Medillin was one of the highlights of the Colombian trip so far, both as a really cool city and also for the planned excursion to Pablo Escobar's mansion outside the city in the area of Guatape!
The first few days we spent in the city we found a really chilled hostel in the area of Pablado. Definitely one of the most upmarket areas, it had loads of nice bars and restaurants. Also very safe to have a wonder round at night which made a nice change for a big city!
First day we hit the metro, small compared to the London underground but just as hectic during rush hour! We then took a cable car far up into the heights of the city and within 10 minutes or so in the cable car you would never even know where we had just left. A national park surrounds the highlands of the city, beautiful scenery, lakes and walks. Spent a good few hours mooching around, nice break from the hustle of the city.
The city from above looks huge and sprawling, a bit like La Paz with the main part in the centre and high shanty towns up on the hills all around.
We did another walking tour around the city, seeing the government buildings, downtown area, bustling street markets and various other parts of the city. The city has a sometimes sad but also fascinating past. The drug wars and corruption of the 1970's and 80's plagued it's past but it has massively rejuvenated itself in recent years and is now one of the leading cities in Colombia.
During the middle of the week we took a trip out of town to an area called Guatape. During the 1970's the government flooded the area to create a hydro electric dam and provide electricity to a big part of the country. The area was previously really hilly so now from a high natural look out point the area looks like a gigantic beautiful lake with hundreds of islands dotted throughout, yet another breathtaking sight in South America!
It turns out that Pablo Escobar built one of his many mansion complexes on one of the islands in the lake. Which, luckily for us, has been opened to tourists!
The first part of the visit is made up of a tour around the grounds. You see a discotheque he had built on sight and one of his limos still showing bullet holes in both the front and back window as well as a drinks cabinet and 'meeting room' inside!
After that you see a football pitch he had carved out of the hillside where he used to invite the Medillin football team to play! His stables were next along with accommodation for 150 staff! In the walls you can see how he requested that all buildings were of double thickness to prevent anyone overhearing conversations and many walls had fake exteriors and open holes inside to hide millions of dollars!
A further walk outside and it takes you to his personal section. A grand house with a swimming pool and beautiful views for entertaining guests! You could even see the hole in the celling where the Cali cartel and others planted a bomb to kill him. The complex is also built specifically next to a big open part of the lake to allow him to land his sea plane! Across the water was his sisters and brothers houses as well.
A crazy and interesting tour of the house finished with a full game of paintball in the stables section!! Crazy to say we had a game of paintball in one of the worlds most infamous criminals houses.
The complex is in a lot of disrepair now but apparently in line with Colombian law it was handed to his gardener as its only resident after Escobar's death. Also there are rumours it would shortly be made into a hotel... I'm sure it wouldn't be short of available visitors if it did!
On our final night out before leaving for carnival we met up with an old travelling friend from Christmas and New Year so partied the night away with him and other backpackers!
The final day had planned a tour of the city and it turned out to be great. We went with an old guy who lived in the city but during his working life spent a lot of time in New York. He was fascinating! He took us all over the city, showed us loads of sights and answered literally any question we had for him.
He took us to Pablo Escobar's family grave and also to one of the famous buildings blown up in one of the cartel fights. We also went up to the top of one of the cities colourfully painted favela shanty towns which was also weirdly connected all by escalators! Great views of the city and good to see some local sides you would not normally see.
We took a night bus to Barenquilla on the Friday, a crazy weekend planned for Colombia's national carnival! Also voiced to be the second biggest in South America!