We spent a little over a week at Al Bosque camp, near the tiny village of Santa Elena. Situated in the mountains just east of Medellin, the whole area seems to be carved out of the forest, a wandering paved road connecting trimmed yards, small restaurants, and public parks. Tall cedar and pine hug the roadways, with striking orange Black Eyed Susan vine climbing everywhere, over hedges and fences.
Many overlanders stop here, and so we had social evenings around a fire with travellers from Switzerland, Holland, Germany and England. As well, two young volunteers couples hailing from the USA and Venezuela, kept things lively. And most helpful were the owners, Colombian brothers David and Daniel, who kindly offered advice and assistance to us foreigners.
The bus into Medellin is a one hour ride, first winding around the mountain picking up riders, then descending into the valley, offering expansive views over Medellin. The city sprawls through the valley and way up into the hills. There must be a pile of red brick somewhere as virtually all of the buildings are made of red brick with tin or red tiled roofs. Stacks and stacks of buildings for as far as you can see.
Medellín is a busy, noisy, crowded city with an estimated population of 3.9 million. Buses, motorcycles and yellow taxis swarm along every street and create an endless roar, not to mention a significant reduction in air quality. Fortunately there is a modern efficient above ground Metro system which, unlike the tangle in Mexico City, has only 2 main lines. Easy peasy for Bob and I. Ok, it took some studying but we managed to figure it out.
One of the parks in Medellin hosts many oversized bronze statues by Columbian artist, Fernando Boltero. I loved them. They are grotesque and endearing at the same time. The nearby museum had a whole floor of his paintings, all having the same boldness.
On another day in the city, we took the metro to Comuna 13, a barrio where graffiti art has become a tourist highlight. The graffiti walls are in response to the government forces expulsion of rebel groups in 2002. Since that time the area has been transformed from one of the most violent to a relatively peaceful community. Most murals vividly and intricately, depict themes of community, hope and peace.
For a day trip, we drove to the small resort village of Guatape, a picturesque recreation area a few hours from Medellin. The town was buzzing with tourists walking the streets and photographing the buildings, all painted in bright colours and decorated with playfully carved murals.
A nearby feature, the Piedra Peñol, is a rock that was somehow thrust upward, during one of those earth shifts, and has become a tourist draw, kind of like Ayers Rock in Australia.
There are over 700 steps to the top and we dutifully climbed them. We were rewarded with jaw dropping 360 vistas of water, forest, farmland and mountains.
The Plan. Kelsey, Chris, Brett and Katryna will meet us in Cusco, Peru. We had hoped to be there by now, but Plan B has us flying from Medellín to Cusco. Fortunately we can leave the van at Al Bosque. Machu Picchu here we come.