Bogota – The Big City in Colombia

Our bus came into Bogota late and there was no public transportation to our Couchsurfing hosts’ house.  This meant we had to wait in line for 30 minutes for a taxi.  No taxi driver we have had here yet has ever known where he is going.  Carrie asked him, “¿Sabe donde?” “Mas o menos,” he replied.  To us this meant, “I have no idea where we are going but I will drive around in circles for an hour, hope you don’t notice, and try to charge you for my mistakes.”  Luckily this time we got the price up front so when he eventually did get lost he couldn´t rip us off.  So after the 10 hour bus ride, 30 min waiting for a taxi, then 45 minutes driving around the city lost, we finally made it to our destination.

We woke early the next moring to check out the city.  Jumped on the Bogota TransMilenio, which is a bus system that travels on its own road.  It is very efficient and cheap at 1700 COP (less than $1) each, and an easy way to get downtown from anyplace.  Bogotá is much more ordered with less of the amazing chaos that we loved about Medellín.  The main roads are full of chain shops and car dealerships, sidewalks packed with men in suits reading the daily news.  The first thing we needed was food since we haden´t eaten dinner the night before.  In our Lonely Planet guide book (which has been very unreliable thus far…more on that later) we found a vegetarian restauraunt called Quinoa y Amaranto that we wanted to try.  We wandered through La Candelaria which is very European with its skinny streets, although all the buildings are different colors which gives it that Latin vibe.  Eventually we found the resuraunt.   You walk into a small room with a cash register and behind it a small four-burner stove that they cook everything on.  In the corner is a spiral staircase and you climb that and eat upstairs.  They had a set lunch for 12,000 COP which included soup, juice, spinich pasta with pesto, a mushroom salad, and bowl of cherry jelly sauce for dessert.  Muy delicioso!  Not very Latin, but the best meal we have had thus far.


La Candelaria

With our stomachs full, we walked to the bottom of the hill overlooking the city and took the cable car to the top.  At the summit was Monserrate, a beautiful cathedral overlooking the capital city.  The trip was expensive and the car was full of gringos, but it was well worth it for the view.  The whole city was there before you, with clouds casting shadows and rain in the distance.  We were happy to have a safe spot to break out the cameras and shoot some footage for the film.


Overlooking Bogota from Cerro Monserrate

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3 Days in Medellin – Our First Stop In Colombia

Medellín struck me as a slightly-chaotic, rapidly modernizing city on the way up.  The “Paisas”, as the locals call themselves, were warm, welcoming, hard-working (6 days/week is a normal work schedule) and eager to brag about the vibrant culture of their city.  Medellín is also in a stunning locale, situated in a valley surrounded by verdant hills and mountains, with wispy clouds enveloping the tops of the highest peaks.  Although nicknamed “The City of Eternal Spring”, it actually rained every day we were there.  This rain was mostly just a drizzle though, and usually finished in an hour or two.  Here’s a look at the sights we saw on our 3 days in Medellin:

Our first night out in the city, we met our Couchsurfing host, Diomer, and were taken to a popular salsa club, Havana Son.  We got our first salsa lessons from him before the crowd trickled in (it’s really not time to dance until 10:30pm in Colombia) and spent the night trying to figure out the difficult rhythm and not make total fools of ourselves.  I think we did make fools of ourselves, because try as we might, we dance like gringos.  I really have no rhythm.  It was obvious that all the Paisas in the club had been salsa-ing since they could walk and that they lived for Friday nights out getting their groove on.  It made me wish that ballroom dance was something we still learned in the US, because maybe then I wouldn’t be so inept!  One Colombian girl grabbed Zach to try to teach him better, and instructed “You must hear the music!”  Salsa seems second nature to Colombians, but not to us!  We ended up getting another lesson the next night, with some friends of Diomer’s in their home.  This time we got it a little better, so maybe there is some hope.

