Monday, September 12th

Another day filled with plane rides for Julie and I. We caught a flight from Lima to Bogota, and then another to Medellin where we would spend the next few days. I can't deny that I was nervous to be in Colombia after everything I have heard about it and seen about it in the media, but I was also so excited and curious. I really didn't know what to expect. We had a long ride from the airport to our hostel that was full of beautiful views of the twinkling city lights. The city seemed to be tucked in between a group of mountains. After finding our hostel and dropping our bags, we went in search of food. I was feeling uneasy walking around mostly empty streets at night looking for a place that was open, so we didn't go far. We found a bar with a couple of people standing outside setting up what appeared to be a birthday party. It felt very intimate, like a backyard barbecue type party, but they assured us they were open so we came inside and has some pizza.

Tuesday, September 13th

We came to Medellin with basically nothing planned, so we heard what the hostel recommended and decided on doing a bus tour. Our bus took us outside of the city to our first stop at a lake. Just as we were walking onto our boat, it started to rain. We spent maybe an hour on this little boat that was blasting music and narrating what we were seeing. We sailed past a rundown mansion that they explained used to be one of Pablo Escobar's houses. It was quite eerie looking in the rain from afar. Once we were back on the bus, we could see our next stop from a long ways off. 

We were headed to a colossal rock called El Peñon de Guatapé. This rock towered over everything in the area and allowed for an incredible view of the Colombian countryside.....if you make it up the 750+ stairs to the top. Of course we had to go to the top and it was so worth it, because the view was so beautiful it could have been a painting. We had worked up an appetite hiking up this rock mountain, so we had lunch at the bottom of it with more panoramic views. It's weird how one beautiful landscape or sunset just makes you step back and appreciate everything. I think it might be the closest thing to real magic I've ever experienced. Our next stop was a town called Guatapé, where all the buildings were painted with vibrant colors. We went around as a group for a bit and then got to split off on our own. After some time for coffee and shopping, we got back on the bus and visited a church as the last stop on our tour. We had a two hour drive back into Medellin where in that time span we were stopped and searched by the police and clipped by a car. Luckily there were no serious shenanigans. We bonded with the family next to us and heard about what life is like in Panama. The bus dropped us off near a popular restaurant our guide had recommended to us called Mondongos, so we had what I think was a pretty traditional dinner there. We were just eating and watching football on the tv when the table started to shake. I thought that Julie was shaking her leg against it and it took me a few seconds to realize it was an earthquake. We later heard that it was quite a big earthquake in Peru and I was worried about Lexi, but she was alright thankfully. 

Wednesday, September 14th

We started our Wednesday by trekking across town to a place called Barefoot Park. It's designed to be a place where you're not supposed to wear shoes and I thought the concept was really interesting, but it wasn't as exciting as I had imagined haha. We grabbed an Uber to the start of a free walking tour through downtown Medellin. Out of all the free walking tours I have done, this was hands down my favorite. The city is full of so much history and pain and culture, and I think this was the best way for me to try so soak some of that in. Our guide, Juan, shared so much with us about his life and the history of Medellin and Colombia as a whole. Something he had addressed is that the people of Medellin are very curious, which we saw clearly as people passing by would poke their heads into our huddle as he spoke. Julie and I really connected with Juan and he talked about maybe showing us around the city on our own, but this was our last day in town and it just wasn't enough time. 

The end of the tour had the biggest impact on me, but I'm not sure if I can describe it well. We were standing in a plaza next to two statues - both of birds, but one was shiny and new and the other was old and disfigured. He told a story about how in the past, there was only one bird sculpture in the plaza. It was made by the artist Fernando Botero, whose sculptures sell for millions of dollars. In June of 1995, a concert was being held in the plaza and in the middle of the festivities, the original bird statue was blown up, killing at lest 30 people and injuring hundreds. It is still unclear who is responsible for the attack, but there are several groups under suspicion. Th statue was torn apart in the explosion and the mayor of Medellin gave orders to throw it away until Botero called him. The story goes that Botero called the mayor asking how dare he throw away this piece of art. He requested that it be restored to its place in the plaza along with the new replica as a symbol of resilience. To show that even through an attack, Colombian people are strong and will come through any obstacles they face. We took a few minutes as a group to admire the sculptures and soak in the message before parting ways.

Juan showed Julie and I to the metro and we said our goodbyes. We went to take out money for a metro ticket, but couldn't get money out. Great. Now our only debit card wasn't working and we were stuck somewhere in Medellin with no money and no transportation. After wandering around unsuccessfully trying several ATMs, we were able to call an Uber to get back to the hostel to call the bank and resolve our money problems. It may not sound like a major issue, but it was very concerning. After calming down a bit in the hostel, we got brave enough to leave in search of food. We found a cozy restaurant and had a nice little lunch before grabbing an Uber to the Primavera neighborhood to shop. We were walking around the shops in this area, but it started pouring - not ideal for our walking excursion - so we ducked into a cafe called Velvet and got some sweets. We had a very long day exploring all over the city, so we went back to the hostel and watched some Netflix with some of the other people staying there while we got backed to leave the next morning. 

Thursday, September 15th
As we were accustomed to by now, we woke up at the crack of dawn to get a cab to the airport. Day 18 of our trip was another long travel day. 


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