Day 129 – Medellin, CO

Day 129 – Medellin, CO      12/28/10      Mileage: 0

Business opportunity in Medellin…laundromat! I asked a dozen people if they knew of one and the closest I got was a dry cleaner…and they said it would take 3 days! I walked probably 20 square blocks figuring surely there must be one in the heart of a bustling city…but…nope, I didn’t see one! I finally gave up and knocked on the door of a hostel and the owner was kind enough to do my laundry for $5…and would have it back to me the next day. Anyway, next up was lunch at 12:30 with Santiago who is the cousin of a friend of my parents and gracious enough to meet me and show me around! He picked me up at the Shamrock and took me to the heart of the downtown for lunch where his family owns a restaurant. It turns out he has a passion for travel also and took a year off for an around the world backpacking trip. He lived abroad in France and Venezuela for a while as well and speaks very good english.

After lunch…which I was treated to…he showed me some of the sights downtown.

 

We also took the elevated metro which was a great way to see the city.

Santiago is very proud of his city and it shows in the way he talks about it. I told him when I first hatched the plan for this trip, I was debating whether to skip Colombia because of the prevailing perception in the US, but the more I read the more I looked forward to visiting. He said that Medellin and Colombia in general has made an amazing turnaround from the legacy of the drug wars and violence. I know he is right because I’ve seen it for myself. I feel safer and more at ease here…in the small towns and cities…than I did in Mexico or other countries in Central America, maybe even Costa Rica. He also told me of a project that the Medellin government undertook to build a library in the roughest part of the city, high on a hill. They had to go in with swarms of armed police at first, and now it is a popular place to come, even for tourist like me. We took a “public transit gondola” to get there, which itself helped to turn the area around.

The black building is the library built in what used to be the roughest part of town.

These projects are a testament to the good that government can do to improve people’s lives when they have the people’s best interest in mind, and not their own or that of the special interests. So I said adios to Santiago and took the metro back to the Shamrock. I spent some time getting some posts up on the blog, and then parked myself in a nearby cafe in the Zona Rosa to write more and take in the scene before calling it a night.

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Day 128 – Santuario, CO to Medellin, CO

Day 128 – Santuario, CO to Medellin, CO     12/27/10      Mileage: 89

It was going to be a short ride to Medellin, so I was in no rush to get out the door. Plus, it was raining…another excuse to linger a bit longer. Around 10 the weather cleared and I hit the road.

I read about a nice scenic overlook called El Penal…a 20 kilometer detour off of the road to Medellin. Since I had plenty of time today, I decided to go check it out.

El Penol is a big rock outcropping with stairs going up a crack in one side to the top where the view is spectacular.

It turned out to be a pretty unique place and the view from the top was amazing…well worth the $4 and 460 something stairs!

The view from the top…

It reminded me of the lakes region of the Adirondacks. After lingering a while at the top, I headed back down and went to the nearby town of Guatape for a lakeside lunch.

Stomach stuffed with food and eyeballs filled to the rim with scenery, I retreated back to the main road and on to Medellin.

Coming into town off of the mountain pass were some great views of Medellin.

The northern part of Medellin.

In town I fought my way though the city traffic but lane splitting is practically a sport down here, so on a bike you can still weave your way through.

In this picture you can see that the rider has his license plate number on the back of his helmet and the vest he is wearing. The reason for this is that back in the day when there was much violence in Colombia, the prefered assassination vehicle was the motorcycle. They would ride with 2…one for driving and the other to do the shooting….and the motorcycle could make an easy getaway weaving through the city traffic. To combat this, the government required all riders to wear there license plate number on a reflective vest and on the back of their helmet. I’m not sure if this is still strictly enforced, as some riders no longer wear them.

I found my way to the Shamrock Irish Pub pretty easily and was greeted by Leiday(XXXXXsp) and a DR350 out front.

Albert the owner and fellow motorcyclist who is originally from Scotland was home visiting relatives for the holidays, so I would not get to meet him this time around…too bad.

I heard about his place through the AdvRider website…an Irish pub in the heart of Medellin, friendly to motorcyclist, near many motorcycle dealers, secure parking and a room for rent adorned with motorcycle artwork…sounds like a no brainer to me! Leiday(XXXX) showed me my room and afterwards I pulled the KLR inside behind Al’s 950 Adventure.

Once settled I took the obligatory walk around the neighborhood and all I can say is Colombia continues to wow me…great climate, cosmopolitan cities, beaches, great roads, free tolls for motorcycles and tons of great looking women! Sounds like paradise to me….and it would be if they had snow for skiing! Oh well, 9 out of 10 ain’t bad… 😉