Colombia in the Blink of an Eye: Bogota and Medellin

There is a strange dichotomy inherent in traveling at breakneck speed. On one hand, your days are so full that they overflow and spill into the next, blending into one unit. The edges of your hours are coiled inwards, a knot of time indecipherable from the others. Memories are vague but those that linger are reduced to the basest level: smells, sights, tastes.

On the other hand, the things that do stand out really stand out, rising sharply above the rest of the mess below.

And so it was with Colombia.

Bogota in a Whirlwind

With 4 nights and only three full days in Colombia – and 13 appointments altogether – I’m left on this flight to Lima trying to parse through the chaos of my brief time in the country. This was my first trip to Colombia and I can safely say that I want to return and explore it further. With a few days of Spanish under my belt, I was able to hold my own in meetings while explaining IH New York’s programmes and am getting more accustomed to travelling in a suit. What used to be commonplace during business trips from New York now seems wholly foreign; it is funny to reflect on how the tables have turned.

But back to those things that stand out: trying my first arepa con queso in Chapinero’s bustling Calle 63, the sweet corn flour and soft cheese fusing together into one perfect bite. Connecting with one of the agents so well in no time at all that after our meeting she brought me for a quick coffee, having a bare bones “my life in a nutshell” conversation that only two kindred souls with limited time to talk can afford. Talking geography with my cab drivers, and explaining that Montreal’s vast networks of underground tunnels stem from the undeniable fact that it’s disgustingly cold in the wintertime. Finding my favourite graffiti of all “I like your smile and coffee”. Taking that first glorious mouthful of lechona and knowing I’ll be eating it again – very soon. Climbing through the winding, steep streets of La Candeleria as the afternoon sun reflected on the bright buildings and cobblestone streets.

colombia in a whirlwind

colombia in a whirlwind
La Candeleria in the afternoon.

Medellin: A Much-Needed Night Out with Friends

From what I managed to see of Medellin in the short afternoon and night that I was there, I’m hatching a plan to return. Cradled between the lower Cordillera mountains and filled with such an incredible variety of neighborhoods, I was very sad to leave after only one night. But what a night it was! Hosted by David from Go Backpacking, who I initially met in NY in 2009 and saw again at TBEX this summer, I was treated to a delicious BBQ by Troy Floyd and his roommate Mike, replete with lomo, arepas and a delicious vodka punch.  From there we swung to Parque Lleras to pick up Benny from Fi3m and went out to dance at Octavia with a trove of David’s friends. Troy made sure I tried my first shot of aguardiente (the verdict: not my favourite but not as terrifying as Pastis), and we all salsa’d the hours away to a curious mix of reggaeton, cumbia and of course, 90s rock.

My introduction to Mr. Beef, the best BBQ name ever:
medellin colombia

And the requisite Vanna White shot:
Best BBQ name ever: Mr. Beef

The before:

Friends in Medeliin, colombia

…and the after (with Benny (far right) to add to the mix)
The group at Octavia in Medeliin, colombia

After a great night out, my return to the airport featured a lovely panorama of Medellin after the rain, with the clouds letting rays of sun stream down on the city below. An excellent end to a fun few days. What rises to the surface after this brief trip in Colombia is a lot of smiles – which is exactly how it ought to be.

Medellin after the rain.

Medellin after the rain.

* * *

After just a few days of Colombia, I’m excited to head back to Quito (having not been since 2003) and back to Uruguay, where I lived for a good part of 2002. And of course, there’s plenty of ceviche, dulce de leche and parillada to be consumed.

More to come from Lima and Quito!

-Jodi

21 thoughts on “Colombia in the Blink of an Eye: Bogota and Medellin”

  1. Was so cool to see you again Jodi – glad our travel plans worked out that we got to hang in both Medellín and Bogotá despite how brief your trip was! I could almost hear the whoosh as you had to dash off! :P
    Hopefully next time you’ll be passing through slower! have a safe continuing trip :)

  2. I ove your job, it gives you the opportunity to travel abroad. I wish you had stayed longer to write more on the blog post. so that i can read more, three days is too short.

  3. Benny, it was lovely to see you too and I’m sure we’ll manage to cross paths in some other country in 2011!

    Zablon, the schedule was dictated by work, not fun, so I agree – too short! But that’s what the job required and I made the most of the time I had. Thanks for reading!

  4. Hi Jodi, Your pictures of La Candeleria and Medellin confirm my suspicions that I’d love visiting Columbia! Looks like a blast. This is my first comment, but I’ve enjoyed following your adventures and look forward to seeing many more!

  5. Hi Jodi,
    I’m Jen Laceda, blogger at Folie a Deux and The Travel Provocateur. I want to go to Bogota, Colombia and Cartagena, Colombia. Thing is, I’m travelling with my 7-month-old baby girl. Do you think it is safe for us? What precautions do we need to take?
    Thanks,
    Jen

  6. Ayngelina, it was lovely to meet you and Mike as well, and I hope to cross paths again soon and actually spend some quality time together!

