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Backpacking Colombia: Part Two (Jardin to Medellin)

Backpacking Colombia: Part Two (Jardin to Medellin)

Thursday, July 19th

Today is the day we head to the place I've been looking forward to the most: Jardin. 

I've read some amazing things about this sleepy little colorful town and I'm so excited to see what it's about. 

There isn't a ton to do in Jardin, but after traveling for three weeks, doing all sorts of things, that sounds pretty nice! 

Fun Fact: Jardin is about 109 miles from Salento but we have to take three separate buses and it takes all day to get there (love ya, Colombia!) 

Our first bus left from Salento around 8AM and took about an hour. It dropped us at the bus station in Pereira, where we caught our second bus to Riosucio. This bus took about 3 hours. Our third bus was the most interesting. We rode three hours on a Chiva (a local, open-air bus) on a dirt road through winding mountains. Definitely a bumpy and dusty ride. 

 Literally everything was covered in dust by the end of our trip!

Literally everything was covered in dust by the end of our trip!

We finally made it to Jardin around 6PM, checked into our hostel (we stayed at Kantarrana Urbana Hostel). This hostel was quite expensive but there was a festival going on in town and literally ever single hostel/hotel was booked! And when you wait until the day before to book your hostel, you take what you can get!

We were pretty hungry, so we checked in, dropped our packs, and immediately went to the town square (soon to be our favorite place in Jardin) to find some food. 

We decided on a restaurant that the receptionist recommended. She said it had good local dishes and she was right! I had a delicious grilled steak with french fries, an arepa (a traditional Colombian food made of ground maize), and salad. Michael had Fiambre (see below). This is a super popular traditional meal with rice, ground beef, sausages, a hard boiled egg, pork belly, potatoes, and an arepa, all wrapped in a banana leaf. Both meals were delicious!

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Friday, July 20th (Colombian Independence day!)

Happy Colombian Independence Day! Today we slept in and had a delicious breakfast at our hostel. After, we wandered out into the town.

As I've mentioned before, Colombia is colorful! Jardin is probably the most colorful place we've been. Every home, restaurant, business is painted in a myriad of bright and vibrant colors. 

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We wandered up and down every single street (this town is pretty small) and visited a few shops including Las Dulces del Jardin, a sweet shop where we sampled jams, jellies, and different flavors of Arequipe (esentially this is Dulce de Leche and it's freaking amazing). We bought a flavor containing a starchy dried root (I promise is delicious!) and some butter cookies to enjoy later on.

We continued wandering around and then landed back in the town square. This is where we spent most of our time in Jardin. Overlooked by a beautiful church, this town square was always full of people and it was the perfect place to people watch. We loved watching families play and selfie together and street vendors try to sell food, clothing, accessories, and more. We also loved to just sit and eat the different snacks in the square.

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 The inside of this beautiful church. I am obsessed with the clean white lines!

The inside of this beautiful church. I am obsessed with the clean white lines!

 Me buying fruit, completely in Spanish without Michael's help!

Me buying fruit, completely in Spanish without Michael's help!

 When we got tired of sitting on a bench, we'd move to a coffee shop, 100ft from the bench.

When we got tired of sitting on a bench, we'd move to a coffee shop, 100ft from the bench.

And this is how we spent our time in Jardin. We sat, drank coffee, ate snacks, watched people and performances, and just enjoyed the time to rest and relax.

For dinner we ate at the local food stalls in the middle of the town square. I got some empandas and Michael got a meat cake with french fries and an arepa. 

Saturday, July 21st

Today was basically a repeat of yesterday: breakfast at hostel, wander into town, sit in main square and people watch, drink coffee, rest, relax, and eat snacks. 

I also got shat on by a bird today. I was working on my blog on my phone (trying to produce some content for you guys) and the bird above me dumped on my phone and in my hair. Lil dick. 

At around 1:30, we decided to try a place for lunch suggested to us by the receptionist at our hostel. Apparently it's super popular, serving very local dishes, and it's only open for lunch. We went at the perfect time because we were able to get a table right away but as soon as we sat down, the crowds came. 

 Our lunch spot.

Our lunch spot.

