DAY 3: Botero y Parque Arvi
There was a soccer game last night. Colombia vs. France. Colombia won. My room is on a street with a lot of restaurants. That’s all I’ll say about how I slept…
From the plaza, we went into the Museo de Antioquia so I could see Botero’s paintings as well. Here are some of my favorites!
After the museum, it was time to hop back on the metro and continue our adventure. We got off of the train at the Acevedo stop, where we would take a completely different type of metro transport- a cable car!! Medellin is surrounded by mountains. And it has a population of 2.5 million people (but that’s from a 2015 census, and current thoughts are over 4 million!!), and the valley really isn’t that big. That means people are stacked on top of people almost all the way up the mountains on all sides of the valley! Brick is the preferred building material, and you just see red brick multi-storied buildings completely surrounding the city. Then you have to think- how do people GET to these houses?! The sides of the mountain are steep. I can’t imagine walking from the bottom of the valley where the main city is to the top of the mountain where your home might be! Wow. Just wow. These upper neighborhoods are called favelas (shanty towns). And the people who live here were basically stranded and isolated from the city below for years due to the lack of transportation other than by foot (and believe me, NO ONE wants to do that!). That led to increased unemployment, poverty, crime, and all of those things that come with such conditions. But in 2006 and 2008, the city added cable cars to its metro system, providing easy, fast, and inexpensive transportation to the favelas! It was truly a game changer for these people- changing their lives and the favelas for the better.
I’m scared of heights, but I wasn’t even a tiny bit nervous in the cable cars! Maybe because I was just so fascinated by the scenery. We went up, up, up, and UP! Over what seemed like thousands of 2-4 story brick buildings. All the way up to where you can see the favelas end and the forest begins. And we went up and over that as well! Traveling over lush, basically uninhabited forest for I don’t even know how long. It was seriously quite a while and we kept looking to see if we could see the station in the distance! The trip ended at our destination for the day- Parque Arvi. The following pics are through a dirty, scratched cable car glass, so please forgive the poor quality. In person, much more stunning!
Parque Arvi…Allison had never been. In fact, she had never been on the metro by herself. So we were all having new experiences today! Here’s what I know about it after the fact…it’s about 40,000 acres with over 50 miles of hiking trails! We honestly had no idea what to do once we got here, and information was kinda sparse. So we just kinda started wandering- a grand kind of adventure! We wandered through a large covered area where several people were decorating crosses with flowers for the upcoming Semana Santa (Good Friday/Easter) week. Beautiful!
Then we wandered down a path that looked like it might be going toward food. A man stopped us and said we could go into his shop and get tea- for FREE! Who can turn down free? And boy, were we surprised to learn that this wasn’t just any tea…this was tea made from the leaves of the Coca plant. People, I ain’t talking chocolate. That is Cocoa. We’re talking Colombian white gold- COCAINE! #thefirstcupisalwaysfree Of course, the kids got a kick out of that idea! He brought us a glass and we all drank from it. Damn, but it was gooooooooooooood!!! Like some of the best tea I’ve tasted in a long time! He proceeded to show us all kinds of things made with coco and marijuana plants- many with different medicinal properties. Haley got her friend a marijuana chap stick. 🙂
We wandered down the road and found a restaurant. Allison and I shared a chicken meal with rice, plantain (rhymes with cocaine, but better!!), and beans. Super tasty, and more than enough for us both. It was like $6.50. We then weren’t really sure exactly what to do. We walked back up the road we came down, hoping for some little hiking trails. We found one that was around some archaeological ruins. This area has a pre-Colombian history ruins (meaning before that idiot Colombus ruined the place for the indigenous people). Some of the ruins are over 1,500 years old. Nothing magnificent like the ancient civilizations of the Mayans, Aztecs, or Incas, but not everyone lived in some huge civilization! There was another hiking trail off of this area, so we took it down for a bit, until we realized it was going to dead end on us in about another mile, so we turned around. Along the way, we saw some cool things, though!
After our impromptu hike, we again weren’t sure what to do. We went back toward the visitor center and asked about any short hikes in the area (we did NOT want to miss the last cable car back down!). They said there was a guided hike leaving in 10 minutes. I forget how much it was, but it was cheap. We signed up and got super lucky for two reasons: 1) It was just us 4!! 2) Our guide was super nice and spoke very slow, clear Spanish! I literally understood about 40% of what he said, which is quite a lot. If I was super confused, Allison would translate. I even asked some questions in Spanish that he understood! #mustbethecocaine We headed off down the Vital trail together! Our guide told us all about this place. The indigenous people mined gold up here! Of course, when the Spaniards found out about that they said, “Oh, wonderful indigenous people, let us help you mine your gold, and maybe we can take a small portion of it for our troubles. We’ll work together!”. Oh, wait. No, they just took it and make the indigenous people mine it as slaves. The way they mined for the gold has literally ruined the mountain and made it impossible for the natural fauna to grow. So the United States and Canada have been sending in conifers (evergreens like pines) that will grow in this area. Of course, that doesn’t provide food for the animals that live here, so there are basically zero animals in this part of the park- only in the more natural areas. He did show us a hole in a low embankment where parrots nest and a hole in the ground where meat bees live. Allison and I made a total inside joke of #meatbees. You’ve been warned if you see us use it! We’re probably making fun of you. 😉 He showed us a lot of orchids, and very cool mosses (the girls and Allison were so surprised to see how much water mosses can hold!), awesome lichens- it was pretty lush back here. Think cloud forest lush- cool and misty. I was SO. FREAKING. IN. TO. THIS. HIKE!!!!!! I only wished there were more animals. If there had been, I might not have left! I was really bummed when it was over about 40 minutes later.
It was after 4 and time for us to head back down. Before we left, we saw two really cool things. First, a little gnome forest built on a trail about 50 feet down from the visitor center. You couldn’t access it, and you could barely see the things in it- you really had to look! Super cute! And….a sign that made Allison and I giggle #mustbethecocaine
We got on the cable car and flew over the tree tops of the practically untouched forest. Soon, we reached the edge of the mountain and began our descent back into Medellin- over tin roofs laid over red brick buildings. Sometimes, someone painted theirs- an art gallery just for cable car riders. The windows in this car were better than the last one, and I got some better shots of the city. These once isolated favelas are vibrant- both with color and with life. And I’m so happy that the people now have better access via cable car to more opportunity for themselves and their children!
As we got off of the cable car, the kids noticed something floating in the river. I literally had seconds to get a shot before it whizzed by! How I pulled this off, I’ll never know!