Category: Colombia, 2016

Escalators and Cable Cars in Medellin

February 3

Flight from Miami to Medellin was uneventful. But the arrival was not, since, as I feared, my luggage did not make it. After all, they only had seven hours to transfer it in Miami. They say it’ll be here tomorrow. The email American sent told to me, “please remain confident that you will be reunited with your property very soon. Please know that our Baggage Service Specialists are doing everything possible to reduce the amount of time you are inconvenienced.”

We’ll see. Meanwhile, the rest of the photography group may want to keep a healthy distance from me.

On the flight to Medellin, I read about a third of ALL THE LIGHT YOU CANNOT SEE, a novel that has been highly recommended to me by several people, and which had languished untouched on my iPad for several months. Very good, so far, and I hope I can keep at it on the trip. Arrived a bit after ten and, after clearing immigration (and discovering that my luggage decided not to come along, was met at the airport, along with two other people on our trip, Patti Stewart and Isabelle de Beulkaer, who arrived at about the same time as I did, and we were driven to the Hotel Park10, where we are staying. Quite a nice hotel, and a comfortable suite.

After breakfast at the hotel we had an orientation meeting with Nevada Wier, the terrific photographer with whom I’ve traveled to China, Cuba and Namibia (you can take a look at her work at www.nevadawier.com), and Adam Weintraub, a photographer based in Seattle and in Peru, who is facilitating this trip. There are eight of us on the trip, all of whom have traveled with Nevada before. We were to have been ten, but a couple needed to drop out at the last minute because of illness. Though I’m sorry for them, two fewer travelers is actually a plus for the rest of us.

Nevada and Adam had arrived in Medellin and were shown around by somebody I put them in touch with, Brian Schon. Brian is a former Segal Fellow, a program I serve on the advisory board of that was set up in memory of my good friend Eli Segal and devoted to creating citizen leaders. After serving in the Peace Corps in the Ukraine, Brian moved to Colombia where is in the process of setting up an ecotourism business. He has had great adventures already in doing this, which he delineates in his very interesting and readable blog, https://passingforpaisa.wordpress.com/. I had gotten in touch with Brian prior to the trip and was able to put him in touch with Adam, which I hope will lead to a mutually beneficial relationship between them. Brian is joining us for the day today, and I will have dinner with Brian tomorrow night.

Based on what they saw with Brian, Nevada and Adam have changed our schedule in Medellin dramatically. These sorts of changes are vintage Nevada, and are part of what makes traveling with her both interesting and fun. If you’re the type who needs rigid adherence to an itinerary, take traveling with Nevada off of your bucket list. Nevada’s photography trips are not “workshops,” that is, not expressly instructional. That said, though, traveling with Nevada and a group of avid photographers always turns out to be educational.

Colombia is very “in” in the US news. There was a large article in today’s Washington Post about the peacemaking with drug kings in Colombia http://wapo.st/20ll0Tm. And, tomorrow, President Santos, of Colombia will visit and meet with President Obama at the White House.

After the meeting, we headed out to explore Medellín ( pronounced by locals as “Medellgene”)  , a city of more than four million people that has transformed itself in the past decade or so from a dangerous, drug infested city to a place that in 2014 was voted the most innovative city in the world. We began the day by heading to a barrio called LaComuna 13 in the western part of the city.  It’s in an area that could be called a favela, or almost slum area in which the government has painted houses, commissioned murals and built an escalator up the mountain to give residents access to the city. At the top of the mountain a celebration was going on in which clowns performed, school supplies were given out to young families and children were given hot dogs and soft drinks.

  

  

  

  

Afterward, we took a cable car ride up to the barrio of Vallejuelos, and back, giving us good views of the city and an opportunity to see the large amount of low cost housing that the government has built and the excellent transportation to and from that housing provided by the cable cars. Brian is pictured below in a cable car.

   
 

We took the modern and spotless metro to the city center, where we walked around a bit before having a traditional Colombian ¨paisa¨ lunch at La Hacienda, a popular and old restaurant in the center of the city.  After lunch, we were joined by a not very inspiring (I’d say “boring,” but Nevada disagrees) local guide who told me more than I wanted to hear about things that I was not all that interested in to begin with. We went into a church, but I’ve already exceeded my lifetime limit of churches I can see on trips.  

The saving grace was that it did not last long, and we made our way to the “Parque Berrio”, near the Botero sculpture park in Botero Plaza where many giant sculptures of Colombia’s most famous artist and Medellin-born sculptor Fernando Botero are exhibited. The park also teems with vendors selling watches, hats and other wares of all kinds. Nearby is a lane in which men sit at typewriters to produce letters and legal,documents. And not far away is an area where prostitutes (legal in Colombia) hang out.

   
    
    
  

We ventured down a street known locally as “El Hueco” (the whole) full of cheap goods and fresh tropical fruits. The street is highlighted by the old Justice Department building that has been restored in paint and architecture, but turned into a low-budget shopping mall.

We passed by the buildings of the local government, the old train station, Museo de Antioquia and the Palace of Culture where office blocks share public spaces with sculptures, libraries, and the park of lights nearby, all of which we saw briefly.

Returned to the hotel, where I was happily and quite emotionally reunited with my suitcase. Ample time to shower and change, and download today’s photos (which I’d say we’re fair, at best).

We all walked about eight blocks to dinner at a very excellent restaurant called OCI. Brian and his lovely and charming girlfriend, Laura, who recently completed medical school, joined us. Walked back to the hotel, worked on the blog and retired.

For those of you who wrote to ask, or may be wondering, yes, I’ve packed plenty of bug spray to combat any Zika-carrying mosquitos. Should I encounter any, I’ll probably preserve them and have them mounted, as I don’t otherwise hunt.

4 comments to Escalators and Cable Cars in Medellin

  • lauri pollack

    Absolutely love your trips from the comfort of my living room. Thank you for the vivid narrative and stunning photos.

  • SO glad you got reunited with your suitcase!

  • David Levine

    All the Light You Cannot See is a wonderful, wonderful book. You will love it.

    Hope that the information Luisa provided was helpful.

    Have fun.. (For Eve–Earn Block R points)

    David

  • Wendy

    I love the two hat photos and the close up of the watches. Does being in a Spanish-speaking country make you think of your dad a good deal? You must enjoy using your Spanish.(Can’t remember if this was the post where it came in handy with the cab driver as I read all of the posts separately from commenting on them.)

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