This is a grill place so they specialize in, well, grilled foods. I had a delicious thick cut steak with salt crusted potatoes and salad and Michael had the most typical dish in this region: Bandeja Paisa. It's a hearty portion of beans, rice, ground beef, fried sausages, fried egg, fried pork belly, avocado, and an arepa. Both meals were amazing and we were super full for our three hour bus ride ahead!

After lunch we went back to our hostel (right up the street), grabbed our bags and headed to the bus station. 

We took a three hour bus to Medellin. Though this bus was 10 times better than our last bus to Jardin, it was a windy and slightly bumpy ride. Plus is was pretty warm on the bus. 

Either way, we were pleased when we rolled into Medellin around 6PM. We caught a quick taxi to the El Poblado neighborhood where our hostel was located. 

We're staying in Selina Medellin hostel, another slightly expensive place but we decided to spoil ourselves and book a place that had A/C. It's in the 80's (F) in Medellin during the day so we wanted to make sure we were comfortable. 

We wandered out into El Poblado for some dinner and ate at an Italian restaurant. This place is much more touristy and many of the restaurants near us are not local restaurants. 

Sunday, July 22nd

Today we woke up, ate breakfast at our hostel, and headed out to meet our guide for our Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour. The city of Medellin is split into different comunas (similar to districts). Comuna 13 was once considered the most dangerous neighborhood in Colombia due to the murder rate, drug and gang wars between paramilitary groups and guerrilla groups. This neighborhood has managed to transform itself from the dangerous murderous neighborhood to a place where creativity flourishes and tourists visit. 

According to our guide Walter, the metro system and other modes of public transport in Medellin are fairly new (the metro was built in 1995). These modes of public transport have been extremely helping in aiding in the transformation of this city, allowing people from all parts to access it. 

On our tour, we took the metro to the cable car line which we then rode all the way up to get a good view of the entirity of the Comuna 13 district. 

After taking the metro back down, our group took a short public bus ride to the elescalators in Comuna 13. Built by the government, these escalators were built to help unite the people of Comuna 13 with the city of Medellin. 

We rode the six sets of escalators all the way up, where our guide then continued explaining the past and the beautiful graffiti of the area. 

 Our guide Walter explaining the meaning behind one of the most important murals in Comuna 13.

Our guide Walter explaining the meaning behind one of the most important murals in Comuna 13.

 Bad ass abuelita. 

Bad ass abuelita. 

 Here's some PDA for ya. This is the traditional "couple" mural (hence the love birds behind us.) Our tour guide took a photo of every couple kissing in front of the mural.

Here's some PDA for ya. This is the traditional "couple" mural (hence the love birds behind us.) Our tour guide took a photo of every couple kissing in front of the mural.

 If you look closely at this photo (click to enlarge) you can see various gunshot holes in this brick. Our guide explained that these gunshot holes were left like this for the people of the community to remember their past so they wouldn't repeat it. 

If you look closely at this photo (click to enlarge) you can see various gunshot holes in this brick. Our guide explained that these gunshot holes were left like this for the people of the community to remember their past so they wouldn't repeat it. 

We spent some time wandering around the comuna before heading back down and back to the metro. 

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 We had a snack of arepas con queso while on the tour.

We had a snack of arepas con queso while on the tour.

 We ended our tour in a coffee shop where we had their signature beverage: coffee lemonade. Sounds gross but it wasn't bad!

We ended our tour in a coffee shop where we had their signature beverage: coffee lemonade. Sounds gross but it wasn't bad!

 Bill Clinton was also in the coffee shop with us and we were freakishly excited about it. 

Bill Clinton was also in the coffee shop with us and we were freakishly excited about it. 

Our tour was over and our guide gave a few recommendations on what to do on a Sunday in Medellin. He recommended taking the metro to University Station because it was Sunday and a lot of locals go here to be with family and to just chill.

He was right! We took the metro and got off at the station to find tons of street vendors selling foods, jewelry, knick knacks and more. We also found people out with their horses giving rides to kids. It all reminded us of being at the county fair. We walked down the main street and literally stopped and ate at many food stalls. We had meat skewers, churros, ice cream, popcorn, donuts, and Michael had a Mango Michelada (mango, salt, lime, and a little bit of beer--I thought it was so gross but he enjoyed it.) 

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After our eating fest, we hung around this area for awhile just people watching and then we rode the metro back to our hostel for some rest. It's much hotter here in Medellin (it's in the low 80's (F) during the day and we need to rest after being in the hot sun!)

