‘The Tale of Two Cities’

Our last two days of Medellín were astounding. In my last post I mentioned our friends, Tom and Helen, who we spent most of our time with in this great, little city. Tom and Helen are from Liverpool; we met them in our hostel in Cartagena one night. Although we didn’t know each other well, we made loose plans of meeting up in Medellín.

The first day, we made it happen. Then, just about every day after, we were together.

The second to last day of Medellín, Tom and Helen met up with Dan and I in the lobby of our hostel. We had plans to explore the downtown area and see the Museo de Antioquia followed by sundown and dinner at the top of Cerro Nutibara.

After catching the Metro, we were in the museum by noon. The museum was actually really great. Botero, a Medellín artist and sculptor, donated a TON of his art to this museum. Although I am not a big fan of his style, I learned more about him and developed a strong appreciation for his unique technique. I also realized what a great guy he is!

Despite the museum housing hundreds of Botero’s paintings and sculptures, there were plenty of other rooms housing many other artists and themes. There was a creepy claymation film involving prostitutes, popes, racism and odd sexual content, films involving the labor of marble or the displacement of families or the anger of mothers mourning their lost children, and intricate pieces with symbolism of the United State’s influence of Colombia’s drug economy. Needless to say, we wandered for hours.

When we finally completed the museum, we were ready for a snack before heading up to “the hill.” We found a little food truck nearby that served pizza and burgers. Helen, Dan and I all got a slice of pizza; Tom was the smartest. Our pizza was a typical Hawaiian style but topped with a strange, sweet, white sauce. When I say sweet, I mean like sugar- overboard-I-might-get-a-tummy-ache, sweet! It was strange. But, for a slice of pizza and small cup of cola, it was about one U.S. dollar. Pretty great.

The four of us hopped on the Metro and shortly thereafter, arrived at Pueblito Paisa. We walked around the replica town and looked out at Medellín.

The view from Cerro Nutibara

A storm started rolling in, so we bought some beers and ducked under an awning to watch the lightening pass by. Now, this is my favorite part…

Once the rain died down, we could still see lightening in the distance. It was beautiful and we couldn’t stop “oohing” and “awing” at each spike in the sky. We decided to move out to a spot for a better view and try to capture this moment with our phones.

Tom and I stood there filming the sparks of light and freeze-framing the good parts. We would cheer and compare photos and high-five over who got the better shot.

Pretty good for a cellphone – Lightening at Nutibara

After several minutes of video, we decided to grab some grub and wait for the sun to go down so we could see the night view of the city. We decided on some little restaurant in the plaza and ordered two Bandeja Paisa‘s (the dish of Medellín), four Aguila’s (the national beer of Colombia), and a small bottle of Aguardiente (meaning “fire water” – which I learned from a restaurant in Boulder!). We laughed and told stories and made several toasts as we gulped down our liquor and large plates of meats.

Bandeja Paisa – (blood sausage, chorizo, chicharron (the fatty, good kind), some sort of other sausage, friend plantain, rice, avocado, fried egg, beans and some sort of soft biscuit)

It was officially dark outside, so we paid the tab and headed back to the lookout area where we could soak in some more great views.

Our new friends

Once we took enough selfies, we headed back to Tom and Helen’s hostel where we would end the night with a few more clinks of glasses and laughs.


The following morning, Dan and I woke up around 7:30. We didn’t want to, but we also wanted to… This day was the day we would venture to Guatapé and hike up the 740 steps of the Peñol Rock. After this long day, we would then fly to Bogotá. I know. We made some poor decisions the night before.

Around 8:30, a man came to pick up Dan and I from our hostel. We brought everything because after the all-day tour, we were being dropped off at the airport to catch our flight.

The van was already packed with people, so Dan and I had the leftover seats. Tom and Helen were in the back, looking just as miserable and tired and we probably did. Dan climbed into the very front, and I was stuck in the first row, in a weird third seat that stuck my face directly into the back of the front seats. The chairs had a weird shape to them that forced me to look slightly downward. Pair this uncomfortable seated position with how I felt, no window view, 45 minutes of bumpy, curvy roads with a driver who constantly slammed on the breaks and a guide who was shouting above my head to tell everyone “the story” of Pablo Escobar.

Don’t keep reading. Re-read that description. Close your eyes. Imagine.





Yeah. I barely made it.


Once arrived at El Peñol (a small village near Guatapé that housed Escobar’s country home), my face was void of all color. Dan asked if I was okay and I shook my head ‘no.’ But, after a few sips of water and piece of gum, I was a new girl.

Our group was dispersed into a couple of jeeps that then took us up and up to some restaurant looking over the water. There, we ate a simple lunch and heard more about Escobar.

After lunch, the four of us officially felt much better. Dan and I bought a couple of beers and the tour continued to a boat where we passed over “the sunken city1” and over to some island where we could swim. However, it was just chilly enough that no one wanted to swim. So, we sat around laughing and enjoying the view until the tour continued.

New friends in new places making new memories.

The group was then taken to Pablo Escobar’s country home where the guide continued her stories and Dan and I continued to wander off and snap photos. We looked at the destroyed home and wondered how extravagantly this drug lord lived; his “little vacation spot” was enormous and included a huge pool looking over the water and a tower where he liked to “toke.”

The group walked through guest homes that now house a layout for paintballers to roam, and walked along a path that allowed us to whisper about how much power this one man had.


The boat then took us over to Guatapé, which is a cute, colorful town with lots of shops and interesting 3D artwork that hung off the outside of buildings.


We were allowed an hour to roam the streets before our first van picked us up and shuttled us to the big rock. This rock, “La piedra del Peñol,” is apparently in the middle of Guatapé and El Peñol; it is often argued about who “owns” it.

Let’s do this!

I looked up at this massive rock and just laughed. Seriously? My legs are going to hate me.

About 237 steps in, I was panting and thinking about how much this sucked. Helen, was right behind me saying, “The view is pretty good from here. Do we need to continue?”

I hate steps. Like, really, really hate them. So far traveling, I have encountered too many of them. Helen, however, hates steps more than I do. I found myself coaching her along the way and cheering, “You got this! We’re almost there!”

Only 115 more to go!

The numbered steps helped boost motivation the higher we climbed. We’re almost there! We’re almost there!

740 steps later, we smiled triumphantly. We did it! We looked out at the view and took a deep breath. We are victorious. The world is ours! Just look at it all!

Worth every step.
Sweaty and happy

The view was incredible, but didn’t last long before our guide shouted, “Okay! Let’s go!”

Slowly, our group traveled back down the steps and back on the van where many heads went bobbing with the roads as people drifted to sleep. Dan and I were dropped off at the airport where we were forced to say goodbye to our new friends, and just a few hours later, we arrived in Bogotá.

I’ll save our adventures in this city for another post, but it all started with a friend from Boulder, Andrea. She welcomed us into her home with hugs and a warm meal.

“Mi casa es su casa.”

Until then,




1 Apparently the lagoon layout was manmade and an old city was buried underneath the water.


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