A Quick Stop in Medellin

Just a quick flight from Cartagena to Medellin and we were in an entirely different climate and different part of the country. We had 1.5 days to explore Medellin which was not nearly enough! We got to our hotel and we were able to have an early check in which is always nice. We dropped off our stuff and walked around the neighborhood to try to figure out what was around. It turns out it was hot and we didn’t really know where we were so back to the hotel we went for some relaxation and napping. The adventure was going to have to wait until the next day!

I decided to take the 4 hour free walking tour from Real City Tours and I am glad I did! Our guide was called Monsa and she was a super enthusiastic Paisa with personal stories to share at every stop.

The history of Medellin starts well before the written history but since there are no records, people don’t know much about it. Because of the location of Medellin, the people were cut off from the rest of Colombia until the train tracks opened up. Basically they are a mix of the Basque and Jewish people that all came together and were “discovered’ by Christopher Columbus and that is how you get the Paisa people from Medellin.

Unfortunately many people associate Medellin with Pablo Escobar or Narcos and we think that what we see on Narcos is the truth. Medellin is very conflicted with Escobar and find that it is a generational thing for the feelings towards Escobar. The younger generation looks up to him while the generation that lived through his reign, think he is absolutely awful. Then there are those who are in between about their feelings for him because even though he murdered lots of people, he built houses and gave back to the community. So how many houses allow you to atone for one murder?

Anyhow, Medellin was once the most dangerous city in the world and they have worked very hard to clean up and change their image. Although the government was in charge, Escobar really ran the city and you either took his bribe or you were killed.

In 2000, President Bill Clinton and President Andres Pastrana signed a bill called Plan Colombia. Basically this was foreign aid we were giving to Colombia to help clean up the cartels and the left-wing insurgent groups that were reigning over Medellin. While this seemed like a great idea, the government was paying people per insurgent killed and some of the less honest people were murdering innocent people and dressing them in insurgent clothing to collect the money. Nothing is ever a perfect system.

While the cartels have moved out of the city and Medellin is working to turn once dangerous areas into beautiful parks and hangouts, there is still a lot to be done!

For example, this church is a common hangout for prostitutes. There are a lot of hotels around the area that are rented by the hour and after the men have sinned, they come to church and confess and all is forgiven. You have to love how forgiving religion can be. ūüėÄ

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at are these large out of proportion statues? Artist Fernando Botero donated these and many more to Medellin in an effort to show how Medellin is changing. It is said that each statue is worth $2.2 million USD. You can tell where people like to touch the statues because of the difference in color. Apparently, no one ever actually grows up!

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e tour was over but a few of us were not ready to leave. Out guide took us to a little local bar and we all chatted and listened to music being played from vinyl and enjoyed a few beers. It was a great end to a very long day of history.

From One Island to Another

The Rosario Islands are really known for the day trip crowds to Baru from Cartagena. We chose to spend three nights on Baru and experience the best part of it! We took a crazy little boat ride to our island and started our new adventure!

 

So what does one do on an island with just a beautiful ocean? Wake up at sunrise and go for swims and then swim some more!

If I was to only experience the island as a day trip, I would think it was crowded and full of vendors pushing something on you to buy. But really that is only form 10-3 and before or after that the island is nearly empty! Limited to no Wifi! No ATM! Nowhere to go except in the water or down the beach! Just pure relaxation. I finished my book so luckily there was a library just down the beach where I was also able to buy some books in english.

This was truly another amazing few day getawat!

How I Spent Christmas 2017

There tends to be a lot of pressure that happens around the holidays to attend every party and try to see all one’s friends and family. I personally don’t feel that pressure and chose to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas on an island in Colombia.

After our boat adventure and arrival to Isla Grande, we weren’t quite sure what we were in for. It turns out we had three days of delicious meals being cooked for us and ultimate relaxation in our room and at the pool or beach. This is the type of place where you go to bed shortly after sunset and wake up with the sunrise and it feels amazing!

The first day was truly a day of relaxing but we opted for some snorkeling the next day. The islands are surrounded by a huge coral reef and I was hoping to see a turtle (no luck). I did however step on a dead piece of coral as I was getting out of the ocean and have a nice puncture on the bottom of my foot. That stuff is no joke!

Christmas Eve dinner was served family style with the other 12 people staying at the hotel. They even splurged and brought us champagne (Andre Ros√© and it was awful) but I know it’s the thought that counts.

Christmas Day was a repeat of the day before laying buy the pool and reading and relaxing. It was absolute perfection and made me so happy!

It was finally time to leave after 3 days in paradise but never fear, we are off to experience another island for another 3 days!

The Journey to Rosario Islands

There is only one way to get to Isla Grande from Cartagena and that is by boat! You can reach the island of Baru by bus but you would still have to take a boat to Isla Grande. We ventured down to the port to buy our ticket for 40,000 COP with a 15,500 COP park tax (total $18.77 USD). There are tons of people trying to sell you tickets on the street but official booths line the path and that is the best place to buy the ticket to ensure the best pricing. All the boats leave by 10:30am so get there early unless you want to pay for a private speed boat. Be warned, these rides are not for the faint of heart as they fly through the water and throw you around a bit. Anyhow, after being told our boat would leave around 8:30 or 9:00, we were finally packed onto and ready for our hour boat ride!