3 days in Medellin

Pueblito Paisa is a recreation of an old, historic Paisa village situated on top of Cerro Nutibara, a guardian hill of the city.  The path up the hill was great exercise and made us feel like we were actually hiking again for the first time since Colorado.  The village was small and typical, but free (I don’t think you’d ever find something like that for free in the US!) and had lots of food stalls and interesting shops.  Diomer suggested we try “salpicon”-a juicy 5-fruit salad in a cup with sweetened condensed milk.  It was delicious and fresh!  The views of Medellín from the Cerro Nutibara overlook were wonderful and great for picture-taking.  Since this was our first real day out in the city, we opted to only bring the video camera instead of both.  (Hence not quite awesome-quality pictures.  Don’t worry, we did bust the dSLR out later.) 

3 days in Medellin

3 days in Medellin

3 days in Medellin

Medellin’s Metro system was quite impressive and useful.  There are two train lines going throughout the city and 2 different Metrocables.  We rode both of the Metrocables just for fun and the views.  They travel up hills to farther out neighborhoods of the city.  Also, the Metro only costs 1700 COP (less than $1),  including unlimited transfers between train lines and Metrocables. 

3 days in MedellinParque Berrío, just off the Metro in the center of the city near the Museo de Antioquia, is an amazing spot for people-watching and soaking up culture.  Every night as the sun would start setting, the park filled with musicians, vendors, and people looking to release tension from the workday.  This was “tinto-time”, as we called it, because everywhere you looked were women with thermoses selling tinz plastic cups of strong, sweet coffee for about 50 cents.  Guitarists and singers set up near some of the statues in the park plazing traditional music, and soon crowds gathered around them, some people dancing and some just drinking their tinto and listening.  It was a relaxing, beautiful atmostphere. 

The most striking thing about our 3 days in Medellin is the positivity of the people. There is a tangible collective determination that despite the city’s checkered history (this is the place where Pablo Escobar, the drug/crime circle, and lots of gang warfare were centered in therecent past) things have changed and will continue to get better! The crackdown on drugs and the rapid modernization of the city has made it safer and happier.  People are actually out on the street, buying things and going places, perhaps evidencing a healthier economy than the US has right now.  In short, Medellín is a beautiful city, and that beauty is magnified 100 times in the people who reside there.

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¡Bienvenidas a Colombia!

Well, we made it!  Air travel is exhausting, no matter how long or short the flights are.  It took us a 4 hour bus ride, 5 hours of waiting in Chicago, a 3 hour flight from Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale, another hour of waiting, and then another 4 hour flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Medellín.  But we’re here!  Yay!

Still quite overwhelmed by the size of the city, trying to get around, and the language barrier.  We ended up staying in a hostel last night because navigating two buses to our Couchsurfing host´s house seemed too challenging for our jetlagged brains.

So we made it to the Pit Stop Hostel in Al Poblado area, which was very nice.  We paid 19,000 COP ($9.50) each for two dorm beds.  The hostel also had a communal kitchen, a bar, a pool, games like darts, pool, and volleyball, and a TV room.  The beds were comfortable and the showers were hot.  The best part was that there was actually no one else in our whole dorm room.  Off-season score!  The hostel provides great information on Medellín and helps organize tours and buses too.  We would have stayed longer if it was in the budget!  Anyway, highly recommend this place.

Today we successfully navigated the Metro (yes, Medellín has a subway, and it’s way nicer then New York’s) and one bus to get to our Couchsurfing host’s house.  We’ll see what adventures are in store for us when he arrives home from work and we finally get to start exploring Medellin!

Quick Impressions and Funny Moments So Far

Me trying really hard but then totally blanking out on any words and just staring dumbly at the Tourist Information girl in the airport.  Her replying to my idiotic look with the obvious question Do you speak English?  Immediate relief on my part.

Medellín is beautiful and clean!  Everyone seems busy and really hard working.

People here (especially women) are stylish and glamorous.  I look like a homeless bum in my grungy clothes and no makeup.  Might have to work on this.  Or I can use my unattractiveness as a robbery prevention tactic.

Everyone is helpful and friendly!  This lady even ran down 6 flights from her apartment to help us when she saw us wandering around confusedly.

I’m about to eat chicken for dinner.  I can´t refuse meat at the risk of offending people who are generously hosting us.  Here goes nothing.

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