Having jetted off to resume the adventure I found myself in Medellin without a bag, which had apparently been left in Bogotá. A form was filled out and I made my way to hostel la playa and rooftop, which is a great hostel. Each bed has its own fan and power sockets, plus there is a cool bar on the rooftop. I stayed around the reception, making the odd exploratory foray but without venturing too far lest my bag arrive without me being there. The “two hours” promised came and went without a cursory hint of luggage. I got there at 7 and the bags arrived around 6! A bit of a waste of a day dozing semi conscious on a sofa but oh well!
I met a lot of cool people at the hostel from europe, the states and other travellers from the South America itself. It seems pretty popular with Argentinians as they arrived in great numbers. I was thinking this might be as a result of it being a richer country and so coming here is pretty sweet for them costs wise as it is for me.
I wandered around a bit more, tried the cable car to get a cracking view of the city with a German guy, sorted my Colombian SIM card and tasted the local typical dish
Dinner bandeja paisa… Which is mental, I counted 4 different meat portions and 4 different carbohydrates. I didn’t have much of an appetite generally that night and that was a mistake. If you want to take this on… go hungry first!
The next day we did the main free walking tour, which is where most of the photos so far are from. I have had some really good ones in my trip, shout out to Santiago’s which is probably second but this one topped it. It was so damn interesting and also chilling at times learning about the grisly history. Our guide was telling us about seeing dead people on street as he walked to school as a child. The city has made a massive recovery since dispatch of its most famous criminal, and a lot of working is going into improving it further still. We also ate some nice food and drink by the guides suggestion whilst in town and got back to the safety just in time to witness a massive thunderstorm! Once this cleared I had some awesome chicken at a place called burdo nearby in the neighbourhood, Poblado.
My main goal for being here was to try and perfect my spanish and formally get some lessons to get rid of any bad habits/ cover off the last of things I was struggling with. So, I spent most of the day researching schools and doing as many assessment tests as I could before heading to a language exchange event and met a couple of cool locals I reckoned is try and practise with some other time. I then went back to the hostel and got roped into singing despacito. Ok in fairness I didn’t need much convincing. The shock of a gringo singing a spanish song apparently warranted an encore which I was not prepared for… so did an ed sheeran song, which is one of the ten or so non latin songs that are super popular here.
It was out to a place called la octava that ultimately became a favourite… I think I’ve been there four times now. It has a ball pit!! Then we headed to a couple of spots on the main drag near parque lleras to dance the rest of the night away with bottles of aguardiente, the local spirit, in tow.
The next day I had lunch with a mate of mine from university, Danny, and heard about his story of how he came to live here with his girlfriend Katy and what he was up to now. I also got some good tips, especially in respect of private spanish teachers. The schools had said they didn’t have classes at the right level available right now and the private lessons they offered were very expensive, as I found out from my interview at a school in envigado straight after the lunch. I wandered around this neighbourhood a bit before getting a bus back, chatting with an old guy and getting my own verse in a song sung by a troubadour busking on the bus.
I went paragliding with Angie, a girl from the states I’d met in the hostal, the next day and it was awesome!! I’d never done this before and got some great views of bello to the north as well as the rest of Medillin from the view point afforded by the airspace of san felix. We then went around the botanical garden, caved into the temptation of some ice cream ahead of another night out including a further visit to la octava. I had the most amazing post night snack which was a sort of salchipapa type dish (sausage, chips and cheese). Super healthy…
I had a nice brunch with a Swiss guy called Rafael who had been with us, followed by a Steet art tour in comuna 13 a different part of the city undergoing (and needing) some development. We had some nice local Ice cream watched some Body popping and even had a mini dance lesson at the end of it. Bridge, from Holland and future spanish lesson partner!, joined us a nice dinner at an Indian restaurant after to mark the end of Rafas stay.
The next day Bridge and I had our first Spanish lesson and it was really good, we then had another one the next day with a different teacher… and it was also really good. It was tough to pick our favourite so we tried to do both but ultimately decided it didn’t make sense to try and run in parallel and would be better off sticking to the one to benefit most. That night I went to another language exchange event and found a street fighter machine at a place called vintrash!!
