As per usual, several hesitations went through my mind before arriving in Medellin, Colombia. What am I doing? Where am I going? Who will I meet? Will I end up in a ditch somewhere?
I fantasized some very dark scenarios (probably brought on by True Detectives and Sherlock) where I would create a resolve where I kicked some ass and got away from the perpetrator. These stories were exhausting but I was entering The Unknown! Ah, my love/hate relationship with The Unknown. I am coming to terms with the fact that The Unknown, like relationships, will always be something to work on.
First things first, Medellin is a beautiful city. Most of everything I read before arriving to Colombia discussed past years of violence and hardships but that the country had bounced back. However, there was not very much detail about how much cities like Medellin had actually ‘bounced back.’
Not only is Medellin obviously developing quickly in infrastructure but also in all cultural aspects. There are museums, Universities, Community Centers, and more. I will say it reminds me of San Francisco. If you had no idea about Medellin’s brutal past you might see the city as a typical metropolis.
Sigh…The tenacious determination of humanity!
For those of you who do not know about Medellin and its past, I’ll just say it was the hometown of Pablo Escobar. Medellin was once known as the most violent city in the world. The statistics and murder rates are mind-boggling; in 2009, there was an average of 9 murders a day.
So, now that you have a picture of the immediate information about Medellin, you can see why I had previous hesitations. Of course, like any other big city, there is still crime but in comparison to the recent past, Medellin has totally ‘bounced back’ and it is because of the people. Amazing!
Speaking of amazing people, I met some just the other day! I decided to stay at a hostel that is owned by a Greek named Spiros for the obvious reasons; I love Greece and I know at least 5 Greeks named Spiros. I thought it was a sign and ultimately it became one.
As hostel life goes, groups are created, adoptions are made of other travelers, or you adopt yourself into other groups. Initially, I felt a little unprepared for the other hostel formalities that include drinking, drinking games, and more drinking. The partying made me feel a little old and I decided that I would try to go through Couchsurfing in the future.
Oh, but oh! You Unknown you!
The next day, after some incredible explorations of this magnificent city and some alone time for deep thought, I came back to the hostel to meet Ben, Gabe, Clive, and Michelle. These were to be my travel companions to Guatape, a small town about an hour and half east of Medellin, where we would see beautiful and crazy things.
What do the majority of worldly people have? Patience, gratitude, curiosity, kindness, passion, and, of course, a great sense of humor.
What I had forgotten, living in the land of the “settled,” was that there are people, like me, exploring the world and The Unknown! They know all about it! They have incredible stories and photos and, at the same time, are able to be present with all that experience! And they are able to take in MORE. More friends, more connections, more stories, and more photos. These kinds of commonalities create a strong bond in a very short amount of time. As if you have known these others for much longer than one day.
So, once again, I lucked out and found these amazing people who invited me to Guatape. We all left for the bus station early in the morning, and the ride was beautiful. Food stalls, farmers, and livestock took place of the soccer fields, apartment buildings, and traffic. The bus climbed the mountain that surrounds Medellin and an incredible view of the city sitting in its valley was visible from the window.
Guatape sits on a lake. We arrived in a fit of excitement from being out of the busy city and even more so for my travel companions who were reuniting with friends they had met at the hostel a week before.
Tomaz and Beppie, who we were meeting, had already arranged a boat rental with a captain named Ivan. After settling in, we began all the preparations for the usual boat trip; beer, rum, water, chips, and bananas.
Ivan took us out on the boat and around different islands and islets, where cabanas and vacation homes were built or being built. Event though it was cloudy, the consensus was to swim, and Ivan found a beautiful cove just for that. Only after a short while, and swimming in the magnificently clear waters, the sun came out.
At some point, before we launched, we had adopted one of the village dogs who jumped on the boat before we departed. This proved to be a bad idea once we were ready to leave our swimming hole when Zoro, the dog, refused to come back to the boat for over 20 minutes while we called and waited for her. The most annoying part was that we could hear her barking happily away and chasing the vultures.
However, Zoro came back and we all headed back to shore.
Other uneventful events happened before dinner and later in the night we ended up at a dance club. Colombian music burst from speakers that were strategically placed so that every corner of the club made you vibrate in your seat.
Dancing began, rain started to fall, and as we sat on the bar stools near the open window, we noticed some locals who were riding a horse that was still in the process of being broken in. I don’t know a lot about horses, but it was not difficult to tell that this horse was still in training.
The rider tied the white beauty to the tree outside and from where we were sitting and we could see the animal pull and tug at its rope. Ben and I began to question what would happen if we set the horse free. Deciding against doing anything to upset what we discovered was a very drunk caballero we continued dancing.
I was reaching in my purse when all of the sudden Ben grabbed my shoulder, shaking me, and yelling,
I looked to where he was pointing, and saw our white beauty trotting away down the malecón. The horse looked back as he was jogging away as if it knew it was making its getaway. It was about another hour until someone else returned with the creature.
I was so excited in the moment of the escape that I will never be able to think about it without laughing. Like so many times, it was as if I manifested something I wanted to happen. The horse had its moment of liberation and it was enough to satisfy our previous desire of setting the animal free.
Soon after, a glass broke, the lights went up, and it was time to leave. A fight had broken out on the other side of the club. We went outside to say good-bye to our brave friend, white beauty, when more drama ensued.
The drunken caballero was attempting to get on the horse while it moved in unending circles. Other spectators got involved and one woman in particular was smacking the horse’s ass. Ben and I moved calmly away before the horse got too wild. However, we were not away from the drama just yet.
We stood for a minute watching the fiasco when all the sudden a man wobbling next to Ben did his best to pick up a rock the size of a watermelon and chuck it at, well, who knows who (not us just to clarify!) The drunken man had a companion who was trying to stop the rock from being hurled across the street. The result ended with the rock thrower slipping in the grass and the rock being tossed behind him only a foot away from Ben.
“It’s time to go.”
We turned our heels and briskly walked laughing the entire way home.