Yesterday I had an easy trip to Medellin less than 100kms, but it still took 2.45hrs, and it was nice to be back on the bike. When you plot a route in Europe Google maps will roughly indicate that 200kms will take 2hrs. In Colombia Google maps will estimate twice that so 200kms will be estimated as 4 hrs and it is not wrong. Google maps estimated the trip from Guadape to Medellin 84kms at 2 hrs. It took me longer due to getting very lost in Medellin 🙂 as some of the GPS roads were closed to motorbikes.
Medellin is the second largest city in Colombia and it sure is huge and has even worse traffic than Bogota. The roads are in good condition though and it is a nice city. I am not a fan of huge cities but when travelling they are worth seeing just to get a feel of the country you are visiting, you need to see both cities and countryside to really feel a country. One thing I have noticed is the amount of police. Not a day has gone by that I have not seen at least 8 to 10 police on motorbikes. I’ve only seen about 2 or 3 police cars as most police are on KLRs or DR650s. I’ve also seen at least 1 to 2 police check points on the roads between cities. I have only been stopped once and that was on the way into Guatape. The policeman was very friendly as asked where I was from and where I am going and wished me luck.
So far besides the beauty of Colombia the two things that have struck me is how colourful it is and how friendly the people are. After arriving I went for a walk and met a local lady in a little coffee shop. She asked me where I was from and what I thought of Medellin. She told me how dangerous Colombia and Medellin were 20 years ago, that it used to be the murder capital of the world at one point. She explained that the government put a lot of money into education, building libraries and schools in some poor areas. She said this has done a lot to raise the prospects of children in those areas so they can now get jobs. The government also put a lot of effort into stopping crime, increasing the police presence. She went on to explain that Medellin is now safe, there are some slums outside the city and she told me not to go there alone, and also to be careful of pick pockets. However this is the same in all big cities, overall Medellin is a safe and nice city. The lady told me that there are still some areas in Colombia close to the border that are dangerous due to the drug cartels but most rural areas are very safe and the people very helpful. She ended by saying Colombia may not be perfect but it is perfect compared to what it used to be like. Wow what insight into this wonderful county in a short conversation, and it goes to show that countries can change.
I knew Colombia was safer than a lot of people would have me believe. I cannot count how many people told me not to visit Colombia as it is so dangerous and that I must be very careful I don’t get kidnapped etc etc, but it is even better than I imagined. It is a pity that it still suffers from the old stigma.
Today I went to explore a little more but it is hot, so I didn’t spend all day walking around just a few hours, downtown and to the Botanical Garden. In Medellin there are even more police and at least 4 in every metro station, which I very modern, clean and extremely cheap. Sadly at the Botanical gardens the butterfly house was closed for renovations (I love butterflies J ) but I was rewarded by seeing a huge big iguana in a tree. Another good day in Colombia, and tonight the Motolombia tour arrives and I head off on the Amazon Challenge trip for the next 6 weeks. We are going to Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela and back to Colombia.