Saturday, July 2, 2011

Colombia surprised me

Colombia surprised me. I met lots of people traveling who told me not to go to Colombia because it was very dangerous. You hear lots of scare stories, people being kidnapped, hostels being robbed, the best I heard was from some backpackers in central america who were avoiding Colombia because it was too dangerous. They heard that someone was traveling in a taxi with his hand out the window and someone passed on a motorbike with a machete and chopped off his hand. The reason they chopped off his hand was so they could steal his wedding ring. I questioned the how true this story was, they'd heard it from a friend who'd heard it from a friend who knew someone else who had been to Colombia. So I suppose I can see why some people shy away from Colombia when they hear scare stories such as this combined with the general reputation Colombia has in Europe as a dangerous drug ridden country.

After the boat trip from Panama to Cartagena I spent a month traveling around Colombia. From Cartagena, a very touristy pictureesque colonial town, I went to Taganga, a small fishing village close to Tayrona national park. It was a welcome break from big cities especially considering I would spend the next few weeks traveling through the major cities in Colombia.

Taganga Beach

Fishermans end of Taganga Beach
My next stop was Medellín, a city that up until 15 years ago this city was a no go area for tourists mainly due to Pablo Escobar. Now (according to my guide book) Medellín is one of Colombia's wealtiest cities and a model of excellent urban planning. This is backed up by what I saw, a very modern safe wealthy city with excellent public transport and great public parks.

Cable Cars are part of public transport in Medellín
Most backpackers who visit Medellín do one of the many Pablo Escobar tours on offer. These tours take you around the city showing you the important sights including the rooftop where he was shot dead by police and finally finishing with a house visit to meet his brother. I didn't take the tour due to a combination of laziness but also I think it is a bit weird to do a tour that is almost celebrating the life of someone who terrorised a city for so many years. Some locals that I spoke too were disgusted by the fact that toursts came here to do tours that more or less celebrate his life. Ignoring the violence it is an interesting story, in 1989 he was Forbes magazine declared him the 7th richest man in the world and in 1986 he attempted to enter Colombian politics even offering to pay off the countrys USD$10 billion national debt.

Medellín today

Bogota was my next stop. I ended up staying for a week and a half, its the sort of city the grows on you. Its a litte more gritty than Medellín, not as clean and proper but not in a bad way. Lots of alternative music, clothes, people and street art.

Bogota Street Art

Street Art in progress
I like the stencil above the wall

On the Friday night I went to see a Colombian group, Systema Solar, play in Bogaloop, a venue similar to whelans or the village in Dublin. I went during the day to buy the tickets and only for I saw the actualy stage I would have been questioning if I had the right place at all, it looked more like a squat than a music venue. No name outside and the place was covered with street art and graffitti, inside and out!

Systema Solar in Bogota


1 comment:

  1. would have definitely done the Pablo Escobar tour, like a true life to admire the power and wealth.