(C)Hips don't lie (they just make you fat)

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

So here we were in Medellin, once officially the most dangerous city in the world at a time when drug lord Pablo Escobar, 'the world's greatest outlaw’, was at the height of his cocaine trafficking career and helping to fuel the death statistics by paying local youths to knock off some 600 police officers within two years (1991-1992). Since his death in 1993 and the subsequent disbanding of the Medellin Drug Cartel, which he ran and until then had controlled 80% of the world’s cocaine market, murder rates have fallen dramatically from a peak of 27,100 in 1992 to just 654 in 2007.  Worryingly however there has been a 200% increase in violent deaths in 2009 equating to 9 murders a DAY – no wonder those LAN flights were on special offer!  Anyhow, despite all it’s bad press we had heard that Medellin was a great place to visit, we had read so many blogs with people raving about the place that we had to come and see for ourselves – granted with those statistics if this had been the start of the trip maybe we would have thought twice but faced with the prospect of a freezing cold, debt riddled return to Blighty in less than a month we decided to take the chance.

We woke up early and decided to make the most of the day and get out and explore what the city had to offer.  The hostel is in a lovely district called Poblado and only about a five minute walk from the nearest metro station.  There is also a really popular bakery called Crispan en route which sells delicious empanadas, breads and cakes, so we grabbed some breakfast from there and ate it on the way to the tube.  After about 10 minutes on a very squashed train (protecting our pockets the whole way) we arrived in the centre of town and made our way to the Plaza Botero – named after one of Medellin’s favourite sons world renowned artist Fernando Botero famous for his portrayal of all things ‘fat’.  The plaza is home to a collection of his bronze sculptures that he gifted to the city along with a significant number of paintings that are housed in the Museum of Antioquia which acts as a backdrop to the square.  We wandered around and took some photographs and admired these huge physically exaggerated forms - they seem to have a comical air about them – maybe that’s just because fat and funny seem to go hand in hand, you know like Dawn French. 

Starting to feel the sweat run down our backs we escaped the heat and ducked in to the museum which was 8,000 Peso each (about 2.75 Pounds) which we had to pay in the shop next door – Andrew tried to bypass security and sneak in but we were unfortunately caught.  On the third floor there is a permanent exhibition of Botero’s work including the famous ‘Pablo Escobar Dead’ a painting depicting the slaying of the other famous son of Medellin.  We spent a couple of hours wandering around the warren like building, every corner we turned there was a different room to explore (this eventually got a bit tedious and we were eagerly searching for the exit).  Back outside we decided to go in search of ‘Barefoot Park’ an interactive green space where you can walk through fountains and stuff – we thought it might help us cool off a bit.  On the way we noticed a few strange things: number one there were a lot of people in amongst the crowds with signs saying ‘Minuto 200’ with wires dangling from their person.  At first I just assumed that they were selling phone cards but they were actually acting like human phone boxes charging people to use their phones.  Number Two there were also a large amount of men on the street sat behind typewriters, yes TYPEWRITERS, who were typing out documents for people.  Our first impressions of Medellin were of a cosmopolitan metropolis but maybe it isn’t as rich as you are first lead to believe.

After about half an hours walking without a map (the park was off the Lonely Planet map and the Rough Guide was nigh on useless) we gave up on the park idea and took the metro back to the hostel to sort out some washing and see if we could organize a Pablo Escobar tour for tomorrow.  As far as we could see there isn’t that much to do in the centre of Medellin itself(except Cathedrals, Churches and more museums, of which we have had our fill of all) – there are tons of excursions to do from the city but not that much to keep you busy in the city itself.  Anyway, my laundry was a code red priority.  It was absolutely stinking and combined with the stale smell of fish (juice?) that my bag had got covered in in the Galapagos I was nearly vomming whenever I went near it so something had to be done.  The smell was mainly to do with the fact that the clothes and shoes that we had walked in and got wet in in Mindo just hadn’t dried and so had to be put in our ruck sacks wet which was just the worst idea (I did throw away the socks I’d been wearing as they were just beyond saving).  Somehow some of the stuff smelled of wee too, I have no idea how but it did so regardless of how much it was going to cost I needed it all to see the inside of a washing machine quickly.  I bundled it all in to a laundry bag and wrote on in big black letters ‘WARNING TOXIC’, I didn’t want to be responsible for some poor sod passing out as soon as they opened the bag. 

We enquired about an Escobar tour which takes you to see some of his homes and other places of interest including his grave, the hostel advertised one for about 10 Pounds each, and the girl told us that she would find out if there was anyone else interested as they only take a minimum of four.  There was a more expensive tour where you can meet the Escobar family and sit in Pablo’s chair but for over 100 Dollars each we didn’t even consider it – now that is criminal.  While we waited to get an answer about the tour we watched a few episodes of Planet Earth which we had spent ages downloading – just knowing that we have actually visited some of the places featured gives you a whole new level of interest so we sat for 2 hours engrossed listening to the dulcet tones of Sir David Attenborough.  Later we found out that the next tour was leaving on Saturday, the day we were in fact leaving, so sadly we would have to miss out on that one but we thought that we might try to make our own macabre pilgrimage to the grave on our own – it is a bit weird wanting to visit the grave of one of the most murderous and ruthless criminal minds ever, I know, but he is such a fundamental part of Medellin’s history that we felt compelled to take a look.

Everyone that we had spoken to about Medellin had waxed lyrical about the nightlife so it was just something not to be missed.  So at about 8pm we took a taxi to Zona Rosa an area jam packed with bars, restaurants and clubs to see what all the fuss was about.  The place was full of people (on a Thursday night) and people were even buying bottles of spirits from the small kiosks around the perimeter of the square and just sitting on the street drinking.  We had a walk around to suss out prices to see if we could actually afford to drink here or if we would be getting a taxi straight back home.  Luckily as there are so many bars there is a lot of competition so lots of drinks offers and we didn’t pay more than 1 Pound for a bottle of beer all night.  The atmosphere around the place was great, salsa music pulsating from every bar and restaurant.  There was even live music in a lot of the bars which was just fantastic, we absolutely loved the place.  With a heady mix of salsa music, flowing cheap beer and eating our own weight in free popcorn before we knew it was getting on for 2am and reluctantly we hailed a cab getting him to drop us off at the fast food centre near the hostel to sate some late night munchies as we were starving.  After a mammoth burger and chips smothered in every condiment they had (which were served with a cocktail stick instead of a fork – difficult enough when you aren’t drunk – hence I ended up with mustard all over my jeans) we crawled in to bed feeling sick having eaten and drunk far too much but having had a truly excellent night.  Oh before that I nipped to the loo and thought my bleary eyes were deceiving me when I noticed some of the weirdest graffiti on the toilet wall that I have ever seen.  Some strange and disturbed mind for whatever reason had taken the time to scratch HSBC in to the plaster.  I can’t even begin to imagine the psychological problems that this person must have – weird, just weird. (Andrew Edi t – It seems like it is the first proper night out we have had in ages and we both had a great time, just check out my salsa shimmy, Shakira Shakira! The people all seemed fun and lovely and it didnt feel in the least bit dodgy or unsafe at any time, and there were so very few Gringo’s it seemed we only spoke to two all night, who were Norwegian).
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carlen on

has erika got a belly full of arms and legs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!you sure is rushing the wedding

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