Tuesday, 9 May 2017


So, on to country number ten! After two changes of plane in Panama City (one stopover, one broken engine cover) we landed in Medellin. Known as the City of Eternal Spring, for it’s cool climate – so we were able to enjoy a few days away from the heat and humidity of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica  – though that said, it was a different kind of humidity in Medellin as rainy season has just begun in Colombia, so we had some heavy rain and thunder storms most days.

Medellin is probably most famous for being home to the late Pablo Escobar, renowned drug-lord and dictator. Unfortunately, the recent ‘Narcos’ series on Netflix has glamorised Escobar’s life, which the local people are unhappy about as he brought about a lot of suffering, including kidnappings, murders on the streets of Medellin.
Pablo in prison
We went on a Pablo Escobar and City tour with Fede, the owner of our hostel, born and raised in Medellin, and who experienced first-hand life under the rule of Escobar.
Fede was friends with Pablo Escobar’s son at school and so spent time in his family home. Unrelated to this, he was later kidnapped by FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) Guerillas, held hostage for 17 hours, beaten and released only when his family paid the ransom. 

Fede took us to Escobar’s first family home in Medellin, the prison that was both built by and housed Escobar and the house in which he was later shot (apparently by the Colombian Police, though many believe he killed himself before the police could get to him).

The view from the prison was stunning – essentially affording Escobar a view over all of Medeillin – and despite being locked up, he could see exactly what was going on with views over the airports and oversee his business still being run.
View from Pablo Escobar's prison cell
On the tour, we also visited Barrio Antioquia, famous for being the dodgy suburb, next to a very well-to-do suburb – and one that the police won’t go in to.
Fede drove us through the neighbourhood pointing out to us who was selling the drugs, as well as the ‘watchers’ on every corner, checking for suspicious activity, unknown vehicles and so on… We even saw someone indiscreetly handing over a roll of banknotes in exchange for drugs in broad daylight. Fortunately, we viewed all this from the safety of the car and didn’t stay for long!

Lastly, we went to Comuna 13 -  once Medellin’s most dangerous neighbourhood, now transformed into a vibrant and colourful district, where local residents are no longer afraid to leave their homes – and it’s a destination for tourists alike.
Comuna 13

Colourful Comuna 13 
The ramshackle brick houses atop one another climb up the hill, in a very densely populated neighbourhood. Where once the close proximity of the houses meant gang-members could make a quick get-away (it is said there are secret passageways between some of the houses to facilitate an easy escape), then are now painted brightly with street art and a series of escalators run up through the comuna and the streets are filled with enterprising locals selling empanadas and mango ice cream, and tourists taking photographs against the colourful backdrop.

Kev posing by the street art in Comuna 13
We had an alternative view of Comuna 13 when we took a cable car over the city to Park Arvi, where we planned to do some walking, however, it started raining heavily pretty much as soon as we got out, so we stopped for a craft beer and a game of chess at the top then jumped back on the cable car back down as it looked like the thunder storm and rain was about to settle in for the afternoon.

There’s a great foodie scene in Medellin, along with some great local and national beers, which we are gradually working our way through! Favourite so far include Club Colombia, Chapinero Porter from the BBC Bogota Beer Co. and Medellin brewed ‘3 Cordilleras Sweet Stout’.

Live from the BBC (Bogota Beer Co)
Next, we are on our way to Cartagena, via Tolu and the Islas San Bernardos, an archipelago of ten islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Santa Cruz del Islote, the most densely populated island on Earth – every part of the tiny island is covered by houses.
Santa Cruz del Islote
We made a stop on Tintipan and spent the afternoon on the beach, but unfortunately it meant for sand-fly bites for Kev!
Isla Tintipan
I’ll write again from Cartagena.

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