Medellin and our First Experience with Volunteering

29.08.2016-08.09.2016

Finally we reached our destination Medellin in the late afternoon, after a very crazy and highly dangerous ride with our shuttle bus and with no AC. The rules on the streets here are that there are no rules! Since Medellin is surrounded by mountains, the streets there are all dusty, bumpy and winding. But we survived again, we’re so lucky, and hop on the public bus to get to our hostel.

We planned to get a quick shower, change and head to the famous neighborhood “El Poblado”, when the hostel owner takes a closer look at our strange-looking mosquito bites… suddenly, her eyes are wide open, she takes a step back and says: “OMG, chicos, those are definitely no mosquito bites – you have bed bug bites and additionally brought bed bugs here!!!” No f#*%ing way!! We knew the risk would be pretty high for us getting in touch with bed bugs sooner or later, since we change hostels every 3-4 days and sleep in beds where probably 2 Mio people have already slept in. 😉 Okay, so what do we do now? The hostel owner was super helpful, told us to get every piece of clothes in her laundry, empty our backpacks to desinfect them and she sprayed our room right away with bug spray. Typically, bed bugs travel with their hosts and so they get into hostel bed. Obviously, there’s nothing worse for a hostel than having bed bugs and afterwards, having people to write very bad comments about the hostel having bed bugs. Good, all the clothes were in the laundry (except the ones we were wearing 😉 ), only we still looked like having a massive allergic reaction to something – the bites are small as long as you dont scratch them. But if you do, holy crap, they turn into big red pustules and since you typically have many bites on one spot, it looks terrible. Luckily, they’re not harmful – only annoying. 🙂

So we anyway head in the city and realize right away: this city is amazing! Not only are the people very friendly and welcoming, the city itself has something special and indescribable, we just feel good here. Our first evening in Medellin ends with the best dinner we had in a long long time, and we fall happy in our bed-bugs-free beds 😉

Medellin

Medellin

The next day we had planned a free walking tour, since this is just the best way to get to know the city as well as getting some insider knowledge. Again, it was so worth it to participate in! We learnt about the drug trafficking in Medellin, the political fights among the guerilla group FARC and the paramilitaries and how much Medellin has devloped into a safer place after Pablo Escobar. During his peak times in Medellin in the late 80s, police officers wouldn’t were their uniforms because they were afraid of getting shot by one of Escobar’s henchmen. He might have helped the poor, but most of the colombians nevertheless call him “loco” – crazy, for his ruthless killings of innocent. We also learnt that the people living in this region Antioquia are called “Paisas”, which is why one of the most popular dishes is called “Bandeja Paisa”.

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This dish contains probably 5600 calories and the main characteristic is the generous amount and variety of food: red beans cooked with pork, white rice, carne molida (ground meat), chicharrón, fried egg, plantain (plátano maduro), chorizo, arepa and avocado. Yes, it’s ONE dish! 🙂 Of course Jakub had to try it the same day and thought it was “muy rico” – , after this dinner he didn’t eat for the next 5 days. Haha. 😉 We ended our day taking the famous cable car and got off in a very tranquil forest area, a place to hide away from the buzzing city – and it only took us 20min!

Cable Car to the Forest Area Santa Elena

Cable Car to the Forest Area Santa Elena

What is our plan for the second day? Let’s take the metro, for the people in Medellin something they are very proud of btw. during their worst years in the 80s/beginning 90s, they had the metro built and it symbolized change and economical boost. That’s most likely the reason that this metro is the cleanest we have seen after the one in Singapore!

Clean Medellin Metro ;)

Clean Medellin Metro 😉

We got off at the stop “Industriales” to head to Pueblito Paisa, a viewpoint letting us sense the width of the city. Back in the city center we decided to see the “Museo de Antioquia”, a museum, we had hopped, displaying the history of the region… well, not exactly…it rather had a big collection of paintings by antioquian artists. Since Jakub and I are very well educated in arts and huuuge fans of such, it took us 10min and we fled. 🙂 More time for something else, such as eating deep fried Empanadas, which are so good, having a sweet Arequipe dessert or drink Guandolo, a lemon drink with Aguapanela. Or sitting with a coffee in the Parque Bolívar and observe the many different types of people. 🙂 Our evening we spent at the “Parque de la luz”, which used to be a dangerous place to be, but was turned into a meeting point by lighting it up.

Square of the Lights - Medellin

Square of the Lights – Medellin

Our last day in Medellin unfortunately came faster than expected, and mentally we prepared ourselves for our very first volunteering experience, helping out at a finca wefound on workaway.info! The next day we took the bus to the small village Amagá, 1 hour outside Medellin in the mountains. With the mototron we drove another 10 minutes and herer we were, “Eco hostel Tio Nacho”, our home for the next 10-14 days. 🙂 The principle of workaway and volunteering in general is, that travellers help out in e.g. the garden, reception, basic construction work and have free accommodation or food in exchange.

Finca Terrace

Finca Terrace

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The first impression of this hostel was marvellous – the finca welcomed us with a beautiful terrace, overgrown by flowers, banana trees, a veggie garden… paradise we thought…. sadly, the owner of the hostel most likely didn’t quite know the description of the hostel on workaway, which his girlfriend posted. It was supposed to be a vegetarian finca, smoke and alcohol free. Nacho, the owner, however was actually just having a couple of beers with his neighbor when we arrived and later that day,was super drunk and smoked a joint. 🙂 Oh my, we could continue endlessly with sooo many stories about him, but to sum it up: in the end, we stayed only 7 days. 🙂 It was nevertheless a good experience, because from the 7 days we spent 3 all alone on the finca and fell in love with this house and the property. Additionally, we could relax from the sometimes hectic backpacker live – no sights, no tours, no plans.

Taking care of our breakfast

Taking care of our breakfast

Time for Slovakian Gulasch...?

Time for Slovakian Gulasch…?

Though, the feeling of moving further left us impatient and we decided to head to Guatape, a beautiful village 2hs from Medellin surrounded by a stunning lakescape. Back to the backpacking life!

 

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