22 – 26 November 2013
It's a fairly long busride from Santa Marta to Medellin and because of expensive road pricing faires are only slightly lower than air faires – so I decided to fly. My flight was not until mid afternoon so I had planned to work on my homepage but once again the internet was not working. Instead I spent some time talking to Priscilla who's also looking for a new meaning/purpose in life (older than me but it's never to late to change). I found out that a Columbian girl in the hostel was on the same flight, so she cancelled her taxi and tagged along on the local bus that took us directly to the airport. I had too much weight so she was kind to carry 3 kilos for me. In security I lost me repellent that I forgot to move to my big bag after the trip up the coast – annoying as it's difficult (impossible?) to get good repellent in Columbia. The flight was only 75 minutes and at the airport we got a shuttle bus to the center where we split up. It was nice to have some time with a local who spoke a bit English – I got some information about Columbia but would have liked to get even more. I took the metro a couple of stations and quickly found the hostel just before dark – a girl I met had stayed one night and found it too quiet which was a recommendation for me. It was generally quiet and only few people in the dorm though one night was different - one guy talked in his sleep, another guy came back late and drunk and startet snoring, a third guy talked in his sleep, the drunk guy got hickups, and then a newcomer was noisy for an hour before she finally went to bed - being a light sleeper I was very tired in the morning. A couple of weeks before I had written some couchsurfing request and immediately gotten a positive reply but despite a polite reminder I never heard from her again. I'll spend no more time on couchsurfing in Columbia - they seem not to understand the concept.
I was stuck in the hostel the first two days because of overcast weather, heavy rain and thunder. I spent the time getting my homepage updated and talking to some interesting people – 23 year old Ryan who had sold his car and travelled around South America for 1½ year on less than USD 4,000 (as I always say – it's not a question of money but dertermination; anybody can do it if they really want to) – it was a amazing how much clarity and life wisdom his young mind comprised. I also talked to Russian Julia who had lived a long time in Spain and England but now wanted to settle in Columbia after spending 8 months with indigenous people – very interesting stories and life perspective.
I finally ventured out an early morning – the weather was decent without being amazing. The previous days clouds came in early so I first went to Cerro Nutibara (altitude 1.600 metres) to enjoy the views of the city, the valley and surrounding mountains - well, it wasn't too impressive due to the morning mist and smog. Back down I walked into the bustling city center – very busy, noisy and polluted (it's Columbia's second biggest ctiy with over 3 million people). An interesting but not particularly nice experience; especially the completely passed out druggies lying everywhere made an impression because nobody seemed to care (Escobar ran his cocaine cartel from Medellin and there's still a huge production in the region). A lot of more or less dubious people but I never felt unsafe because there was a lot of police in the streets - I'm sure it's a very different story after dark. Approaching December everything was about X-mas which I skipped 30 years ago finding it too commercial – unfortunately that's also the case here. I walked around randomly and saw a number of churches and squares before I headed north to the botanical garden. Not as impressive as I had imagined but okay and a chance to get away from the streets - a lake and countless flowers, butterflies, lizards, birds, etc. My initial idea had been to take the metro back to the hostel but the weather was (surprisingly) still great so I took a few stops mostly to get some good views from high up – of the city, valley and surrounding mountains. From the city center I walked back to Cerro Nutibara where the views had improved a lot and then back to the hostel after a long and good day.
After a month I feel I can say something about the Columbian people. Most foreigners I've met find them some of nicest people they have ever met – they are certainly nice and helpful but not the nicest. Maybe it's the language barrier (I've been embarrasingly lazy practising) but I find them somewhat superficial and also I'm disappointed with the pervasive begging which I don't recall being a widespread part of the culture in other countries in this part of the world. Undeniably Columbia has a lot of beautiful people (men and women) but as in many other places around the world there's an increasing obesity problem - especially amongst the women. And then there's the lack of moral – I guess (hope) most people are decent, but it seems there are a lot opportunists; to a much larger extent than I've experienced in other South American countries.