Medellin Day 1 (Arvi Park)

We stayed in an area called Poblado in Medellin. According to our guide book, this was an exclusive area for the wealthy that later on the city expanded and it became part of the city. However it still remains a wealthy area.

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The first night we stayed at a hostel in a different area, but they only had one night available so we had to move. This hostel was pretty nice, huge.. could hold up to 100 people. It had a pool, basketball court, etc. Although when we were there there didn’t seem to be too many people around.

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Medellin was a much more touristic city than Cali. There were plenty of other travelers and hostels around, and plenty of tours/activities to do. Although we only stayed 2 days and 3 nights, we kind of wished we had just skipped Cali and stayed in Medellin. The city was surprisingly nice and safe, I read it is the safest big city in Colombia.

The first day we took the metro to an area called Santo Domingo. The metro system is very new and modern.

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It costs $3000 pesos to get anywhere along the line, one way. Included in the metro is a gondola system that gets to areas up in the hilly part of the city, where Santo Domingo is. So the gondola in itself is kind of a tourist attraction, and very inexpensive.

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As we later learned in our Pablo Escobar tour, most of the area below the gondola was the housing that Pablo gave to the poor during hiss existence.

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Along the metro, we kept getting awful stenches. Finally it clicked to me that it must be garbage, since when I did the tour of the slums in Brazil, it had the same exact stench. Although the metro was very modern, it ran through very poor areas of the city so I am sure that is where the smell came from.

Santo Domingo was one of those areas.

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The gondola went up even higher, but that section was shut down when we were there. We got off at an area called Arvi Park. Here there was a small park and a little overview of the city.

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This was the only area we went to that I felt like I had to keep my eyes open and be a little careful, but we weren’t there for very long.

On the way back, home, we decided we would stop and check out the aquarium/science museum, but it turned out it was closed.

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We headed back to our hostel, and drank at the hostel that night.

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I still wasn’t feeling quite right, my last recovering day from my sickness. Went to bed fairly early.

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Cali

We took am 8 hr bus from Pasto to Cali. Busses are relatively very expensive here, costed us about $23 for the 8 hr ride. In Ecuador they usually run about $1/hr.

I woke up feeling a little queasy, and was worried about the bus ride as most of the busses here don’t have bathrooms.

As it turns out the worrying was plenty justified.

I couldn’t think of a worst place to be sick than a hot, cramped bus on windy mountain road. Thank god the bus stopped fairly frequently. There was a bathroom on the bus that I managed to only use once and I don’t think anyone appreciated it. Outside of that, the drive was very beautiful through the mountains.
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Although we were advised not to take night busses at all in Colombia, a guy from Alaska we met on the bus told us just the stretch between the cities of Popoyan and Pasto was bad to take at night.

We arrive in Cali and the city was much nicer that we had anticipated.

Our hostel was pretty boring; there was only us 4 and a couple other guys there.
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We were mostly there for the nightlife because we heard it was great. However with no one else in our hostel (and it didn’t look promising at other hostels either) we only had ourselves to go out with. We had heard there just really weren’t many tourists in Cali.

There was a clear division of classes in Cali; the first club we went out to had a $50,000 peso (25 USD) cover to get in. We didn’t go in but a couple other guys from the hostel did and they said everyone was ritzy and stuck up.

So we headed to a couple other locations which were much more reasonably priced, and finally ended up in an area called Menga. This place was pretty cool but we still felt out of place.

The next day we headed to the Cali zoo as we heard it was really good and weren’t sure what else to do.
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We headed downtown to grab some lunch; busy area.
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Started to rain
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We spent the remainder of the day just killing time and hanging out; it was very hot and humid here and if we had known of something to do we weren’t very motivated.
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We were staying in San Antonio area which was also a wealthy area. Since it was walking distance we went out here a couple times to eat and go to the bars here, which were a little expensive but not ridiculous (~$3 for a beer).
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We walked a little bit around San Antonio and looked around
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The next day we went to see the big Jesus in overlooking the city (Cristo). It was an easy 12000 peso cab ride all the way to the top.
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We hiked down from the monument a little ways and there were some really nice views.
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We tried to go out again in San Antonio on Saturday night but we just weren’t feeling it. Instead we headed back played some poker.

