Archive for March, 2006

colombia: Medellin

Typical Colombian breakfast: scrambled eggs, piece of cheese, arepa (Colombian tortilla)


Breakfast was not my favourite meal of the day, nor was lunch, or supper. The food just wasn’t that great for vegetarians. It may be better for carnivores, but there is so much fried food that it really can’t be that healthy. Chicken is the most popular thing to fry. Medellin was Pablo Escobar’s (the infamous drug lord) home. Apparently drug activity is not what it used to be here and the city is now fairly safe. In fact, life goes on as usual and Medellin is truly a busy city. There are so many people downtown during business hours and until late evening. The traffic was amazing: fast, scary, dangerous. The noise level was incredible. The number of people, the noise, and the traffic made the place really stressful for us. The noise was generated by different kind of business establishments that blasted out music to attract pedestrian traffic into their stores. Walking along you would constantly hear different types of music playing at high volume at the same time. It was very bizarre and unbearable. Medellin was not one of my favourite places. In fact, I don’t see much point in visiting this city. The highlight for me was the discovery of Fernando Botero’s work — one of Colombia’s well-known artists.


Medellin-Botero Scultpures

This plaza downtown has Botero’s magnificent sculptures all over the place.

His sculptures are huge and the figures stompy. He has a very unique style. The picture below shows one of his paintings on top of a building. He paints in the same style he sculpts.


Medellin-Botero Advertisement

Botero painting on top of building.

There were a lot of interesting details about people’s life in the city. For example, there were a lot of hairdresser shops with many hairdressers or barbers. See the small shop below which is a typical example. Tidy hair seems to be very important for men and women.




Typical hairdresser shop in Medellin.


There were many services available right on the sidewalk, such as the man providing typing services below. Also common to see where sewing machine services, and phone call services with cell phones. This one was common all over Colombia. People with one of more cell phones selling by the call phone usage.

Medellin-Typing Services

See the seated man on the right hand side. He was providing typing services.

Below is the bus station to take buses to other parts of Colombia. The picture shows an aerobics class right in the bus station! Most people in the class moved quite gracefully and there were quite a few guys too. I think they’re much more comfortable with aerobics because its like a dance form or at least their moves were dance like. And they didn’t seem to mind being watched.

Medellin-Aerobics at bus station

Aerobics at the bus station!


According to our guide book, Medellin is the place for tango. We wanted to go watch a show but unfortunately after experiencing so much noise during the day we couldn’t bear hearing more. So we went to a nice, quite theatre to see “We don’t live here anymore”. It was an intense but pretty good show. It was in English with Spanish subtitles, so there were only six people in the theatre. Perfect. Laura.


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Taganga, a fishing village on the Carabbean coast

After Cartagena it was a relief to get away from the aggressive sellers. Santa Marta is a town of 300,000. It’s north of Cartagena and still on the Caribbean coast but it’s hotter, much hotter and it is much calmer and friendlier than Cartagena. It has a nice pedestrian walkway by the beach. We didn’t spend much time there because we really wanted to get to much smaller places and to see some of Colombia’s nature. So from the road along the beach we flagged down a colectivo (usually a volkswagon van that can squeeze in up to 16 if necessary) to Taganga, a small fishing village. If you happen to sit at the front, behind the bus driver and on the isle side, you become responsible for taking people’s money and returning change; Lenny got the honour to do that twice. You see, when you get in you go sit down right away, because as soon as your feet are inside the driver moves right on, so it’s easy to lose balance. Once you’re seated, you pass on your money to the person in front. The drive to Taganga was beautiful, it is only 30 minutes away from Santa Marta and the bus ride was 800 pesos, which is 40 cents Canadian. Taganga was great. It’s a small fishing village, really laid back and not yet developed for tourism. The roads were all dirt and rock with chickens and harmless dogs running around, and goats grazing. (The species of dogs in Colombia is more varied than the dogs in Guatemala.) There are quite a few fresh fruit juice stands on the main road by the beach. My favourite one was run by a woman who called both Lenny and I “mi amor”. So when I asked a question, she would reply with “Si, mi amor.”

Taganga- fruit stand

Fruit stand in Taganga

In Taganga we did some snorkelling and saw some neat stuff as there was a coral reef at another beach (Playa Grande) a half hour walk away. We hired a guide, Chico, who was going to teach us some breathing exercises that would enable us to last longer under water. Well, it was interesting because he didn’t teach us anything! Dealing with people is sometimes weird in Colombia. They say yes when they should say no. We had told him he needed to speak slowly and he seemed to fully comprehend this the day before, but on the day we met for snorkelling he was speaking to us like we were Spanish. In fact many people are speaking to us as we were natives–gets to be quite frustrating. I’m now getting into forming puzzled expressions or just going “aha” for an easy way out. Taganga was great for relaxing and laying in a hammock.

Taganga-Playa Grande

Playa Grande in Taganga, where we snorkelled

After Taganga we went to Parque Tayrona, which is along the Caribbean coast. After you enter the park, you walk along spectacular beaches. We then headed inland within the park to El Pueblito, an uninhabited indigenous village except for one family which is what the government allows. There are indigenous people elsewhere in the park. We went on this trek with a guide. His name was Eduardo and unfortunately our experience with him was a bit frustrating. He constantly tried to prove to us that a guide was necessary, so whenever we arrived at a fork on the path he would say “Which way would you go now?” Then he would also ask the Canadian price of some of our possessions. His stories about his experiences seemed quite exaggerated at times. By the way, he spoke English as he lived in Montreal and the states. And he’s a Hare Krishna. We could tell that at the end he expected a nice tip, so when he didn’t get it right away he started apologizing, “…if he had done something wrong”. There’s more that could be said about him, but I’ll leave some for the slide show in Vancouver.

Parque Tayrona - El Pueblito

El Pueblito, an uninhabited indigenous village (except for one family)

Our guide and indigenous person

Indigenous person at left, Eduardo, our guide at right


Arecifes beach in Parque Tayrona

Cabo San Juan

Cabo San Juan beach in Parque Tayrona

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