The final two stops on our itinerary were the grand cities of Medellin, much loved for its favourable all-year-around spring weather and Cartagena, the fortified city famous for its role in the conflicts of pirates trying to steal the gold that Spain was stealing from the indigenous people.
Medellin was also infamous as the home town of Pablo Escobar, the notorious leader of a big drug cartel in the seventies. The city has shaken off its reputation and is now a cultural and tango capital. Music and dance halls are raging throughout the day and night. Unusual sculptures are scattered around the parks and streets. Street theatre was abundant and handicraft markets brightened up the ancient buildings.
We followed the advice of a young Irish fellow who was living in the hostel where we stayed and followed the metro line until it joined up with a cable car that went up the hill through the barrios where Escobar’s henchmen used to live. This place is still a mixture of poverty and ambition and it seems as
though everyone lives on top of each other in various levels of brick, tin and tiles. Our hostel had a chill out zone where I had to pass to get to the laundry. I nearly got high just walking past the room of all the very chilled out beings in there.
We continued up in the cable car until we reached a national park at the top. Here they had free bikes to borrow, horse rides and guided walks through a thick jungle. The contrast between the city, the barrios and the jungle was extreme. On the way back we called into the barrios for a beer. We were a bit out of place.
Having already experienced quite a lot of Colombia’s beautiful countryside we decided to get a flight to Cartagena and at $85 each, it was a good choice to avoid a twelve hour bus ride. The old city of Cartagena didn’t disappoint us. There were some beautiful old colonial buildings and the fortifications are still maintained to a degree. We would have liked to have sailed into here but the authorities require you to check in again, at $100 a time, and the security of the marina is in doubt. Staying in Santa Marta is a much better option for safety and access to good shopping and services. Being so close to home gave us both the urge to get back to the boat. So after our three weeks of wandering we have arrived back home; happy and full of affection for our hosts and their country.
On the way home a local town was protesting by blocking the highway about having no power and electricity, (we found out later), and we were caught up in a traffic jam for a couple of hours. We ended up getting a police escort out of the jam and a young local climbed onto the roof of the bus with a broom stick to help us get under the powerlines as we were redirected through some minor streets. I was relieved to see the young man safely down when we entered the highway again.