Thursday 15 August 2019.
Highlights: Exploring Medellín – Downtown and the infamous (but great) District 13, Monserrate Hill Cable Car ride.
We have two full days in Medellín before catching at flight out on Saturday. Today was the chance to see Medellín up close and in depth while tomorrow some of us will leave the city and visit the picturesque Guatape.
Today was also a chance to get some laundry done, while not an urgent issue we are hear for a few days and the laundry place is next door and delivers back to the hotel. Still at 32,000 Colombian pesos it wasn’t cheap.
The G Adventures Classic Colombia tour included a city tour, which we took in the morning and the entire group selected an optional tour of Comuna (District) 13 for 60,000 pesos (around $30 AUD).
We left on the morning city tour around 8.10 am walking down to the local Metro station (around 10 minute walk). This is the only Metro train system in Colombia and the locals are very proud of it. In fact most give this Metro system credit for turning Medellín away from it’s violent past as locals could finally see hope for a better future for the first time.
Among the sights we saw was;
- The old Medellín train station with a train from the 1930s
- The Governor’s headquarters (with massive art sculpture out the front)
- Downtown mall (complete with prostitutes working at 10 am – only a small number)
- The old court building now a retail shopping building (very beautiful)
- The Parroquia de la Veracruz – the second oldest church in Medellín and the one that served the poorest residents)
- Botero Square – filled with bronze sculptures from famous Latin artist Fernando Botero
We finished the city tour with a visit to Salon Malaga famous coffee venue. The highlight of the morning was definitely Botero Square but the day was about to get a lot better.
First up in the afternoon we went on the Metrocable (Cable Car) system. This cable car system commenced operation in 2004 and connections some of the poorest residents of Medellín who are nested in the mountains around the city to the opportunities that the city provides. The round trip ride gave us an opportunity to see some of the poorest parts of Medellín for a safe distance. Most of the housing had stable walls but not all.
From here we could a bus to Comuna (District) 13 for our Graffiti Tour. Comuna 13 was the most dangerous part of the most dangerous city in the world during the 1990s. It was home to the drug wars lead by Pablo Escobar but before Pablo the para military and FARC terrorist groups fighting for control. In short it has a sad and violent history.
However this has changed significantly in the last 10 years. As part of the overall city’s improved infrastructure (in particular transportation) Comuna 13 have escalators installed and pathways build to open up the cramped spaces that assisted gangs control them.
The government and local people encouraged the arts and you can see some of the best graffiti in the world in this location. It has improved immensely in a short time and all the locals appeared to take great pride in what their area has become.
During our time here we had lunch on a roof top run solely by a group of women. The carrot soup and beef meal was very tasty and the views magnificent.
From here were took in the various graffiti designs and displays. There was a strong emphasis in a lot of the works on females figures (not nude) as the earth / nature figures of hope and nourishment. I’ll let the impressive graffiti talk for itself.
Before leaving I also got to try home made pineapple ice cream – very nice on a long day walking around a city in 26c :)