Colombia - Cartagena and Medellin

Trip Start Jan 03, 2013
Trip End Jul 21, 2013

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Flag of Colombia  , Antioquia,
Friday, March 15, 2013

The one hour flight into Cartagena, Colombia was smooth, and within 30 minutes of arriving we were on the way to our hotel which we had booked ahead. The hotel was located in the old town and it was the most expensive we had paid on our trip to date, but definitely not the nicest. We went to sleep looking forward to a day exploring the most beautiful city in South America, conveniently on our 6 month wedding anniversary!

The next day, after a bit of a lie in, we headed out to explore the city. Our first stop was Castle San Felipe de Barajas, which was built in 1536 and was on the hill overlooking the old town. We explored the tunnels and passages, in and out of the basillions and enjoying the view over the city. It was so well preserved and we felt like we had gone back in time.

We walked back to the old town and wandered around Getsemani, where our hotel was located. We then headed over to the walled old town, underneath the clock tower. The old town of Cartagena is just beautiful. Stunning architecture, endless colonial balconies, atmospheric plazas and beautiful churches, complete with colourful buildings and bougainvilla draping down from above. Every street seemed like a postcard shot and we enjoyed wandering around, seeing what was around every corner. We also walked part of the city walls. We must have walked miles and by 3:30 we were very tired so went back to hotel to relax. We also made a rough plan for our time in Columbia.

As it was our 6 month wedding anniversary, we decided to go out for a really nice meal. We set off to some places we hadn't been in the day. Everywhere looked so atmospheric in the dark and we sat in Santa Domingo plaza and had a delicious dinner with a bottle of wine. It was the most expensive meal on the trip so far but it was worth it and what better occasion to celebrate.

Having decided that we would catch the night bus to Medellin the following evening, we bought the bus ticket which was really expensive (COP$108.000 - about £48). This was by far the most expensive journey we had made so far. We enjoyed a wander around the city again, taking in the last few sights we didn't see the day before returning to Getsemani. We caught a taxi to the bus terminal, which was a fair way out of the city, and despite the traffic we made it in good time to get our bus. We settled down to the long bumpy journey, reading, listening to music and dozing. A little tea of grapes, sigurnas (delicious Colombian fruit we discovered) and some sweet bread goodies kept us going for the long journey. At about 9pm, they showed a really violent and gory movie at full volume which we were quite shocked by as there were quite a few young children on the bus!

We arrived into Medellin early the next morning, a little sleepy and bought our tickets for the next bus journey later that day. Our first impression of Medellin was that it was a big city, quite attractive sitting in a dip with much of it built sprawling up the surrounding mountains. Over 1 million people live there. Once known for its violence and drug wars led by the famous Pablo Escobar, it is now one of the most progressive cities in South America, and the people work hard and play hard, clearly proud of their city.

We jumped on the metro into the city centre and planned a little tour of the city as we had the whole day. We had breakfast at a little vegetarian cafe, and then walked for a couple of hours, seeing a couple of parks, and plazas, including a park where it was mandatory to walk barefoot in it. The city was nothing special, similar to many big cities in the UK, apart from the Colombians of course! We were a little worried how we were going to pass the day in this city, but we decided to head up to the Universidad area, which we noticed had an interactive science museum and had a Darwin exhibition currently on. This turned out to be a really good call as the museum was fantastic and we enjoyed a good few hours there seeing the aquarium, vivarium, playing with the interactive displays and of course the exhibition about Darwin. Late afternoon we caught the cable car up to Santa Domingo, which offered superb views over the city. Only from there could we gauge how big Medellin was. We enjoyed an ice cream and juice and watched the sun go down and the local life.

We headed back to the bus station and killed time there before our overnight bus to Bucaramanga, en route for our next stop San Gil. After being in 3 cities, we were ready to hit the country again and a slower pace of life, but first another long bus journey east across the Colombian hills.
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