Our boat was driving a little funny and making some weird noises but I didn’t think anything of since this is what they do for a living daily. I was wrong! The engine was failing and we had to slowly make our way to a random island and disembark and wait for two other boats to come and get us. No one cared and we just laid under the cabanas and others splashed around in the ocean. There are worse places to be stuck.

Once we finally arrived to our hotel it was like arriving to paradise! They only have 8-10 rooms (can’t quite figure it out) and the room rate includes all meals! Many people make the trip for the day so from 10-3 the place is packed but other than that, it’s like a ghost town. Absolute perfection!

For the next three days I will be on this island relaxing and through Christmas Eve and Christmas.

Back to Colombia

First off, recovering from 16 hours of jet lag is no joke! I landed on Thursday morning and had to unpack and do laundry and repack to catch a flight on Saturday to LA and spend an early anniversary with my boyfriend! But you can’t keep me in the country for long when I have the travel bug and on Wednesday, I took off for Colombia still unsure of which time zone I was sleeping in!

I have only been to Bogota in Colombia so this time I am meeting a friend to celebrate the holidays and traveling to Cartagena, Rosario Islands, Medellin and Bogota. It all started with two days in Cartagena to try to normalize my sleep and acclimate to the blistering heat!

I was very lucky to land in Cartagena and have an early checkin to my hotel. I had almost no sleep on the overnight flight and was in need of a shower! I met up with my friend Lisa from Manchester who I met in Rome (this is why I travel) and grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to the room to take a nap. My nap turned into almost 10 hours of sleep where I then was awake from 11pm-5am to wake up again around 8:30am. Once again, lovely jet lag.

Attempting to see a bit more of Cartagena than the inside of my hotel room, we decided to explore the inside of the walled city. Finally, I started to feel like I was in Colombia! We have 4 days in Cartagena over the new year so there will be a lot more in depth exploring, but it was nice to get a feel for the city before our next adventure!

Bogota

I went to Colombia with the intent to just stay in Bogota and get a taste of Colombia. Little did I know that the Copa America was going on and that it would consume a few of my days there. I was able to watch two games and see Colombia beat Brazil and tie Peru. It was incredibly exciting to watch a futbol match in a country so excited and proud of their sport.

 I was told I had to go see the Catedral de Sal or Salt Cathedaral of Zipaquira and was not sure what to expect. Honestly, it was a lot of crosses and lot of bible references but was a cool experience. The cathedral is in a salt mine and definitely an interesting experience.


            I was also told I must go to Monserrate which is a beautiful cathedral (see a theme here) at the top of a mountain in Bogota. It is about 3200 meters high and you can hike it or take the train/cable car there. It is a beautiful view of Bogota and well worth the trip.

  

Sometimes though, and more often times than not, traveling is about the random little experiences and the people¬† you meet and not the big tourist attractions. We were heading home one day when we were stopped by a group of students that just wanted to practice their English. The questions were, “Are you Single?” What is your name?” Where are you from?” How old are you?” And they were very cute. When they would forget how to say something they would run to their teacher and ask her and write it down.

And then of course there are the people I love meeting and bonding with to make the travel experience just amazing!

  

Bogota Street Art

I went on a free graffiti tour through Bogota and once again, was blown away by what street art can be. The first graffiti in Bogota was written on the walls of caves by the indigenous Chibcha people. From there it evolved into a form of social commentary and cultural expression especially during the height of the civil war. Graffiti is technically not a crime in Bogota and the streets have exploded with art! The new mayor was a former M-19 member (a Colombian Guerilla movement) and would use the streets to get his message across. He thinks the streets should be free to give messages and the most that can happen for graffiti is a small fine equivalent to a parking ticket.

Stinkfish is a Colombian street artist who commonly features stenciled faces with elaborate and intricate designs through them.
  

Toxicomano is another street artist from Colombia that uses their punk rock style to show off their anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist graphics.

This street art shows how the poor would literally carry the rich on their back to make money. Often times this meant carrying society, religion and commerce with them and it came with a price.

The street artist Crisp is from Sydney but currently lives in Bogota. He likes to use stencils to portray visually appealing and political pieces.

Lik Mi is a female street artist that spent some time in India. Her stickers are influenced by yoga, kama sutra and these dogs.

You can recognize the work from Pez anywhere you are. He is from Barcelona and loves to paint fish characters with big eyes and a big mouth!

¬†¬†I don’t know who this piece is by but I love the details of the hands.

This piece is a collaboration between a few members from the same crew. It is a huge mural on the side of a hostel.

This piece is meant to show how there are homeless everywhere in the world and thus the box over the face. It doesn’t matter where you are, the¬†socioeconomic pitfalls can be seen around the world.

There is a crew in Bogota called APC (Animal Poder Crew) started by Stinkfish (mentioned above) and has about 20-30 members. These members are from all around the world and all have a different style but collaborate well together.