After having to for out around $300AUD each for air tickets to Colombia (the bus is meant to be hard, long and difficult between Ecuador and Colombia) then being hit for $40USD airport tax, we were finally on our way to Colombia
! The flight was fine and we arrived in the small airport of Medellin a whopping 35km out of town (more money for the taxi argh)! We went straight to Tiger Paw hostel which was recommended by some friends and is known as a 'party hostel'. We were thoroughly disappointed as it is just a bar (open to the public) with rooms built around it and there was zero atmosphere. The next morning we went for a walk around El Poblado and we stumbled upon Casa Kiwi which is is a much better part of this suburb. This hostel is fantastic - it is new with an inspiring kitchen, a TV theater, a roof top pool, cheap bar and awesome chill out areas - score! That afternoon we went on the cities equivalent of the Red Tourist Bus 'Turibus'. This was a small bus with a guide explaining all the sights of the city first in Spanish then in English. George, our guide, was an overly energetic, young, nerdy, religious and underground camp Medellin local who took an immediate liking to Steve. Along the way, he told us that he had always wanted to Surf and Skate, falling deeper in love with Steve when he found out Steve could do both! He then showed us photos of the Australian Flag, Kangaroos, Sydney Opera house etc that he had previously downloaded onto his phone (weird)! The four tour was good as we got to see all of downtown which started in Parque Poblado and we got to see the cities two main Churches, the 'Fat' sculptures, The Modern Art Museum, Parque de los Pies Descalzos and much more. At Parque Descalzos the city had built a tribute to Asian Countries which meant you had to take your shoes off and walk on pebbles, grass and sand, then walk a maze with your eyes closed, climb over wooden poles and walk in water twice - hilarious
! Overall, an enjoyable day - the only downfall being our first 'mugging'. At the Modern Art Museum (new, clean, full of school children etc) we had been taking photos and were about to get back on the bus, Jenna was ahead of Steve (10 - 20m's) when a guy grabbed her had (which was stupidly clutching the camera) and then also grabbed her opposite shoulder. Steve had watched the scene unfold and explained that there was one guy (young and well dressed) walking with a helmet towards his 'friend' on a motorbike in front of the bus. As the guy got within a metre of me he quickly diverted his direction and went in for the grab. The whole thing only lasted a few seconds and Jenna held fast and twisted out of his grip so nothing was actually stolen but it was enough to shake us up! Our first bit of trouble in the whole of South America!
That evening we were in much need a drink after the days excitement, so luckily we met an Irish guy and Danish girls and proceeded to check out El Poblado's vivacious nightlife, we visited a cool bar called La Octavia and also went to a shooter only bar Chupitos and enjoyed a fiery (literally) shooter each!
The next couple of days were spent waiting for the Pablo Escobar tour to run. We explored El Poblado, which has amazing shopping, chilled at the hostel, ate yummy food and went out for more drinks
. Finally on Saturday it was time to do the tour. The only company that includes Roberto Escobar (Pablo's Brother) and his house is Natcity Tours. We were picked up in a minivan and met our tour guide - a pretty 25 year old Medellin local who started the tour company and our driver, Pablo's ex bodyguard (the one who didn't get shot)! Our first stop was the inner city apartment building that Pablo built to be his home (each floor represented a different room eg one floor was a dining room, another the lounge etc). It was decked with a soccer field, pool and the biggest satellite dish. The building is now abandoned as the city doesn't know what to do with it. It was at this building that the drug war started between Pablo's Cartel and the Cali Cartel as they bombed the building thinking Pablo was at home....big mistake! Next stop was Pablo's grave. It is modest as his family didn't want locals to feel put out. There are always fresh flowers on the grave showing that some of the cities inhabitants still idolize the man. Next was the house where Pablo Escobar was shot and killed on December 2nd 1993. There is speculation as to whether he was shot by the Government or if he killed himself. His grave was exhumed in 1996 and an 'autopsy' on it revealed that he had shot himself in the head (not behind the ear) however, the Government states it was them who killed Pablo and the death shot was behind the ear. No one has ever revealed who in the Government made this shot. Our final stop was Roberto Escobar's house
. Roberto had only lived in this house for two years. This house used to be one of the many hideouts in Medellin for Pablo and Roberto (only those two and there chef new about its location). Roberto moved in only after he was sure it wouldn't be confiscated by the Government (they didn't know about it)! In this house, Pablo spent his last night (his birthday). Even though he was on the run he really wanted music at his birthday dinner. Roberto said no but Pablo organised it anyway. Roberto was furious however it turned out that the musicians Pablo employed were all blind, so they had no idea where they were or who they played to. We saw the dining room where this played out, it has a massive portrait of their old racehorse. This horse was castrated by enemies to stop him from reproducing. Medellin has now cloned this horse and want to start breeding with him as he was meant to be the best ever Their house is full of secret hiding places and the house would hold anywhere between 2 and 20 million at a time. We were shown a desk with a secret hiding space and Jenna was selected to help open a secret bookcase and was then locked in it (quickly) after which Roberto climbed in to for a photo op - sooo weird, Pablo and drugs had been hidden in there many times. After coffee on Pablo's couch, and checking out some family snaps of his crazy ranch (his zoo consisted of a White Rhino, Kangaroos, Giraffes, Zebras, Elephants and much much more) we moved outside and explored his car, motorbike (one of the first methods of transporting Cocaine) and there bullet proof truck (complete with bullet dents and smashes and a door flap for firing out themselves)
. A few happy snaps with Roberto later it was time to leave. The tour itself was a strange contradiction. The first half was more factual and overall pretty negative towards Pablo Escobar. His house however, was a complete contrast as Roberto does not think of his brother as a bad man, so showing us Pablo's Bachelor Degree certificate, the jeans he wore when he escaped from prison and the pancho he wore on cold nights was probably not how the man should have been portrayed. However, it was a fantastic and interesting tour - an absolute must do for anyone traveling to Medellin.
We are heading North now, up to the Caribbean Coast. This should be our last long distance bus ride we do!
Medellin was once the world's most murderous city. In the 1990's Medellin was the centre of the world wide coke trade and home of the Drug Lord - Pablo Escobar. The city was not safe for tourists until Pablo was killed in 1993. Since then the city has had a huge transformation with the development of El Poblado and Zona Rosa, two upper class suburbs filled with new, classy and beautifully designed shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and night clubs. Don't get us wrong, Downtown Medellin is still poor, dirty, hectic and dangerous (Medellin is has still got one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America as the current Drug Lord is imprisoned in America leaving rival gangs fighting for control) but sticking to the tourist areas means a relatively safe and extremely fun few days!