We made plans and booked flights for the rest of the trip; $175 multi city flight from Medellin to Cartagena, then a leg from Cartagena to Bogota where Jose and I fly home from and Chris and Jeremy head back to Guayaquil from.

We are catching a day bus from Cali to Medellin which is another 8 hours and $48000 pesos. However this bus has AC and wifi, is way more comfortable and the road seems to be fairly straight so an easy ride.

Medellin is more touristic and there should be more fun and travelers there.

We were going to stop at a national park (Reserva Natural de Yotoco) between Cali and Medellin but after booking the flight we just don’t have enough time.

Tulcan, Ecuador/Ipiales, Colombia border crossing rental cars in Ecuador

We left Misahualli by taking a bus to the neighboring small city Tena, then taking a 6 hour bus ride back to Quito. The bus ride was pretty miserable, stopping every few minutes to pick up passengers and waiting in city traffic.
When we got back to Quito we met up with Jose in the hostel. He updated us that he had been robbed (again..) as he was robbed when I met him last year in Buenos Aires. Bad luck I guess?

Apparently he was with a girl in the hostel going to see a city monument and 4 guys with knives jumped them. They made away with Jose’s sunglasses and the girl’s ipad and camera.

We really didn’t do much as we had been doing stuff non stop between the jungle and Banos. It felt good to just chill out.

The next day we started looking into our trip to Colombia. We picked up another guy named Chris from Switzerland staying in our hostel so we are now rolling in a group of 4. Works well for taxis etc.

We were careful with our plans to Colombia as we had heard a lot about it. Some girls I met from the peace core said that they won’t allow the peace core to enter Colombia for safety reasons. They told us they heard about a bus that got robbed and made everyone strip naked on the side of the road. They said that we shouldn’t take any busses at all in Colombia.

I had heard from a couple other people that if you take busses, only to take day busses. We started looking into rental cars but Jeremy had trouble finding places to rent as most of the major rental chains don’t operate in Colombia and we are not allowed to take a car from Ecuador over the border.

We ended up deciding to take a day bus just over the border.

So we woke up early this morning and jumped on a bus to Tulcan, the border city in Ecuador. The bus ride was $5 and 5 hours.

As soon as we arrived in Tulcan there were guys outside our bus asking if we needed to exchange currency. We were a little apprehensive about exchanging money with these guys on the street but we didn’t really have a choice since we had no Colombian Pesos on us, so we exchanged $20. The exchange rate is 1800:1 USD so everything costs thousands of Pesos.
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Once in Tulcan, we had to catch a cab to immigrations ($3 about 20 minutes from Tulcan)
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The border crossing was surprisingly easy and un-sketchy. First we had to enter the Ecuadorian immigrations to get an exit stamp rental cars.
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There were many other gringos in there, and we waited in line about 30 mins
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After exiting this building, we walked about 2 minutes across a bridge into Colombia
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We had to enter the Colombia immigrations to get our entry stamp and visa
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Once over the border we fumbled around for a bit and jumped in a taxi to the border town on the Colombian side, Ipiales, about 10 minutes.
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Ipiales wasn’t too sketch, the cab dropped us at the bus station. Here we were able to withdraw from an ATM and found out about busses for tomorrow. However, we didn’t want to stay in Ipiales and opted to instead head 1.5 hour North to the next larger city, Pasto rental.
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We jumped on a small shuttle van/bus which was 6000 pesos per person or around $3 each.

The ride was beautiful, I couldn’t really catch good photos from the van but very scenic. We were all in high spirits, excited, and in a good mood, despite the long day of traveling.
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Pasto is a pretty run down city, and I think we all felt fairly uncomfortable.
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When we arrived it was just starting to get dark and a policeman told us not to go outside at night. So we walked just around the corner from the bus station and were surprise to find a very nice hotel for $70,000 pesos or around 35 a night with 4 beds. Hot shower and cable!
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We just hung in tonight got some local cheap food at the place right next door.
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We did some planning. What we plan to do is catch an 8 hour bus bright and early tomorrow morning to Cali. Cali is supposed to be a really sketchy city so we don’t think we will spend much time here. From Cali we will head North to Medellin spend a few days there and fly to Cartagena on the Carribean coast. From there we will fly to Bogota where Jose and my flight home is from, and Chris and Jeremy will fly back to Quito.