I arrived in Medellin at around 8:00 at night. The flight from Bogota is super short. In fact, if you have some time in Colombia, I recommend taking a bus to Medellin instead. It is super economical and you can do an overnight easily. I was on Vivia Colombia. It was a super cheap flight but my bags got me a bit. I have so much stuff from the states that I had to pay an extra 30. But what can you do. Because the airline is very minimal, only a dozen of us checked a bag. Therefore, as soon as I deplaned, my bag was waiting for me. Uber is also illegal here, so I sneaked a call for one and pretended like I was meeting my best friend. My Uber driver was the coolest. He played all sorts of fun music and told me all about the places to go in Medellin. I understood half of them. Although the Colombian’s pride themselves on their clear Spanish accent, I prefer and understand the Uruguayan much better. The airport is about 45 minutes away from the actual center, so we had plenty of time to make me understand him. The road is curvy and all mountain. Half the time we are on this 70 degree incline and the other half we are sailing down the mountainside. The thing that amazed me the most were the bikers. People were biking at nine at night up these mountain roads. And they went on for at least 10-15 km. I could barely make it up 25 stairs today without wheezing. Mad respect, bikers! Then came the views. Medellin is set in this valley. As we made our way down the mountain, the city illuminated the valley on the right. This is the largest, most spread out city I have ever seen. It goes on forever! I literally sat, slack-jawed looking out over the city. My Uber driver was nice enough to slow down and unroll his window so that I could take a picture. Every time I see it, even in the day, I am still in awe of Medellin.
I made my way to the hostel, which is a little young for my taste, but this is a party town after all. El Alternativo Hostel is in a great little location, but they definitely pack in their people. The door to my room swings into the bunk bed, so getting out for a shower in the morning means you have to open the door entirely and let all the light in. The café on the top floor is pretty cool. And breakfast was good. Plus right next door is a hamburger place and across the street are real hot wings. Every American is hella at home here. I was starving by this point, so I headed to the hamburger place. It was pretty good! And the best part…the sauces they bring with it. Colombia doesn’t have super intense flavors, but they do know how to make up for it with sauces.
I also appreciated the 80’s playing and the poster of Johnny Cash flipping off the audience on the far wall. It was a really cool place to write my last blog post. I also explored the area. This is foodie central. I think this is also expat central. Right around the corner is a tiny bookstore and this expat guy from California sings Beatles songs every night on the street.
I had all sorts of plans to explore Medellin, but saw that there were storms a-brewing, so I quickly switched those plans to tomorrow and headed to the Metro station, which would take me to the bus terminal. Let me tell you, the Metro in Medellin is the best I have ever seen. It is above ground, clean, quiet, and smooth. Basically, everything the New York subway is not. It is super easy to navigate. Plus, this amazing travel blogger gave me a step-by-step on how to get to the colorful city of Gautape, located about two hours away. Followed every step she says, including bargaining for your ticket price. I asked for 12.000 over 14.000 and Boom! Granted. My Jewish heart loves the fact that you can haggle down prices here. The bus ride is pleasant and beautiful. But it is also as close to the “chicken” bus as you can get. People randomly hop on and off either trying to sell things or to sit on the floor for a cheaper price. We even had the drug police dogs hop on to sniff us all before we could head on. Regardless, I appreciated the AC and the window seat so I could look at the rolling-hill scenery of the Colombian countryside. Although it is green, it isn’t the beautiful jungle green of Brazil. It’s more like the agricultural green of lush farmland.
Instead of getting off at the city of Gautape, I got off at The Rock in La Piedra called La Pena. There is this random big-ass natural rock that sits surrounded by man-made lake towns. Based on the size of the houses, this area is where all of the Colombian elite have their lake homes. There is a quick 15-20-minute walk up a fairly steep hill. Then you hit the bottom of the big-ass rock. You pay 18.000 pesos and begin your assent up 662 stairs. I hit stair 50 and had big regrets. It’s hot, I brought the wrong bag for the trek, and stairs are my downfall. This was one of those head-down and just put one foot in front of the other. By the time I reached the platform at stair 350, I was hurting and wildly out of breath. These stairs are steep and plentiful. However, the one positive is they are short, so my little legs were not struggling to reach the next stair. Now on the way down, it is a whole other story. The views are inspiring and definitely worth the crazy trek up the rock. But make sure you bring some water and sunscreen. And at the top, treat yourself to a cervaza with salt. It isn’t cold like Brazil, but by that point it is chilled, wet, and salty – all the things the body needs.