I became a bit nocturnal for a couple of days and went to another Language exchange in the next and learned a lot of local slang, followed by karaoke again then out. We went to a salsa place which was awesome! Called son Havana. There was a live band which was brilliant and we were joined by a few more Dutch girls as well as a lovely Irish couple that formed a solid part of the crew going forward. Then back for some more dancing at parque lleras.
I woke up fairly late and spent a while trying to convince myself to leave the comfortable hammock and get some lunch. Fortunately the Uruguayan guy dude offered to cook some risotto so I made a token effort of helping by slicing up some veg and we had a really nice meal with the Argentinian guy also. I did some language exchange in poblado park with a girl who lived in a different part of town called Luisa, and got a michelada for the first time in a while. They seem a bit different in Colombia and don’t have the spice to which I had become accustomed but it was still a refreshing way to drink beer. I had another language exchange event that night in the envigado neighbourhood and by chance bumped into Bridge in town who was on her way to dinner with some local friends of hers in the same sort of area so we shared the bus, which was nice until I accidentally smacked her in the head with my phone on the way out… sorry Bridge!
The intercambio exchange at Colombia immersion school here in envigado was packed and had a good atmosphere. It was great to interact with some locals who were fairly beginner at English but super keen to learn and really nice. It did get a bit rowdy and difficult to hear but all good natured. I met a couple of people from my trial class earlier in the week and was tempted to go out with the group from there but already had plans with the hostel crew so headed back and had a few drinks. We also Ran into group of people that worked at the hostel who were all great, and went to a really intense place called Calle 9+1 between Calle 9 and Calle 10. Arguably Calle 9.5 would have been better name? Most people called it a day after that but I was still keen to keep going as well as a nice Venezuelan who was holding birthday balloons so felt compelled to carry on! We headed to a place miles away called top secret. It had great music and a friendly atmosphere. There was a blind girl strutting her stuff with her guide dog inside as well which was cool, not something I’d seen before! Out of nowhere Bridge appears with the friends she had dinner with and we rejoiced at the second random reunion of the day. It was light by the time we decided to leave and attempted to wait outside for an Uber. The bouncer strongly advised we stayed indoors until it arrived and used the cameras to see when it pulled up. Apparently in this part of town Its pretty dangerous waiting outside at this hour. Said the goodbyes and finally hit the hay, promising in vain that I’d take it a bit easier tomorrow.
I met another friend, Norida, in a Juan Valdez coffee shop (there are loads of these everywhere) and had a really good Language exchange tandem before heading to Dancefree for a formal event and had a really good chat about computer programming (Nerd Alert) with a dude who did it for a living, and I’d never really spoken in Spanish about it before. I wasted no opportunity talking about the only two things I’ve done in my life that vaguely resemble writing code. Then it was a free dance class… I was erroneously expecting salsa but it was some Brazilian dance I’d never heard of called kozumba… I think. Norida had to leave to catch the last metro and I didn’t stay much longer afterwards but finished the class not entirely sure what I’d just learned but it was certainly pretty energetic. On the way home for a relatively early night… I bumped into Koen from the Galapagos! With his friend Erwin (if I’m spelling that right…) We had a few beers and went to Vintrash again with some Brazilian guys. I spoke with an American who came here all the time on business and he gave me some caipirinha which was nice, spoke with a Colombian dude for yet more Spanish practice and a girl who apparently was an actress in Colombia but in stuff I would never have heard of. Then left that place to head to another area in taxi with a guy from Zimbabwe, Erwin and some Aussie girls.
We danced a bit and spoke to more locals, then finished with a nice bit of drama as the Zimbabwean guy had left leaving one of the Aussies (apparently his girlfriend) behind in the club. Think it was some sort of misunderstanding but we dropped her back to their hotel in a taxi and finally home. Fingers crossed all well!
