I arrived in Medellin early in the morning, and took a metro to get to the part of town where the “Casa Kiwi” hostel was. On getting out of the station, I spotted two guys with large backpacks. This could only mean one thing – potential taxi sharers! So without further ado, I approached them and asked if they were also going to Casa Kiwi, and indeed they were. All the major cities of Colombia have their own set of popular backpackers hostels in, so there’s a large likelihood of random travellers heading to the same hostel as you. Even if they aren’t going to the same hostel, most of the time you can still share a taxi as many hostels are usually close to each other.
The two backpackers, Ian & Jusgen, were from Canada (and I thought Jusgen bore a strong resemblance to Brendan Fraser). As we were negotiating the taxi fares, a local man came up to us and said that our hostel was within walking distance. Since all of us were in the mood for a morning workout, we thought we’d just walk the alleged 10 minutes to get there. But the walk turned out to be way longer and on a way steeper road than we had anticipated, and even before we got halfway there, the three of us were covered in sweat. To add to our misery, we were led in wrong directions by helpful passers-by with totally good intentions, but totally no clue about the hostel’s whereabouts. Nevertheless, after a really long and tiring walk, we did find it, and settled into our bunks.
Ian & Jusgen just wanted to relax, but I wanted to check out the city a little so I started walking by myself. Before long, a yellow & blue bus caught my attention, so I went up to it to see what it was. It was a bus that would take tourists on a guided tour of the major attractions of Medellin. Since I had nothing better to do, I paid the 10000 pesos and hopped on. The tour began with a round of introductions, and there was an audible collective gasp when I introduced myself as a solo traveller from India.
The tour was quite good and we saw many nice places all around Medellin. After describing things to the other tourists in Spanish, the tour guide would separately repeat it to me in English, and for that I was very grateful to him. There were also a group of older tourists from Venezuela, who asked me about Sonia Gandhi and whether there were still Maharajas who ruled the country.
After the city tour, I found a nice cafe that offered free wi-fi, so I got myself a coffee and prepared myself for a long evening of blogging. About 2 productive hours later, one of the staff of the cafe approached me and said something. I didn’t understand her that well, but I assumed that she probably meant that it was time for me to bugger off as I had overstayed my welcome there. So I wrapped up my things, and left. I hadn’t even walked ten paces from the shop, when a man came running up to me, and stopped me. He spoke some English and said that they didn’t want me to leave. They only wanted me to sit at another table as they were preparing the place for some live music. He added that the staff of the cafe were feeling very bad because I might have felt offended. I assured the man that I was planning on going anyway, and I did not mind the reminder at all
Casa Kiwi is an awesome hostel (but they could do with friendlier staff), which not only has great outdoor areas where you can hangout with other travellers, but also secluded spots where you can “disappear” if you’d prefer to have some time by yourself. I was exploring it in the evening, when somebody called out, “Googie”. I was pleasantly surprised to see Shastra who I had met in San Agustin about 2 weeks back. We were soon joined by her partner Stuart, and we chatted for a bit. Another old acquaintance I met at Casa Kiwi was Thom, the Aussie traveller who I had met at my hostel in Quito and with whom I had initially made plans of crossing the border into Colombia.
The next day I joined Jusgen for the famed Pablo Escobar tour, one of the popular touristy things to do in Medellin (for the uninitiated, Pablo Escobar was a Colombian druglord, one of the most notorious gangsters in history and widely regarded as the richest criminal ever). The tour van picked us up from our hostel, and took us to various places around the city that were frequented by Escobar and his gang members. The tour guide seemed to know quite a bit about the famous gangster, but he couldn’t explain it in English so well. Moreover, instead of just stating the facts, he would introduce his own opinions and judgements. What I found amusing was that he would pepper all his sentences with an English swear word used to accuse a person of copulating with his/her own female parent. When spoken in his Colombian accent, it had a funny poetic quality to it All in all, I thought that the Pablo Escobar tour was just an expensive waste of time.
In the evening, I said a hasty goodbye to all my new friends at Casa Kiwi and hurried to the bus terminal. I wanted to take the 7.30 pm bus to Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, but nothing could have prepared me for what was to happen next.