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Early retirement travels - week 9 Colombia

Grafiti artist at work in Communa 13

I can’t say that I’m not relieved to move away from the heat and the humidity of Colombia’s Caribbean coast. It’s certainly a beautiful part of the world, but it’s a hot and humid part of the world too. In comparison, Medellin, with it’s pleasant year round temperature, is known as the city of eternal spring. That suits me much better.

What suited me less was not being a hundred percent healthy, as my daughter decided to share the bug she’d had at the end of last week. She had it worse but I won the longevity contest, making it last the whole week. I’ll spare the details, trust me, you’ll thank me for that.

Because we weren’t feeling great we did some things in the morning while we felt better, and then took things easy in the afternoon. We had three days in Medellin so we did three things: a guided walking tour through Communa 13, a trip on the San Javier Cable Car and a self-guided walking tour through central Medellin.

Best of the three was the Communa 13 guided tour. It was fascinating to hear the story of what was once one of the most dangerous districts in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and how it’s transformed into the vibrant community it is today. Two things that aren't normally my thing are grafiti and breakdancing - I didn't even realise this was still a thing - but both were in Communa 13 and were absolute highlights. Our guide lived in the Communa and was clearly proud of her neighbourhood and the positive changes that it's seen, but also realistic to tell us some of the problems that still exist.

One can’t visit Medellin and not think about the connection to drugs. Although the city is vastly changed, some internet research soon reveals that drugs and Colombia are still very much tied together. In 2017, 70% of the world’s cocaine came from Colombia and production was at record levels. The difference these days is the traffickers have figured out that death and violence is not good for business. I guess that’s an improvement, but it’s a long way from a solution.

The San Javier cable car trip was worth doing. Medellin is rightly proud of it's metro system, which includes three cable cars that connect what were traditionally the poor areas in the mountains to the city. These cable cars provide a fantastic sightseeing experience for very little money.

After the Communa 13 tour and the cable car ride, our self-guided walking tour of central Medellin was a little disappointing. Although we’d downloaded a route to follow, we didn’t get to discover the history and the little details that bring these walks to life. We visited the busier and noisier parts, which are the parts of cities that I'm always less keen on. We should have signed up for an organised tour, particularly as they are not expensive in Colombia. It was a shame that this was our last activity because overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Medellin.

Our next stop was Salento, an eight hour bus ride south from Medellin. We searched some blogs to find our travel options and found this from “The road from Medellin to Salento is extremely curvy in parts as you are heading to a mountainous area. This doesn’t matter to your driver who believes he is a Formula 1 driver and will drive accordingly”. We can confirm this to be true, it was an exciting journey! On the plus side, it was a pretty luxurious bus, good leg room, air-conditioning, WIFI, chargers, seat back TV’s and a toilet. Maybe I should be checking whether I need to go back to business class travel?

Salento is a small, pretty town known for it’s colourful houses, coffee farms, tall wax palm trees and lots of green mountains. The town itself stands at nearly 1,900 metres and we got to a shade under 3,000 metres during our hike in the Cocora Valley. We ticked the main things off our list and managed to get soaked by the rain during each of them. Our idea was to do things in the morning when it’s more likely to be dry, but we never quite managed to finish our activities before the heavens opened.

The coffee farm was interesting but could have been better - I'm sure we could have learned more about the growing and producing of coffee. Exploring the colourful town and our hike in the Cocora Valley for the Wax Palm Trees didn’t disappoint though. It takes some time to get to Salento, but we’re glad we did it.

As to exercise, being less than healthy this week meant that it wasn’t sensible to exercise. For eating, some days food was just a few oranges, others it was a salad, and if I fancied a crème brûlée then that’s what I had. I’m going to call this a “not applicable” week for my exercise and healthy eating scorecard.

Daily diary and costs

I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I find my blog is a little like keeping a journal and sometimes read back about what I did or what I was thinking six months or a year ago. I always thought that keeping a diary sounded a bit dull, but it turns out it can be kind of fun.

Week 9 - what we've done:

Monday – Medellin. Commua 13 walking tour. Chatting with other hostel residents. Reading in a hammock.

Tuesday – Medellin. Sightseeing from the San Javier cable car. Café stop. Quiet afternoon

Wednesday – Medellin. Self guided walking tour. Lunch in Poblado. Quiet afternoon.

Thursday – Travel from Medellin to Salento

Friday – Salento. Exploring the town. Coffee tour in the afternoon.

Saturday – Salento. Cocora Valley hike. Quiet afternoon.

Sunday – Salento. Walk to a viewpoint. Exploring the shops and cafes. Relaxing afternoon

Week 9 - I spent a total of £174 / €195 / $228 for 1 person on:

Accommodation £65 / €72 / $85

Meals/Coffee/Snacks £41 / €46 / $54

Transport £21 / €24 / $27

Toiletries/Medicine £6 / €7 / $8

Laundry £6 / €6 / $7

Tours/Attractions £20 / €23 / $27

Other £15 / €17 / $20


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