Tuesday, April 2, 2013


               Spring break here in Ecuador is called Semana Santa because it is the week leading up to Easter. The best part about this week is that there are no classes!! So I grabbed my friend Carley and we booked a ticket from Quito to Medellin, Colombia. After a 24 hour late start (read about it on my previous post), we finally arrived in Medellin and checked in to the Black Sheep Hostel located in El Poblado. We grabbed some beers and headed outside to talk with all the other travelers. There were tons of Germans, tons of Kiwis and Aussies, a handful of Brits, and a Colombian. We ended up going out salsa dancing with a few people and had a great time watching the amazing dancing of the locals. 
The next morning we circled all the tourist sites on the map and started our sightseeing day. We started by taking the metro to the north of the city where you can ride a cable car up the side of the mountains where the poorest part of the city is. At the top there is a large library called La Biblioteca Español. It is shaped like two large black boulders and caters to the most marginalized part of the city. The view is amazing! Further up the cable car is the top of the mountain... but you keep going for 30 minutes over a beautiful forest with metallic butterflies. At the end is a HUGE park with horses, lakes, museums, markets, and whatever else you can imagine. We didn't have enough time to hike around, but we enjoyed the sun and took the cable car down again to the main city. Next, we went to the Botanical Gardens which are beautiful. We were there on a Sunday so there were hundreds of people just hanging out in the park. We took a nap on the grass and then walked around a different part of the city where we found a planetarium. Neither of us had been to a planetarium in a long time and the one in Medellin is one of the best in the world so we bought a ticket and waited outside watching all the kids play in the fountains.
   On Monday we walked around the city and went to Botero Plaza, the Museum de Antioquia, and saw a few churches. The next day we took a walking tour of Medellin run by a young guy trying to break into the tourism business. It was an amazing tour and showed us many parts of the city. That afternoon we boarded a plane to Cartagena and once we arrived, we went to an air-conditioned salsa bar. 
            The next day we spent walking around the beautiful colonial town. All the buildings are unique and many have huge window boxes filled with flowers and are painted bright colors. Around the city center is a huge stone wall with cannons scattered around. In the evening we hopped on a chiva which is an open-air party bus that has a band playing live music and unlimited alcohol. We drove around the city and stopped to dance and hold sloths. The tour ended at a club which was ok for old people, but our group decided to head to a huge hostal right outside the stone wall called Media Luna. It was a huge party with live music. 
         My favorite part of the whole trip was today: we took a tour of Islas del Rosario. We went to the port in the morning and got on a small motor boat crammed with people and took a sea-sickening ride to islands an hour or so off shore. Cartagena is located on the Caribbean coast so the water is all kinds of colors. We let some people off to tour an aquarium but a few of us stayed on the boat to go snorkeling at another island. Snorkeling was AMAZING. Even though the coral reef was in bad condition, we were able to see tons of species of tropical fish. 
          Our last day in Cartagena consisted of touring a castle called Castillo San Felipe which was the Spanish Army’s castle. We spent the rest of the day walking around the city some more, eating tons of fruit, and hanging out with people at the hostal. We took a night bus to Medellin and spent the next day shopping and walking around the city some more. That night we went out with a lot of people from our hostal to la Zona Rosa which is the main area with lots of bars and clubs. We went to a few salsa bars and enjoyed the atmosphere.
           Since the next morning was Easter, I decided to go to the Cathedral to see what was going on. I arrived just in time to see the huge parade with statues of Jesus, Mary, and other saints being marched around the plaza complete with six military bands. Our flight was in the afternoon and we returned exhausted back home to Quito.
           Colombia fully exceeded all of my expectations. Coming from an American perspective, we are told that Colombia is filled with drugs and violence and that there is nothing worth seeing there. I knew that wasn’t true so I was intrigued to see what it offered and was fully surprised at how gorgeous and unique Medellin is and how mesmerizing the streets of Cartagena are. I wish I had 100 years to explore every corner of every town in Colombia, but a week was sufficient to guarantee my return to this wonderful country. Thanks Colombia.

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