22nd August 2019
As I checked in for my flight at Madrid airport, I looked as they weighed my bag. A total of 12.5 kilos. It is everything I own. I thought fuck. Is that it.
Ten years ago, I used to buy stuff all the time on Amazon. Mostly things I did not want. Those days are well gone.
Last year when I went to the Balkans, my bag weighed 16.5 kilos. I am defying the usual logic. Most people have more things they longer they live. I seem to be going in reverse. I think I am ok with that.
Low— cost. Low quality.
It was my first time flying with Air Europa. Ten hours from Madrid to Medellin Colombia. The aircraft was a new Dreamliner so I knew at least the aircraft should be in good shape.
To be honest, I have had some worst flights, but the food was pure puke. I have heard of food called Gruel. I think it was also in the film Oliver Twist. The food Air Europa served was similar. Potato and chicken. You could have eaten it using a straw.
I did not feel full after it, but I was not thirsty either.
The Colombian lady I sat next to on the flight warmed me to be careful in Colombia. Don’t trust anyone. I have a feeling this will not be the first warning.
On a positive note, I met a guy from Texas at the airport lounge. He was on his way back from Iraq. He worked on power stations. He may be in Bogota the same time I am so we exchanged numbers. I will call him when I am there in a few weeks.
My Spanish improving. I now know when people say my Spanish is bad.
I had arranged an airport pickup. When we arrived at the place I will stay in Medellin the owner asked the driver if I could speak Spanish. A little but not great he replied, but I understood what both of then were saying. I will take that as progress.
In fairness, I was able to communicate with the owner on everything I needed to know. I am looking forward to getting to use more Spanish as very few people on this side of the world speak English.
The small studio I booked on Airbnb is costing 13 euro a night. I have wifi and a cooking area also. I had two beers nearby and slept my first night in South America.
23rd August 2019
No one is smoking or wearing shorts.
I was a bit tired when I woke up to my first full day in Medellin. My body was adjusting to a new time zone. I decided to stay in my barrio until I was feeling ok. That is the beauty of going away for a long trip. There is always Manana.
I had a bit to eat and a coffee in the morning. I asked for an ashtray to enjoy my daily cigar. A habit picked up in Cuba two years ago. He looked at the floor. I lit up and enjoyed my coffee and cigar.
I did notice no one else was smoking, and I was getting a few looks. I was sitting outside. I checked it out online, and Columbia has some of the strongest anti-smoking laws in the world. I have not seen anyone smoking as of yet. I am sure they do but its’ not that visible.
It is 30c, and no one is wearing shorts. What is that all about. I have heard that wearing shorts is not that big here. I have seen some blogs advising not to wear shorts as you will look like a tourist. I don’t think if I put on trousers it will make me look Columbian.
Having spent the last five years in shorts in Las Palmas, it is not going to be easy adjusting to long pants. I have decided to go halfway. Shorts in the day and trousers at night. People still come to sell stuff to me at night. How do they know I am a tourist? I am wearing trousers.
On Saturday I was over my jetlag. I took a trip up to El Poblado, the main bar and club area of Medellin. For the first time, I used Uber. 3km for 2 euro. Not bad. It went smooth enough until I got out of the car.
My phone took on a life of its own in my pocket. I managed to give a score of 1 out of 5 for the diver. I also sent an emergency alert to Uber, saying I was in some kind of trouble.
I was none the wiser until I got a call from Uber asking was I ok. I assured them the driver was excellent and I was able to adjust the rating to 5 stars. That would never have happened if I was wearing shorts.
El Poblado did not impress me. I have seen many areas like El Poblado. Bars, clubs, restaurants. Regular bars and dodgy bars. It is not that I don’t like nightlife. I do, but I have not come to South America to see what I could see in Dublin.
I have prefered having a beer in the local area I am staying in. As far as I can see, I am the only gringo around here.
On Sunday morning, I decided to do what is described as the best and cheapest thing to do in Medellin. A metro and cable car up to the Santa Domingo Barrio on the hills overlooking the city.
A return metro and cable car ticket came to the grand price of 6,000 pesos. That is 1.60 euro. The metro cable car section was opened in 2004. Before 2004, there was a 5 pm curfew. Santa Domingo was one of the most violent areas in Medellin during the days of Pablo Escobar.
The metro cable car has now become a tourist as well as a vital transport link for the local people. While I walked around here near the metro station, I don’t think I would come here for a beer after dark.
There is an option to continue on another cable car to Parque Ari on the top of the mountain. It is another 20 minutes on a cable car through a forest. Cost is 12,000 peso’s return 3.20 Euro.
When you get to the top, there is a lovely area full of flowers. There is also a craft and food market here. Not a bad day out for 4.80 Euro.
From Beer to Eternity
Some people do religious work. Some do humanitarian work. I like to do what I feel is a more practical and vital work for people. Find cheap beer.
Yes, it is time to find the cheapest beer in South America.
I take this seriously and have put a lot of effort into in so far. Here is the lowdown now in Medellin Colombia.
El Poblado a craft beer 9,000 pesos 2.40 euro. El Poblado regular beer 6,000 peso’s 1.60 Euro.
Neighbour bar Santa Fe where I am staying 4,000 peso’s 1.07 Euro.
A shack a with milk crate as a seat five meters from my accommodation 2,500 peso’s 0.67 Euro. Guess where I have been drinking beer?
From beer to eternityyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy
Is it better to be safe than sorry, or would you be sorry if you are too safe?
I have been reading a lot of negative stuff on the internet about safety in South America. It has a reputation as an area of the world that is violent.
Two years ago, I spent some time in S.E Asia. Every day I encountered people trying to separate me from my money. Some genuine people in need, but a lot of scammers also. At no time did I feel a threat of violence walking on the streets.
In the Balkans last year, I was never approached by anyone on the streets. I also felt safe at all time, walking in public areas. I did have some scary moments in a mafia bar and a fascist bar in Sofia Bulgaria, but my radar was not working on those times. Too much beer maybe have been a factor here.
Don’t go there. Don’t go here. Seems to be the advice from many about South America. Don’t wear shorts. Dress like a local is more.
I read a blog from someone saying yes go to South America but don’t go out after 1800. Go visit, but lock yourself up until dawn. It is like advise I would be expecting if I was visiting an area suffering a zombie apocalypse or Draculas hometown.
I tend to find a lot of stuff I read online about places I visit are a way off the mark. That said I am more apprehensive about my trip to South America than any other trips.
I am going to dedicate part of my regular personal blogs to my experience as a mature backpacker travelling in South America and safety. I will give my feedback on the good and the bad. Maybe it might help you decide to go visit South America or maybe not go?
Join me on my journey.
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