Medellin - Land of the Mullet?
by Ryanscottandrews on February 3, 2011
We arrived in Medellin after a 17-hour bus ride from Santa Marta. The bus ride honestly wasn't that bad. The seats are actually bigger and better than any first class airline seats. There is just one problem though--the AC. You seriously need to bring a snow suit just to stay warm. We survived, however, and come 9am, we arrived in Medellin, the land of the worst mullets on the planet.
I saw more rat tails, honky tonk hair, hockey hair and ape drapes than in one episode of Full House.There's a reason why the 80s ended in the U.S.! Alas, Europeans and South Americans apparently still love the business-in-front-and-party-in-the-back!
Medellin is a beautiful city characterized by a sea of brown brick buildings nestled in a deep green valley. Just a few decades ago, the city was known the world over as the homicide and cocaine capital of the world. This is where Pablo Escobar ran his drug cartels and where the murder rate had increased to well over 500 homicides a month. Since the police gunned down Escobar on a Medellin rooftop in 1993, however, Medellin has taken quite a turn for the better.
The city center and downtown areas are much what you'd expect in most major Latin American cities. The streets are jammed pack with people rushing in and out of traffic, and vendors selling everything you can possibly imagine--from grilled plates of mysterious meat to weird fried balls of funkiness (probably fried days ago, so approach with caution if you choose to indulge), to every type of electronic knock-off. My all-time favorite South American street vendor is the South American telephone booth, which is absolutely nothing more than a person with a table of cell phones advertising calls to anywhere in the world for COL$100/minute (about USD$0.08)! Gotta hand it to Colombians for their ingenuity!
When we weren't stuck in the hostel sick or afraid of being robbed if we left, we spent most of our time cruising around the city on the relatively new and ridiculously clean Metro system. The Metro runs in a pretty straight forward north-south orientation with two lines that branch off either side and run up the side of the mountain in the form of a cable car. Much like what you'd find in Lake Tahoe or Mammoth Lakes, the cable cars zip you up over the poorer sections of Medellin and offer some amazing views of the city and the valley it sits in.
We also checked out the Parque Explora, similar to San Francisco's Exploratorium, aquarium and planetarium. The hands-on aspect of the museum lacked considerably in comparison to the Exploratorium, but the aquarium made up for it. Although relatively small, it showcased Amazonian fish and reptile species. It was quite cool to see the many different types of arawanas, poisonous tree frogs, caimans and the ever-elusive anaconda!
After a day of sightseeing, we headed over La Zona Rosa, the "Yuppy" area of town according to Lonely Planet. "Yuppy" may not be the correct word; I'd say clean, quiet, peaceful and full of very nice restaurants and bars. I finally decided on Milagros, a nice looking Mexican place. Being from California, it's very hard to impress me with Mexican food. Although Milagros was very good for being in Colombia, it still missed that authentic touch. Even so, we left happy and full of shrimp, carnitas, and muy fuerte (very strong) margaritas, which were quite tasty and went down way too quick!
The next morning we got up early and headed to the airport to catch our flight to Popayan, a small colonial town south of Medellin, where we would start our trek into Ecuador. Our flight has a six-hour layover in Bogota, which will give us just enough time to check out the famed Gold Museum.