a lot of food for no money (soup + main + lemonade for $15 000 = €3,-)

After lunch I teach a 30 minutes yoga class to my lunch-friends and afterwards they ask what they have to pay. They have to pay me nothing, it was my pleasure and I am just happy they asked.

After yoga class I am on my way to the free walking tour of Medellín city that I booked with Real City Tours. They recommended taking the metro (here the metro is a few metres above the ground) because it is the cheapest and fastest way. And in my experience it is also very easy, and for those who are wondering: yes, very safe!

We are a group of +/-10 people and our guide is Pablo, not Pedro (small inside joke). It was an amazing tour! Very personal and Pablo tells you everything you want to know about Medellín. You are also free to ask any questions, there are no taboos.
Pablo is 35 years old and lived his whole life in Medellín and yes, he is very opinionated about the past of Medellín and especially about him who is not to be named. Speaking out loud his name is unrespectful, so Pablo doesn’t do that. Especially because the tour is in English and a lot of Colombians don’t speak English and he really doesn’t want anyone to think that he has something good to say about him. It is safe to walk around alone in Medellín, but I really recommend having a free walking tour. You get all the stories from someone actually living here and now I respect Paisa and Medellín even more.

I am only going to share one of his stories here, because I feel this one is important (to know all the other stories, you will have to come to Medellín and experience it yourself. I promise you won’t regret it!): Pablo’s first ever memory of his life, is walking to school as a 4-5 year old boy, his mother holding his hand very tight. And on their way Pablo sees a man, in a pool of blood, dead on the side of the street. And that is the only reality of what he who will not be named  was doing. 

Also, Narcos on Netflix, watch it if you like, but know that it is told from the perspective of the Narco traffickers and not from the ordinary people’s view. That would have made a totally different series and maybe one you don’t / didn’t want to watch 😉

Everything else you want to know about Medellín and Pablo’s stories, join a free walking tour!

During the tour I get to know Lourens (Netherlands). Afterwards, we had a drink together in Salón Malaga, the last real/old bar left in the centre of Medellín. He invited me to join a ‘protest’ with some other Dutchies for better cycling infrastructure in the city. Yes, I would love to!

So.. one hour later I am on a bike, together with +/-500 other people, cycling through Medellín city, blocking cars, using the main roads and everything. Nice! And if you want this experience as well: it is happening every Wednesday evening, every week another route.

The next day I am having some calls planned and in the afternoon: parapente ! 😀It is a bit out of town, into the mountains and you can get there by public transport, but I do decide to just take the Uber, so I don’t have to worry about being on the right bus and where to jump off  😅 At the small office of Parapente San Felix (really recommend this one, pictures and videos are included ánd it is very affordable compared to some other companies) Some information, papers and a safety-video later, I am ready to go! First a steep hike up on the mountain still, finding the launching platform and then I am actually good to go.

Wauw! It was amazing 🥹 Flying high above Medellín, next to the eagles, sun on my face, … how lucky am I to be here. I had a 20 minute flight, but it felt like it was just 5 minutes. Back on the ground they transfer the pictures and videos directly to my phone and we are really laughing with some of the videos, my smiley happy face! hahaha

The ride back home, no Uber available here, so public transport it is. You just stand on the side of the road and every bus that passes, you stop it, you tell them you need to go to Medellín, and if the bus is headed there you jump on. I am lucky and the first bus that passes is going to Medellín and I am on my way back. It started as a quiet easygoing ride, until Gustave (I will find out his name later) offered me a shot of their homemade aguardiente. I take one, but that is not enough, a second and a third shot follow fast. And that’s when we start having a conversation. It is a whole family in the bus, on their way back home as well from a few days away. They showed me some pictures and I told them that I had just been parapenting and showed them the videos. Everyone is happy and that asks for another shot! Now we’re almost in Medellín and have two more shots, because the bottle can better be empty… At the Terminal del Norte is where we say goodbye, but first we exchange whatsapp numbers so we can send the pictures taken in the bus to each other 🙂Here I take the metro back to Poblado and I am really happy. Because of the parapenting, because of the family, because I can just take the metro home like everyone is doing in Medellín, or because of the shots? I don’t know, but I really feel happy, life is good. 

After an early and full night of sleep that I really needed, I am on my way again for a free walking tour with Zippy Tours. This time in Communa 13, once this was one the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Medellín. Now it is completely safe and you can walk on your own through Communa 13, but again if you don’t do a tour, you don’t have the stories of someone living in Communa 13, on the first mountain for more than 20 years. We’re a group of +/- 15 people and our guide is Stiven. He is so open and honest about everything and you can ask all the guides anything. They will always give an honest answer. I am not going to tell all the stories here (trying to keep it short 😅) but I will also tell you one thing that Stiven told and I feel is important for you to know: “2022 was a major year for Medellín, because it is the first year ever that there were 100 days without drug murders. Do you guys understand how big that is?” Stiven said it twice and I had to let that sink in. I feel this is absurd 🙃100 days (according to official numbers) without murder because of drugs is the best news and gives them hope for the future. It allows them to dream about the future, for the very first time in their lives. Wow.

