(LP) Land of The Eternal Spring ... and parties
07.11.2008 - 11.11.2008 25 °C
It was a toss up between going back to Camila's lovely apartment in Bogota or going to Medellin, which is where her and her flat mates are from. After some raving reports from them and other travellers of the city, particularly it's nightlife, knowing that we had the wildlife and history rich Galapagos coming up, we figured 'why not'.
Medellin is known as 'The Land of the Eternal Spring' as it is about level with Bogota but it is in a bowl completely surrounded by mountains giving it a lovely climate all year round. I guess the most surprising thing about it is how much of a middle class Columbia's got. The houses are lovely, the streets are clean and tree lined. The restaurants are modern, WiFi is everywhere as are coffee houses, the Cuisine is as diverse as any European city and the shops are all interior design and little boutiques.
Medellin's history is that of the Pablo Escabar 1980's drug lords Era, I guess kind of glamorous in a Scarface kind of way. Although this is very much a thing of the past and Piasco's are extremely proud of their region and will not be associated that out-of-date reputation, which is actually really hard to imagine looking at it now. I guess the only thing that hints at it, other than large properties and lots of swimming pools, is some of the women; the fake boobs and bums, Gucci glasses and high heels does still sort of echo a Notorious BIG video. Just a little bit.
So, we arrived, pretty exhausted from our trip down in what was closer to a fridge on wheels than a bus, I would use a butchers delivery van if it were not for the gangster association, but you get the idea. It was about a 16hour journey which, despite the subzero temperatures, we slept most of the way. I woke up in the morning and got off at a toilet stop only to find Claire and Kathryn looking remarkably like a couple of hostages, dead hostages, both sitting in exactly thew same position, dressed in black, with their scarves over their heads. It was nearly the end of me whilst I was fumbling around for my camera, I simultaneously choked on my apple and fell down the steps of the bus. Bearing in mind the reputation that Colombia has for bus hi-jacking, what was most hilarious was that Claire and Kathryn were in the front two seats so everyone boarding the bus must of thought they were boarding a crime scene, or just that those gringos are just very strange. So despite nearly losing a few toes to frost bite, and an incident involving a herd of cattle and a bus hurtling towards them, at what can only be described as an unreasonable speed - we arrived safely in Medellin.
Usual palava with the booking not being logged but we got into a dorm none-the-less and I quite literally passed out on my top bunk. Claire tried to revive me with a cup of tea, which I accepted with promises of getting up, only to wake up a few hours later with my index finger still hooked round my now cold cup of tea, most skillfully balanced against the wooden slats keeping me in, having not spilled a drop, a skill I seem to lack when conscious. We had opted out of the nights entertainment, me by narcoleptic default, as we had plans the next day. Claire and Kathryn retired after a few drinks only to be kept up all night by the party outside our window. I obviously slept through it all and woke up bright and breezy for the days activities ... paragliding!
After a hell raising journey up the mountain we were about to jump off of, we scaled the steps to the runway (slope), no small feat considering the challenges of altitude on the slightly-less-than-fit. Claire, obviously, was first up, and with 5 minutes she and I were harnessed up to an instructor and a large multi-stringed kite, at which point my legs went a little bit like jelly watching all the paragliders circling over head. I was busy filming Claire take off with her expert looking flying partner, all suited and booted in a flash jump suit when I noted my guys lack of paragliding attire and distinct lack of years. Lost in my jelly world, I was completely oblivious to the fact that he was talking to me and not the guy helping strap me up, and the garbled Spanish in my ear became a single comprehendable command- "RUN!" That was it, I was off.
It took a while for me to relax into it and accept that the wind won't just stop blowing, and that there was very little I could do about the fact that I was a few hundred feet up flying over mountains, waterfalls and a truly beautiful city and began to appreciate exactly how cool what I was doing was. I still however could not speak and my words frustratingly came out in a nervous giggle. Claire meanwhile was circling about up with the Gods and I completely lost sight of her. I began to love it and not want to go down, partly because I couldn't get my head round the idea landing safely. Descending was the best bit cause you go down in a corkscrew which beats any ride I've been on. What I thought was Claire landing just ahead of me turned out to be Kathryn. I, it turned out, had a double flight and Claire, flying so high up had landed back where we had taken off and Kathryn had her flight too. We landed very smoothly with expert precision on a patch of grass in the middle of the city, which just goes to show you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. Getting back up the mountain from the other side of the city was as eventful as any journey in Sur America involving 5 attempts at a steep hill and (we think) getting struck by lightening. We arrive back at the top to find a rained on, slightly worried older sister who had last seen me 2 1/2hrs ago in mid air with what looked to be a teenage skateboarder. Kathryn obviously wanted to become a paraglider and started enquiring about night flights.
We get back to the hostel pumped full of adrenalin and hit the Cuba Libras and pool table in high spirits. We had a really cool group of people in the hostel and we all went out to a club together and had another splendid evening, followed by a Sunday spent by the pool with a much needed video and takeaway night.
We really liked Medellin and could have easily stayed their longer but Ecuador was a-calling so on Tues we left for Quito. Getting out of Colombia was quite a commotion. Admittedly we had cut our arrival to the airport a little fine, but before you even checked in the unpacked your bags in full public view. I was first and the security guard seemed more interested in what books I had (I had got a 'a little' over excited in a book shop the day before). Kathryn received a half hearted search. Claire, however, being her usual jovial self, had her upbeat mood returned with every lotion and potion being sniffed, every compartment searched and was asked quite frankly "if she'd been drinking?". It was 4pm. This kind of thing continued all through the airport which, despite it's comedy value, shows the dedication that Colombia has to changing it's image and eradicating its troubled past.
Before I go, I can't express enough how unbelievably warm, friendly and hospitable we found the Colombians to be. We could list so many examples because the kindness of complete strangers here is just astounding. E.g. Claire got chatting with the guy fixing the computer at the hostel as, after much deliberation, we decided to get a lap to between us (and haven't looked back). Anyway, not only does he tell her everything she needs to know, he insisted on taking us after he'd finished work to the electrical center and traipsed around a dozen shops with us for 3 hours trying to get us the best deal and best lap top for our budget and genuinely wanted absolutely nothing in return. He even delivered us back in a taxi. So very very sweet. Anyway, I think I have bored you enough.
One country down and we loved every minute. All Hail Colombia.
Love Love Love x x x