Pablo, a fighter and a favela

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

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Ouch, I woke up at about 6:40 with as slight hangover, after about 4hours sleep I wasn't feeling great but couldn’t get back to sleep (no change there). Not a problem for the lady though who rose at about 9:45. Still we had a really nice morning, I applied for a few jobs interestingly there is not much decent work in Manchester however the two positions applied for in Jakarta, which would have some brilliant weekends away, and Mumbai (could Erica stomach a year in India! As discussed with her it would be an entirely different kettle of fish to the backpacker slums what with having a full time maid and driver, it would also offer the Lady some great opportunities to do some really fulfilling work with underprivileged kids or adults). As predicted by Stevie D there is also a stack of work in China, but the more interesting positions require a good understanding of Mandarin (I think I may hire Siong, Cheryl, Qian Ying or Ryan T to give me an intensive Skype course for a few weeks). Australia is the other stand out choice with the boom showing no sign of slowing down.  Recently speaking to Will and Joanna (our mates from the Salt Flaps in Bolivia) who have moved to Oz, they tell us that Joanna who is a ultrasound nurse has doubled her salary by moving there and Will is on a third more.

As the lady awoke we did a bit of mincing about, collected washing, had a shower and generally started to feel better about life. We both had fun last night and look forward to our next night out in Colombia. We finally gave each other a kick up the bum and hit the streets. After thankfully completing the last cable car of the trip in Quito, Erica decided we should go on Medellin’s Cable car. So just another one, I think she only enjoys it because she knows it causes me misery. Well to be fair this is the best value cable car I have been on in the last year. It is simply an extension to the metro, so you buy a metro ticket to get on the metro, then never leave a station, therefore the whole trip probably cost about 70p, plus we didn’t even leave the last station so didn’t have to buy a ticket to get back, an absolute steal. Add to that the fact the cable car doesn’t get too high off the ground and that for the most part it follows the favelas of Medellin up and down the slopes made it very interesting. I doubt these townships are safe for Gringos to wander around so it gives a really good insight into everyday life. Also it is a great way for the locals to get into and out of town. Although there is no real lookout as such it also gives the usual great views over the city.

After getting our 70p’s worth out of this trip we headed straight past our stop on the metro and went all the way to the end so we could go and see Pablo Escobar’s tomb. Again it feels a little bit odd to even want to go and see the Escobar things but it really is a very interesting topic and obviously part of Medellin’s fame and notoriety.  Despite killing so many people in Medellin and making huge sums of money available to carry out bombings of police stations and have huge rewards for anybody killing policemen of any status, rank or anything else and generally causing a lot of misery Escobar is often seen in many parts of the city as being a bit of a godlike figure. As a bit of background at his peak in 1987 he was the 7th richest man in the world with a fortune of $25 billion, despite the absolute brutality, murdering and general bringer of misery he was a bit of a philanthropist in his native Medellin pumping money into a lot of the poorer townships (barrios) to provide upgrades to the city, (no doubt cynical foreigners would argue this helped him stay underground and prolonged his career – which undoubtedly it did as many of the locals helped to hide the fugitive when he escaped prison). In the end though after years of the DEA and American and Colombian agencies chasing him he was shot however it is still not clear if it was suicide or whether he was shot by police (the government definitely claim the latter – but his brother claims the former). This is all rounded off by allegations that just about every president during his reign was in some way involved in helping him traffic cocaine to the USA (pilots got 500,000 Dollars a trip and manned submarines were also used). Anyway when we got off the tram we found a big shopping centre with a cinema, we jumped a taxi from outside after finding we couldn’t walk (Erica edit:  this isn’t as extreme as it sounds we hadn’t suddenly become paralysed – it was just too far)and the driver eventually understood where we wanted to go, although we had been told to expect lots of floral tributes it was all quite underwhelming just a very simple family grave, no headstone as such just a few small stones on the ground, no flowers just a bit of overgrown grass, oh well that will teach us.

We headed back in the same taxi and got dropped back at the shopping centre where we decided to watch a film called El Ganador or 'The Fighter’ in English (although the translation means winner, well that kind of gives away the story), all the films here are in English with Spanish subtitles and at 3 and only two other people in the cinema we thought it was bloody brilliant. Definitely a great film. When we came out it was pitch black, and Friday night was underway with people absolutely everywhere. We got off the metro and lots of people were sat about the metro station drinking and dancing outside bars and little food kiosks. Of course having only had an empanada all day we had to have a bit of dinner before heading off to bed.  Cue another of those amazing burgers with chips covered with melted cheese.

 It’s funny, perhaps because of hype Medellin was a slow burner, but now we have finished our two days here we are sad to be moving on again, we have really loved it, the people are friendly and funny (kids everywhere shout ‘hello’), the nightlife is different but interesting, it is not really overly touristy and it’s a great mix of people. 
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