City of Pablo Escobar – Medellin

Bright and dark sides of the city of the eternal spring and visiting the first house of cyclists

After three movies, two stops, over-eating with bakery and almost freezing because of the low set AC we finally get to the 4-million Medellin just before midnight.

During the way we found accommodation through couchsurfing and now fully loaded we go to find the address in the center. As we see later, that is full of homeless, dealers and drug addicts. We follow GPS navigation which is obviously missing a setting “find a safe way” and we go through some places which don’t look very nice.

Jan goes nervously fast and forgets I’m here also – 30m behind him. Suddenly one homeless with a bottle in his hand crosses the road and reach out his arm… I don’t know if he wanted to give me a friendly slap on the back or touch my ass, but I react with a loud scream which everybody around had to notice but my husband who keeps going on.

A car which saw this slows down and let me go in front of it. When I catch my husband at the traffic lights and try to explain him he should take more care about his wife, they guys from the car talk to us: “Don’t stop, keep on going even on the red light!”. Where are we? Weird people around us, lots of garbage and locals advise us not to stop anywhere!

It takes us 15min to find the address, the doorman is waiting for us. When taking our stuff, Jan apologizes at least 10 times for that “small” accident.

This is a different type of couchsurfing and instead of a couch we have the whole apartment. The owner doesn’t live here, he’ll come tomorrow.

The hunger pushes us back to the street to look for some food. The (homeless) people in the streets have a party and as we watched them they seem to have really rich social life (but what else they could do). At one stand we buy something and we feel safe standing close to the guy so we sit there till we finish the food. One guy joins us, but we are not able to understand 90% of what he’s talking about and a sympathetic girl selling bracelet presents us with strings in Colombian tricolor. With good feeling we return back.

In the morning we meet Alex – our host – and he informs us that we need to pay for the next nights (we can understand that when he offers the whole apartment). We don’t want to look for something other and we accept his offer. In the next half an hour he overloads us with information about the city and repeats many times that it’s dangerous here and we shouldn’t provoke (wearing rings, showing camera or valuable things).

We are thankful for the information but don’t really believe the security part and we go to the streets with a list of tasks – find a box for our package, send it and do the laundry.

In the nearby shopping mall we ask a lady in a shoes shop if she has some box for us, she calls a security guy, he calls another, then comes a manager and at the end a cleaner guy who takes us to a storage room where we find what we need.

The city looks totally different during the day – full of people, sellers in the streets, shops and we feel safe walking here. During 2 hours while we are looking for the national parcel service we watch people and realize that really nobody wears rings or any jewelery!

The package is sent, now we need to find the laundry. We think the option to rent a washing machine is weird (they will bring a washing machine to your home, connect it and you pay for the time you use it – hour, day…). But laundries in this country are not popular and common. But the people tell us 5 blocks from here is one.

The streets and the people start to change as we walk and we hide our rings in the pocket. There are homeless sitting, one can smell weed from everywhere and sometimes you see guys sniffing from plastic bag. And the laundry isn’t what we are looking for – it’s paid for piece of clothes.

In the Botero park full of fat sculptures we meet Gabriel (guy we met in the bus to Medellin). He shows us the city a little bit but we are more in the mood for go back “home”. We find another laundry service, but 5usd for 1kg is too much (for comparison: in Mexico 1usd/kg). Today we don’t have good feeling from the city.

For breakfast we go again across the street to our guy making the best cocktails and potato balls. 5minutes he tries to explain us something about yesterday’s mistake with money, but we don’t really understand who owes who. At the end he gives us back 6000pesos – he made a mistake, because the 1 and 10 thousand bills are similar and he gave us bad change. Hmm, nice beginning of the day.

Today we make also some pictures while we walk around. There are many parks, benches, social places and squares. The weather is also perfect – the eternal spring between mountains. We visit a barefoot park and see neat modern buildings close to the center. Then we spend almost 2 hours in the public transportation buying only 1 ticket for 1usd and enjoy the views from the train above ground and the cable cars. The world is small and Medellin has only 4million people and we accidentally meet Hugo who was with us on the boat from Panama. He invites us to a party with another guys from the boat – Paula, Aron and Chase who are also here.

We meet around 9pm in a different part of the city full of bars, tourists, hostels, restaurants (this is the part where all foreigners go – not the historical center :D). After one hour of shouting at each other in a bar we give up and leave to walk a little bit around. There are many young people, sellers and musicians in the park – really like a different world.

We load the bicycle in the morning and after long preparations – renewing the text on my front-bag (Luna de miel de Eslovaquia hasta Argentina) and implementing the Slovak flag onto my T-shirt we go to join the ciclovia – every Sunday is the main highway through the city closed just for cyclists and inliners.

We wear big smiles and greet everybody around, but nobody asks us to make picture with him and only few start to talk with us. But at the end a guy joins us and leads us the whole way to San Antonio de Prado where is the casa de ciclistas. It is a part of Medellin, but 25km away (15km from it steep uphill). Our guide Gonzo pedals fast up even after today’s 145km and and we are not able to keep his speed. Finally we reach the top and have a beer :).

Then we continue another 3km to the valley where in a small calm village surrounded by nature Manuel and Martha are waiting for us. We turn the visitors numbers (I’m 129, Jan 130). They apologize that the house for cyclists is under reconstruction now but the wooden house at the end of garden is more then enough for us. We get to know that we missed Argentinian guys (Sebastian and Mica) just by couple of hours. In the evening another cyclist arrives – Billy from Ireland. In the evening we feel the cold in this altitude and need to use sweaters, long pants and even socks.

Sydney from Switzerland comes the next morning. He goes the opposite direction and we share experiences. In Prado we buy one pair of mudguards and use them like two front-one and a mirror for helmet (I look like a bug with one antenna).

For dinner we prepare Slovak food harula with meat and a salad. Unexpectedly many people arrive for visit but it’s enough for everybody and they like it!

For breakfast we finish leftovers from dinner and go for a ride to the top of a nearby hill from where should be a nice view to Medellin. The road isn’t good but possible to cycle and on the horizon we see the hill with a cross on the top. Jan laments by every gate we need to open but I’m sure they are here only because of cows and don’t enter anybody’s private property. Finally we reach the top and have perfect view on the center but the view to the other side wins – with just a few houses, fields and a lot of green. After many pictures when we lift the bicycles above our heads I know which muscles will hurt tomorrow :D.

The next visit of Prado is because of the front rack. We find a heavy steel back-rack, but with few modifications is perfectly fitted in the front.

Why we want to carry another weight? In the last time many spokes on the rear wheel broke and we need to distribute the load a little. And we are going to bicycle in more remote places where we’ll need to carry more food and water and therefore we need more space for it.

Another cyclist couple – Rebeca and Salomon from England – come to visit in the evening. They plan to live on a farm in Venezuela and now have been cycling through Ecuador and Colombia. We get many good tips for nice places and roads and because their way of traveling is very similar to ours (they are not cyclists, this is just a good way of transportation and getting know the country and culture), the talk is very inspirative and later we go to sleep full of motivation and looking forward to sit again on the saddles tomorrow.

Note in the guest book, group photo and following the side roads we continue towards the beauties of central Colombia :).


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