The drug capital of the world.

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, February 5, 2012

"I hate Americans, they're so shitty."

"What do you have to eat in England?  I hate English food it's really shitty."

"I hate Spanish speaking Spanish, I don't understand it."

"I hate English, German is better."

"I hate kids"

I hate it when I have to spend ten hours next to an opinionated, self righteous German nationalist who contradicts and disagrees with everything except his own biased, blinkered, ill informed views.  Conversation becomes near impossible. 

Me: (on viewing the potholed highway) "Ahhh that must be why the journey takes 10 hours..."
German: "No, it's because it's long distance."

...and other such extensive disagreements, where every conversation attempted is rebuffed with a "no", followed by an opinion.  Perhaps something is lost in translation.  Perhaps I've just got cabin fever from spending five days on a boat without my friends.  Perhaps I'm becoming jaded with traveling.

I also hate it when I've just sat down on a bus, I need the toilet and I get an erection.  Seriously what's that all about? 

I digress.  We speed through to Turbo, aptly on a very fast boat.  It's a shady port town that you don't want to spend too much time in.  After parting ways with the girls going North, I've decided to see the country, and possibly the continent, anti-clockwise.  I board a bus to Medellin, the drug, (and once murder) capital of the world.  Apparently now it's one of the safest, most travel friendly cities in the whole of South America.  This remains to be seen.

For $150 I could have jumped a flight and been there in an hour, but aside from the extra expense, when you fly you don't see the country.  The journey is just as important as the destination.  Apart from having my ear bent on the odd occasion about how Germany is fucking amazing, my focus is rarely away from the beautiful, fascinating scenery unfolding through my window.  Actually I tell a lie, I'm distracted by a dubbed LOS INDESTRUCIBLES! movie played to presumably calm your nerves about how violent this country once was/still is.  It's lucky the film isn't known for it's witty dialogue, and watching Stallone an Co blow stuff up and shoot people for 80 minutes passes the time.

It is astounding to think these roads were once washed with blood.  My eye scans the dense green foliage carpeting the mountains, searching for echos of the violence, perhaps trying to spot a coca plantation or a guerrilla splinter group.  Most are now hidden to the South, in the impenetrable rain forests of the Amazon basin; but you get a sense that it was once a lot closer to home, emphasised by the sheer number of armed military checkpoints along the highway.  It's daunting and unsettling, but equally fascinating and exciting.  Ten years ago this was a no go area.  Dark tourism.  I love it.

The road carves it's way through the peaks, often with a sheer drop inches from the tyres.  The driver throws the vehicle round the bends regardless, and of all the ways to meet your end in this country that surely would be the most pathetic.  I'm thankful when the concrete snakes over a bridge and I'm faced with mud landslides instead of a drop to certain doom.

The country feels different.  It is different.  You're not in Central America anymore, it shows, and is all the better for it.  Pinned to the hillside and by the road are tiny, shack type dwellings, impossibly stuck on to the rock face.  Locals peer into the coach windows as it hurtles past, drying clothes, sweeping rubbish, or playing domino's.  Another observation is it's very clean.  At least compared to it's Northern neighbours, Colombia is spotless.  I actually spy people employed to clean the streets in one small, blink-and-you-miss-it town.  It's an encouraging sight.  Memories of the refuse dump that is Nicaragua come flooding back by way of comparison.  So much national pride, yet so much rubbish.  Here actions are speaking as loud as words.

After several false dawns as night falls, Medellin appears through the hills.  A huge, glistening metropolis spread out before us, inviting the bus home.  By night, and from this distance at least, it's beautiful.  I shall find out whether it can live up to it's new 'safe' status in the days ahead, and they are already proving to be most promising.

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Chris on

Colombia is waaaay more interesting than central america. At least from my limited central american experience. No idea why that is. it just is. And yes! to the bus journey being part of the experience.

Make sure you check out the lake outside of Medellin while you're there - complete with the town that's been buried underwater when they dammed, and Escobar's bombed out lakeside mansion. Don't do the hang-gliding :p Medellin is one of my favourite cities in the world.

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