Slack rope in the park with Bridge who was a budding pro at this, I even managed to get a couple of carefully timed videos that look like I’m doing it. It’s really really hard! Good work out for the legs though. I then a call from my Brazilian friend Amanda (I met in Chile) who had the American boss coming so wanted to practise some English and so I asked questions about what she’d been in her job as a food safety engineer. Pretty interesting actually!
Bridge and I continued with the Spanish lessons, making some good progress on some pretty advanced stuff and had a cool lesson in the park one day. I did more language exchanges with Norida and went to a cool free concert in the park with Luisa and some of her friends/ family which marked the end of a recent festival. The band was called the suffers, from Texas I’d not heard of before but were really good! I finally bought myself a basketball to make the most of the nearby court and played with Norida and Koa who were both pretty damn competent I have to say. Also played a game with some locals / other random travellers which was absolutely exhausting! There was kid who was tiny but just kept sinking basket after basket from distances where you would have thought he didn’t need to be marked… suffice to say I am glad he was on my team!
The day too quickly arrived where we were all pretty much leaving the hostel, except Alberto who was part of the group but worked there! We had a last hurrah together including an emotionally charged rendition of piano man in karaoke. It was just Koa who was going to stay on but this changed impulsively after watching Star Wars around 3 am having come back and he got his ticket to leave in about three hours time. I have to say he’s an awesome cook and did Korean chicken thighs for us and a take on kfc another. General consensus being it was arguably the best we’d ever had.
The day after I met up again with Riza that I met from Brazil and we had a nice lunch followed by wandering around estadio for a bit. Really nice to see her again, it had a been a while! Apparently she’d spotted me in a class at dancefree but wasn’t sure it was me so we exchanged texts after!
I then left the hostel in order to live with a Colombian family and knuckle down on the Spanish. The benefit here is that the parents didn’t speak English, their son could but humoured me with Spanish anyway giving me an immersive experience. That coupled with a daily one on one lesson really paid dividends and as I write this I’m feeling pretty fluent now but obviously more vocab can always be learned. And slang, I will never learn all the slang.
They were all lovely and I managed to have some nice chats with them, the son Jose was learning guitar so I did a bit with him and gave some tips and encouragement etc. As well as learning some new music based vocab! The dad was an accountant too! So we nerded it up a bit, sharing information and mostly new words for me. Thrilling, I’m sure you will agree… I also checked out the UPB (university) and spent some time in the library. Easy to get in, you just need to register with a passport free.
In my almost two weeks there I managed to work my through a load of nice eateries of the Laureles neighbourhood. I highly recommend this place, it’s really nice and makes a welcome break from the touristy/ nightlife driven world of poblado. After three weeks in the hostel going out at least half the time it was a welcome change up for mind body and soul. I went to visit Norida for lunch with her mum and had a nice walk around Copacabana which is lovely. Have to note a special mention to the most massive avocado I have ever seen that graced our presence for lunch. Apparently it’s normal here.. but it was like a melon… I could barely eat the whole slice given to me along with the massive lunch. Wasting food is absolutely not an option here so I made a big effort to eat it all but it took some time. The three of us chatted a lot and it got a bit late to make it all the way back so in a dazzling display of Colombian hospitality I was invited to stay over, and got Noridas bed as she shared with her mum. I couldn’t believe it really… that would never happen back home!!
I managed to see Alberto and Denis one more time and eat some amazing ribs at a fairly inappropriately named restaurant back in poblado “fu*in good ribs”. In fairness the name is accurate albeit vulgar and they only open Fridays and Saturdays so make sure you take note if any danger of being there. I recommend it wholeheartedly. I also went to Santa Elena in the vicinity with Luisa who kindly picked me up in her car and we had some awesome pizza and drink, went to the lord of the rings themed magic mountain, and ate some delicious merengon. This is merengue with fruit and a bucketload of cream. It’s amazing but we got it form a street stall and I was very ill the next day… I don’t think it was a coincidence.
I got over it with a days rest and some local tips, then onwards to carnival!… which I’ve already uploaded…