So please, if you don’t consider your own health important to not do drugs, don’t do drugs so other people actually have a chance to live. Yes, every time you are using drugs, you are personally murdering a person, and with that one person, also a whole family.

After the tour I stayed in Communa 13 with 3 other girls from the tour (UK & Germany) to explore a little bit more, walk the bridge connecting the first 3 mountains, have some food and enjoy the hip hop culture. Back at the metro station I decided to also take a ride with the cable car, over the hills of Medellín and beautiful views.

Three days in Medellín have been wonderful so far and now I am going to Guatapé, a small town two hours driving from Medellín and is recommended by a lot of people. Honestly, I can be really short about this. For me it is completely overrated. Is it nice to see, yes, but if you don’t go, you don’t really miss something spectacular. (My personal opinion of course, take it with a pinch of salt, always 😉) I did have some nice company during the trip, so I did have a lot of fun. We were a group of 4: me, Yara (Pakistan), Mesut (Turkey) and Roy (USA). We had a lot of laughs and also some very interesting conversations. On the bus back home I was sitting next to Yara and we shared a lot of the same values and dreams. This is the moment where I realise that when you’re travelling, you meet so many people who think like you and you don’t feel an outsider anymore, you are not the weird one, you do not not belong. You find your people and because of that you become more confident about yourself. I like 😊

Today is also Christmas eve and I had plans to go have dinner, until they got cancelled by the other person 🫤 Luckily I remembered that Emili (from the tour in Leticia) was going to be in Medellín for christmas eve, so I called him and I was invited for dinner right away 😊

The dinner was at the hostel he was staying at, and it appeared to also be Yara’s hostel. So I already knew 2 people there, yay 😅 It didn’t took me long to know everybody who was sitting at my table and around. A lot of alcohol and long waits for food (tiempo colombiano + they didn’t expect so many people) made everyone very friendly and very open about anything. It was actually nice.  After dinner we ended up in a club and stayed dancing all night. I can only conclude that I had a lovely time with Emili, Toni (Spain, Emili’s friend), Yara, Royce (Australia) and Stephanie (USA). Merry Christmas!

Christmas day, I have a little bit of a hangover from last night. The first time in a very long time that that happened. I realise now that the amount of alcohol I have been drinking in one month in Colombia is the same as the amount I had in the past 5 years. Which is still less than a lot of other people are drinking, but I am longing to go back to less drinking. Anyway, I take a shower, have breakfast, a very slow morning and a Christmas call with my family in Belgium 😊

I go have lunch with Marcos (Italy). On my first day in Medellín he did the yoga session with me. He left Medellín, went to Jardín and just arrived back in Medellín. After lunch we went grocery shopping, because tonight there is a Potluck Christmas Dinner at my hostel. In the Exito (local supermarket) we look around and decide to make vegetarian tacos. A lot of vegetables, tacos, lime and sour cream… yummie! 

It was a lovely christmas dinner, a lot of food, everyone really did their best! And everyone sitting at one long table is just a really nice view. No alcohol for me tonight 🙈 but some good food and even better company. I am still fascinated with people’s life stories and how you can relate! Around midnight they’re making plans to go to a club, but I call it an evening and go to bed 😄

Well rested, I woke up and I am a little bit nervous, because today I am meeting Susana. You remember the family I met on the bus after parapenting? It was Susana’s family, she is studying English and she asked me to spend some time together so she could practise her English and that way I could practise my Spanish. She lives in Copacabana, the smaller town right next to Medellín. When I arrive, she invites me immediately into her home, shows me around and the fact that she is so at ease, makes me feel at ease as well. We go swimming in the local public pool, have lunch at her place, go for a walk up the hill with her mom’s dog and go for ice cream. It was a beautiful day and I have a family in Colombia where I am always home ❤️

The next morning it is raining 😱 the first time in Medellín that it rains while I am here, but apparently it is not that uncommon. Again, I prefer to say that Medellín is crying because I am leaving today. So after breakfast I start packing my back and go to checkout. I have early lunch with Royce (who I met at Christmas eve) and I go into the city. First: to Terminal del Norte to buy my bus ticket to go to Santa Marta. Normally there is no need to buy this before hand, but it is high season (the Holidays) in Colombia, and not only tourists, but also Colombians are travelling up north (read: to warm and sunny temperatures). So I don’t want to take the risk of being at the terminal at 10pm and the busses are all full and I can’t leave tonight. (I don’t know if it was a legit fear or not, but I was happy I had my ticket already)

After that I go to Casa de la Memoria. A free and really good museum about Medellíns history, explained from different perspectives from a lot of different people. Really worth it!

In the evening I go to Rio al Parque, because that is the place where you can see thé best Christmas lights of Colombia. The theme this year is Encanto (the Disney movie) and it really is beautiful, even though it is a lot 😅 it does not feel like kitsch like a lot of other homes and places do. It is also obvious that the Christmas lights are not just a tourist attraction, a lot of Colombian people are here as well to see the lights. ✨

And then it is time to go back to my hostel, pick up my backpack and take the Uber to Terminal del Norte, where I take the bus at 10pm to Santa Marta, ready for a 16 hour drive…