Big, Bad Medellin

We have bad sleep karma here. First, Siena woke up again when the flashlight we had left on ran out of battery (no Energizer batteries here). Then at 4 am, we heard a knock on the door and somebody calling my name. I jumped up startled and opened the door to find one of the refuge workers there telling me that we needed to move the car because the river was rising due to heavy rains.  They were afraid that our car, parked near our cabin, would get washed away. Poor Esteban had to get dressed and go out in the rain to move the car. We both had a hard time falling back asleep after all of this commotion but miraculously, the kids slept through it all.

We still had a great morning at Rio Claro. We went back to our favorite swimming hole and spent a few hours frolicking around and exploring the jungle near the waterfalls.

Then we squeezed back into our car and drove three and a half hours to Medellin. Our car really gets hot! We get mad at the kids for misbehaving but they really are troopers for sitting, squeezed like sardines, in the back of this hot car.

The scenery on this stretch of road was even more beautiful, tropical and lush. It was also more exciting because this was Pablo Escobar country (the infamous Colombian drug lord) and pretty much off limits to Colombians and foreigners. Even after Escobar was killed by government forces in 1993, this area was extremely dangerous for many years due to guerilla and paramilitary presence. And of course, Medellin, in my mind, is linked to drug cartels and extreme violence. However, we have heard so many wonderful things about it since moving to Colombia – that it’s green, clean, beautiful, with extremely friendly and hard-working people – that I am very excited to check it out.

As we got closer to Medellin, the architecture started to change (more horse country like with severe, columned front porches as opposed to the colorful, relaxed houses in Tierra Caliente). It also got cooler and we started to see pine trees. I haven’t seen pine trees in Colombia and for some reason, I kept thinking that this is what Croatia must be like. I have never been to Croatia but I have read books set there with the scenery described just like this. In any case, everything was extremely green all around.

As we were driving into Medellin, past the airport, Esteban was telling me that when he came here for work with the World Bank twenty years ago (wow, we are getting old!), the roads were so dangerous that they weren’t allowed to go out much around the city or drive around on their own. It really felt like an adventure and a privilege to be able to do it now.

In any case, as we approached Medellin, we could see that it was like a fishbowl, with mountains on all sides. The way to drive in is down a super steep road leading from the rim of the fishbowl to the bowl bottom, where the city lies. As we drove down the steep road, we could smell the burnt rubber from our tires and our breaks were screeching like crazy. I was really afraid they would give out! Very scary!

Our hotel was hard to find but we did, eventually, and we were very pleased. The Best Western Cyan Suites, a two bedroom/2 bathroom suite with a living room and kitchen. Super clean and modern, located in a great neighborhood up on a hill with huge windows and a balcony providing fantastic views of the entire fishbowl and Medellin. And did I mention the super friendly, personalized service? All this for about $105 per night – what a steal! Fantastic!

Our hotel was also a five minute cab ride from El Poblado, the sanitized (meaning affluent and nice) yet fun and happening part of town, full of bars and restaurants. How I missed international cuisine and couldn’t wait to get my hands on something other than fried fish and rice! The only bummer was that our nanny called and said that there was a problem with her bus ticket and they wouldn’t be able to make it to Medellin. She and her daughter have family here and were going to spend a few days with them and then, a few days at the hotel with us – the kids playing with her daughter and our nanny providing an extra pair of hands and also baby sitting at night so we could go out and sample Medellin’s famed nightlife. The kids were really bummed – they were looking forward to seeing her daughter and we were looking forward to some help! And going out!

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