Wednesday 31st October – Salento to Medellin

I had thought that the 250km day from Salento to Medellin would be quick and easy but I should never underestimate the pain that can be the Colombian roads – this ride ended up taking close to 9 hours, and I arrived close to 8pm on Halloween night – one of the biggest nights of the year for Colombians – every man and his dog was out on the streets dressed up in costume and the kids were all out with their candy bags collecting.

Thursday 1st November – Medellin.

First day in Medellin today. I joined the free city walking tour in the morning which was a great way to begin to get used to the awesome metro system that the city has. I couldn´t believe how clean the trains and the stations were! Our guide told us that the people of Medellin are super proud of their metro – the only one in Colombia and build during the worst years of the drug cartels against all odds. For them it is a symbol of hope and moving forwards and so no one is allowed to eat on the trains or mark or dirty them. It was a super cheap and pleasant mode of transport. On the walking tour we learned about the history of the city of Medellin – particularly the troubled past that they are trying to move on from – Pablo Escobar, the drug lord who ruled over the city during the 80s. Pablo is a much loved and hated figure – he is often portrayed as taking from the rich to give to the poor but really he was just out for himself – only donating to causes like schools and hospitals when he was planning to run for government. So many people had loved ones kidnapped or killed during this time that we weren't able to refer directly to Pablo by his name, rather like Voldermort in the Harry Potter books! My favourite place that we visited during the tour was the Botero Park – where there were over 20 Botero statues! I love the way this guy portrays volume – the one where a man is standing on the back of a woman, representing the patriarchy was my favourite! We also visited the square where one of the Botero pieces, the bird was blown up during a concert, killing 30 people in the year 2000. The mangled remains of the bird are still there as a memorial, along with a new bird that Botero made to replace the first as a sign that violence could be overcome by peace. 

After the tour, in the afternoon, I headed back to the Botero Plaza and headed into the Museum of Antioquia – the museum where Botero donated hundreds of his works for the public to view, along with a number of pieces from his own private collection of artwork.

Friday 2nd November – Medellin

This morning I joined the Communa 13 tour, one of the most popular free walking tours in Medellin. Our guide´s name was Carlos and he was super enthusiastic about the area but his English wasn't the best which detracted from my understanding of what he was trying to say – and he didn't give the tour in Spanish. Also he had only moved to the area 3 years earlier, once it was safe so it didn´t really feel too authentic, but the Communa 13 area is really interesting, set high up on the hill with escalators that allow the people to travel up to the highest parts. The other point of interest in the area is the amazing street art that has been produced on the walls of the buildings and the amazing views of the city. The people seem pretty proud of their community and the progress that has been made since the gangs and drug lords controlled the area. There was a government intervention in 2003 which lasted for days and killed many innocent people in the area – thus there is still a lot of distrust in the police and in the government in the area. We drank a beer after the tour in a trendy little bar before heading back down to the metro station. I spent the afternoon riding the cable cars which are part of the Metro system and service the communities living high up in the surrounding mountains. The views were spectacular!  

Saturday 3rd November – Medellin to San Salvador

This morning it was up early to take an UBER to the Medellin airport, more than 50kms from the centre of town! I made it in plenty of time which was really lucky because I had the same problem that I always have – I needed proof that I had a ticket to leave my next destination of El Salvador – so grumpy! Luckily this time I had internet on my phone and was able to find a relatively cheap ticket from San Salvador to Guatemala City on a day that I might actually be able to use! Things were looking up when I boarded the plane – seat 1A in business class! Very luxurious – even though the ticket had been the cheapest one I could find, even cheaper than economy class! It was lovely eating my breakfast with actual cutlery instead of plastic! And I didn´t have to worry about the usual man spreading on the armrests! I felt like a queen! The second flight from Panama to San Salvador was also super comfortable. In San Salvador I was the first off the plane, first through immigration, first bag off the plane and out into the stifling heat of Central America again! First thing I had noticed was that the airport was very basic, no ATM in the terminal and no money changer to get rid of the pesky Colombian Pesos that I still had in my possession. A lovely guy pointed me in the direction of the ATM machine and the local bus I could take into the centre of San Salvador – about 40kms away. Amazingly, back in Central America I could understand Spanish again! What a relief!  Pumped, I squished myself into the minivan, using my big backpack as a chair for the long, squishy trip into town – as far away from my business class arrival as could be possible but for the seriously cheap price of less than $1. Once in the centre I took a taxi to my hostel – a super nice place called La Zona Hostel with amazingly comfortable mattresses in the dorms, just what I needed after a couple of dodgy choices the last couple of days in Colombia!