So fun fact. La Piedra rock is privately owned. A family bought the land long before the lake was made; thus, it was dirt cheap. Then the lake was built and they built the stairs and the rest of history. I’m sure all of their neighbors were like, “what the hell are you buying this giant rock for?” Now, they are laughing their way to the bank. I could hear Lesley Fisher’s voice in my head the whole time: “Ya’ll. What were we thinkin?! All we had to do was buy a big ol’ rock. Make some stairs and charge freaking 18.000 pesos!” I headed down around 1:30 and was way too hot to eat, so I grabbed a tuk tuk for 5.000 pesos and made my way towards the town of Gautape.
Gautape is everything it is cracked up to be and more. It is quaint, colorful, full of touristy stuff, and easy to navigate. It is definitely a good little day trip from Medellin. Although, I met a guy who stayed the night and he said it is really peaceful after 11pm. He says the place becomes a ghost town. On Sundays, there is a pool party at one of the hostels for the more social. Make sure you eat some weird soups there and the cinnamon rolls by the La Plazoleta Gautape. Holy crap! These are the best creations on earth. The only thing that would have made them better was having my dad there eating one with me. This town was my parents to a T. It’s colorful whimsical for my mom and foodie and cultural for my dad. It was entirely man-made when the lake was created, but the history of the painters and artists is really cool to learn about.
Alright, so here is where the whole day comes to a crazy end. I was sitting in a hole-in-the-wall convenience station waiting for my bus to arrive and enjoying some cooling H2O. It was a pretty hot day in Gautape. And the MOST BEAUTIFUL MAN comes and asks to sit at my table. Home boy is from Sweden. He is tall and built. He has the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen in my life. He is one of those beautiful people that you can’t look away from but also it kinds of hurts to look at. And we talked and talked and talked the entire bus ride until we fell asleep. Poor guy, I think I slept on his shoulder for some of it (pity), but he was a good sport. We figured out that our hostels are in the same area, so he offered to take the subway with me. And while we were standing in the subway, I barely came up to this poor guy’s chest. I definitely didn’t make it to his shoulder. Poor thing probably got a neck ache talking to me. And best part…when I asked what he did…he used to be a professional online poker player and now he is getting into finance. How great is that?! I desperately wanted a picture to ensure that he was real. He was almost too perfect, but I got really awkward really quickly and panicked. I think his glowing god status was just too much. Regardless, we exchange information and decided to maybe meet up in Cartagena. (Doing happy dance in my seat right now.)
This evening I partook in some American comforts that I didn’t really get when I was in the states – Hot wings! And they were freaking delicious. They also come with gloves so you don’t get your hands all dirty. I just couldn’t take anymore rice and bread from the day so the hot wings were a nice change. Then I came back to the hostel to write. I am a little put off by the people. They are all really young and ready to party and though I love a good party, I really don’t want to snort a bunch of cocaine and dance all night when my morning is booked with a walking tour of the art district of Medellin. I mean at least save that shit for Cartagena where I can spend the next day on the beach. (Kidding, Mom!) Naturally, I sought out the loan guy with dreadlocks who was silently sipping beer by himself in the corner. Gabriel is from Mexico and doesn’t speak much English so guess what got to practice her Spanish tonight. We had awesome conversations about the world and cultural exchanges. He is really fascinating! And I can understand 90% of what he is saying to me and he totally gets what I am saying. He even corrects me sometimes, which I love when I am clearly struggling with a word or phrase. Meeting him was a refreshing change from the 20 somethings who got excited because they smelled weed. I am super grateful to have met him and now have a new friend if I ever make it to Mexico City!
Tomorrow I am going to officially explore the city I am staying in.