Saturday, 4 April 2015

Hola Colombia, Bogota and Medellin!

Discovering La Candaleria in Bogota
In the early morning of 20th of January 2014, we caught a plane from Asuncion to Bogota, with a 6 hours stopover in Lima. At the airport, we met Billy, a musician, who is originally from San Andres but lives in Bogota now. We became good friends during the long hours of wait and exchanged details to catch up in Bogota.

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by our friends Cecilia and Felipe, who used to live in Sydney before they moved to Colombia. It was great to see them at the airport as we were aware of the crime rate in Bogota. They drove us to Cecilia’s friends, Aurora, who lives in Kennedy district. Although Aurora and her family were very nice, we didn’t feel at ease with the location of their house. It was quite far away from the city centre and didn’t feel safe to go out at night. Bogota is a huge city and you need to be ultra cautious at all times. It is very polluted and crowded. The transportation system (Transmilenia) is so full that you get a feeling of being in a sardine can. We decided to take a night bus to Medellin the next day.

The following day, we met up with Cecilia and Felipe for lunch. Both of them seemed a little tense compared to the times in Sydney. They had some big changes recently. Their daughter, Sidney was born two years ago. They live with Felipe’s parents until their house is completed. They work long hours in demanding jobs. Moreover, they live in a polluted, busy and stressful metropolis. We realised the effects of environment on people. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see them again after so many years. 

At the Botero Museum
The most interesting areas in Bogota are located in La Candaleria district which is the old city centre. The Botero Museum has one of Latin America's most important international art collections and of course, houses many incredible paintings and sculptures of Botero. The entrance is free and it is a must see in Colombia. Another point of interest is the Gold Museum which displays the biggest selection of Pre-Hispanic gold work in the world. It is easy to spend a couple of hours admiring the magnificent art work.

A famous painting of Botero
At night, we took a 10 hour overnight bus to Medellin. Although the prices are much higher in Colombia compared to other South American countries except Brazil and Chile, the service is average. We were quite surprised with the cost of living in Colombia.

Art from the Gold Museum
Our night bus ride wasn’t very comfortable. Our driver was playing loud music and kept talking on his mobile majority of the time. Despite our complaints, he didn't make any effort to change his behaviour and I am glad to have arrived in Medellin safely. Flying is a much better option when travelling in Colombia. The flight prices are quite similar to buses and pilots are more respectful to their customers.

Medellin, the second biggest city in Colombia, was the home of the infamous Pablo Escobar and his drug cartel. However, the government officials did a remarkable job to turn this city into a safe place from a war zone. We felt a lot safer in Medellin than in Bogota.

We checked into the arty Buddha Hostel. It is an art deco house with a beautiful garden. The vibes were very relaxed and the owner, Martin, was fantastic, providing information on tourist spots across Colombia. We felt much better than in Bogota.

Relaxing after an uncomfortable bus ride was a necessity. In the afternoon, we decided to check out the “City of Eternal Spring”, a nickname given to this town due to warm climate all year around. Medellin is a lot better organised than Bogota and has an efficient metro system that makes it easier to visit. 

Plaza Botero
During our stay, we visited the Plaza Botero and Basilica Metropolitana. We also took the Medellin Metrocable (cable car) from where you can see the whole city and unfortunately, witness the poverty in the outer neighbourhoods (favelas). The last stop of this half an hour ride is the Arvi Park, which is a great hiking spot. There is a small farmers market where you can buy delicious fruit salads and typical local food. The park authority offers free hiking tours with informative guides. It was a great day trip.

Honestly, Medellin lacked the culture we wanted to experience. It is good to visit for a couple of days but you might get bored if you stay longer. After 4 days, we were looking forward to discover the Caribbean side of Colombia. Our next flight was to incredible Cartegena!

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