    Gray, that shot was actually taken with my blackberry camera but it turned out well as the light at the time was just lovely!

    Wandering Trader: I prefer Medellin but I was there so briefly that I’m not the best judge (I wasn’t sightseeing either – it was work work work, then dancing.) You might want to reach out to Dave from Go Backpacking (linked to in this post) for more info. I know he absolutely loves Medellin as well.

    Angela, thanks for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

    Jen, I’m not the best judge since you can see I barely spent any time there at all. I felt safe but I’m not the most accurate judge since I did decide to stay in Bangkok when it was burning :) I’d suggest you reach out to Christine Gilbert from Almost Fearless as she hung out with David & Floyd in Medellin with her family and could give you a better picture of the overall feeling.

  7. Really beautiful photographs. Bogota and Medellin seem to be shedding fast their less than stellar 1990’s reputation and becoming very attractive, up and coming tourist hot spots. Once removed from my ‘to do’ list, they are now firmly back on, near the top.

  8. WanderingTrader: Ah man, I found your blog about a month ago and have been meaning to get into contact with you. I have been traveling this last year off money i made in the stock market but i took a big hit on my last investment and let’s just say it was my 1st loss since trading and it made me a little gun shy about investing. I would kill to meet up with you sometime and jealous that your thinking of moving to Colombia. I was there for 6 months and maxed my visa there, so had to leave (currently in Mexico till 15Nov), then home to the US for a few months before heading back out. Would love to pick your brain on trading because it’s how i am supporting myself now but have to admit I’m a newbie and have no formal trading experiences.

    Anyways, if your trying to decided BOG or MDE, I would pick Medellin hands down! The place just rocks and the Pisa people are great. The neighborhood I stayed at was super safe (Envigado) and could walk around at night worry free. The best part that I love about Medellin (besides the parties, women, food, Pisa cultural) is the metro. Super easy to use and you can get anywhere in the city for $1 USD. If you have questions, hitting Dave up from GoBackpacking.com or Benny (they are both living there) is easy as an email, or you can email me at [email protected]. I’d be happy to help. BOG is a nice city but to be honest it’s just to big and Medellin offers more and is easier, better located for making trips out into the country (which i know you like to do on the weekends).

    Jodi: It was so great getting to meet you and have to say, from the start you were cool as hell! So wish we had more time to hang out, as Dave and I would have loved showing you more of the city. I do hope we can link back up sometime next year. If your not doing anything in Feb2011, I’m heading to India to meet up with AlmostFearless for a month of so, to do a train trip all around India. Will be one hell of an adventure and a cheap one. So looking forward to it! FYI, i didn’t go home till 0715 in the morning from that night, was so dead tired the next day but had a blast!

    Tis, tis, tis! You steal my photo but you don’t even link it back to my site! jajaja Don’t worry I call Dave out on it when he does it to. Don’t mind you using anything, but the photo has to be clickable back to my homepage. it’s my standing rule for use of my photos. This photo looks a little warped so if you want a better copy, let me know the dimensions you need for it (ex: 600×400 or something) and will send you a better copy of it.

    Benny: for an Irish guy who doesn’t drink, you are crazy man! Got some great video of you dancing that night, but Dave has the footage of it. Hit him up if you want to see it but i think he’ll be posting the video soon on it.

  9. Holy shiznits, Troy – longest comment in the history of my site. I didn’t *steal* the photo, silly, I gave you credit! But yes, send to me as 604×453 and I’ll swap it out with the proper dimensions, and will put your URL there instead of in the previous para.

    Was great to meet you as well & next time I’ll be staying for longer than 1 night in Medellin.

  10. Jodi, great arepa find in Chapinero! I´m so obssessed with that place, I eat there at least once a week :) Feliz viaje!

  11. In 1995/96 I did a long trip from USA through Central and South America. Many people skipped Colombia, too dangerous. I got a ferry from Panama and stayed in Cartagena, Mompos, Tunja, Bogota, Popoyan, did a hard 2 day hike to the source of the Rio Magdalena and over to San Agustin, then to Pasto…. loved Colombia.

  12. Holgs, it was well worth it. Delicious!
    Camels & Chocolate and Bethany – I am sad that I wasn’t able to stay longer but it was absolutely a place I’d like to explore more fully. The people were lovely too – very friendly and happy to practice Spanish (without laughing at me while doing so).

    Jamie: must have been a very different time then. Do you have any scanned photos? I’d love to see them.

  13. I lived on Calle 65 in Chapinero in the first part of 2010 and Colombia stole my heart. So glad you explored it, and so glad you told the stories of its charms.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top