Monday, July 23rd 

Today we woke up, had breakfast and started on our way to meet with another tour group. Today we went on the Real City Free Walking Tour. This is the number 1 rated activity on TripAdvisor for Medellin, so we decided to give it a go. 

Our guide was Juan and after getting us all checked in a ready to go, we set off. Juan did an amazing job informing us of the history, culture, violence and more of Medellin. He explained, in more detail, how the violence started between the paramilitary groups and guerrilla groups, he talked about the "famous criminal" from Medellin (you should know who this is) and why he couldn't say his name.

As I'm sure you probably know, Pablo Escobar, was the famous drug lord from Medellin during the 80's and 90's, trafficking and smuggling cocaine and murdering thousands of people (especially police officers) in Medellin. Our guide explained how most people in Medellin hate to even hear Escobar's name, especially when it's brought up around tourists.

What we've come to learn during our time in Colombia is this, some people love Escobar. He did build homes, neighborhoods, soccer fields, and more for certain people in the area. But most people hate him. He wreaked havoc on the lives of so many, creating terror and chaos in the community, killing thousands and aiding in developing a stigma for Colombia and it's inhabitants.

Juan did a phenomenal job answering all of our questions and explaining this famous, yet sordid, history behind cocaine in Colombia. 

As we continued on with the tour, Juan took us around downtown Medellin and explained government policy and how things work in this city. He also showed us some of the seedy parts of town, places where most people say not to go while in Medellin. 

 This city square used to be the main market where drug dealers, prostitutes, thieves, and gang members used to hang out and conduct business. It has now been turned into a place of hope. These light-saber looking posts are lit up at night displaying rays of light, which to some equal hope.   Part of how Medellin is transforming is by doing things like this. Taking what was once known as a place of despair and turning it into a place of hope. 

This city square used to be the main market where drug dealers, prostitutes, thieves, and gang members used to hang out and conduct business. It has now been turned into a place of hope. These light-saber looking posts are lit up at night displaying rays of light, which to some equal hope. 

Part of how Medellin is transforming is by doing things like this. Taking what was once known as a place of despair and turning it into a place of hope. 

 We visited Botero Square where we were able to see more of our favorite chubby art. 

We visited Botero Square where we were able to see more of our favorite chubby art. 

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Juan also took us to the site of where a bomb was detonated during a 1995 music festival, killing 30 and injuring over 200. The bomb was detonated right next to Botero's famous bird statue. Juan explained that when the mayor tried removing the ruined statue, that Botero himself said it should be kept, as a symbol of where Medellin has come from and to remind it's people to never let these things happen again.

Botero also donated a second statue of a bird, showing it's rebirth and solidarty with the victims. 

This tour was so moving, so powerful, and so informative. If you're ever traveling to Medellin, it is an absolute must do!

After the tour, we stopped in a very old bar serving beer, coffee, and potato chips. This place has been around since the 1940's and it's filled with old knick knacks and cool people. 

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There's also a DJ spinning mad tracks on the record player.

 That's the DJ behind the wooden railing.

That's the DJ behind the wooden railing.

We decided to ride the cable car up to get more views of the city after our drinks.

We finished our day by eating tacos from a place called Criminal Taqueria (you didn't think I could go a whole month without eating my favorite food, did you?) followed by an epic snack fest and Netflix watching in bed. 

 #vacay 

#vacay 

Tuesday, July 24th

Today we had an earlier start. We got up, ate breakfast, and took an Uber to the Museo Casa de la Memoria (Memory House Museum) which is a beautifully crafted interactive museum honoring the victims of Medellin’s violence. We only spent about an hour here, but we were moved by the museum and it’s commitment to honoring the past so the people of Medellin will do their best not to repeat it.

After spending some time at the museum we caught a taxi from our hostel to the airport so we could fly to our final destination of our month long trip: Cartagena!

Stay tuned for the final installment in the Backpacking Colombia series! You won't want to miss out on this one!

With love,

Emily

Backpacking Colombia: Part Three (Cartagena + A Giveaway {CLOSED}!)

Backpacking Colombia: Part Three (Cartagena + A Giveaway {CLOSED}!)

Backpacking Colombia: Part One (From Bogota to Salento)

Backpacking Colombia: Part One (From Bogota to Salento)