The city of Escobar


  • Santa Marta – Medellin
  • Guatape
  • Pablo Escobar’s mansion

Following a horrific overnight bus in which Lucy and I slept for about two hours on and off whilst being thrown off our seats at each corner, we flagged down a taxi and head towards the Blacksheep hostel. The taxi driver didn’t know where it was so we pulled over in a few places, getting to see some of the Poblado neighbourhood along the way. Eventually we found it and checked in, then head up to the roof completely ignoring all the people in the hostel and hopped in to the hammocks. Two hours and a baby sleep later, we were like new women!

We ventured out to the supermarket that afternoon, grabbing a sausage roll along the way for a quick lunch. Coming back however, we were aware that our eyes had become seriously painful and were streaming like when chopping onions. Turning the corner, it became apparent why. There were student protests going on and the police were using tear gas. The roads were shut off and rocks were being thrown at the pedestrians and cops below. We had no choice but to make our way through it, practically sprinting to avoid falling rocks whilst crying from the gas.

Upon our return to the safety of our hostel we sat in the tv room and attempted to work out DirectTV. This is where we met a guy called Guy! He laughed at my inability to work technology whilst also failing himself, but it proved to be a lovely encounter as we’d made a friend who was to spend the next four days with us. 

That night we made chorizo hash for dinner and met a couple who we’d briefly seen in Minca beforehand. They joined us for dinner and we sat and had a chat with everyone else heading out that night. Us old grannies opted for the night in and were fast asleep when everyone came back.

The morning of day two in Medellin was spent on the ‘Real City’ walking tour. We’d been recommended this by so many people and you had to book on to be able to go. So there we were at 8.30am, being collected by the tour guide and head towards the metro station. Medellin, by the way, is the only Colombian city with metro, which they associate with the end of Medellin’s reign as the world’s most dangerous city, alongside their injection of culture, education and architecture in the hottest crime spots.

Julio was our tour guide and was fantastic. He knew all our names, plenty of local tales and even had a few inspiration tales for us; for example, the Colombian’s have drowned in their own crime and terror and yet remain happy as they’ve pulled themselves out of the water using their last breaths and now laugh at the sticky situation they were once in. What a way to look at life! It was on this tour that we met Rachel, Yanik and Moritz who were also at Black Sheep and extended our little hostel social circle.

After lunch, we purchased football tickets to the South American Cup final being held in Medellin that evening. It was the second leg of Atletico Nacional (Medellin) vs. Chapecoense (Brazilian – the team who recently lost most of their players in a plane crash). At 4.30pm, we were picked up and taken, two bus loads, to a “bar” before the game. This “bar” was simply a corner shop with a canopy outside under which we could shelter from the rain. However, we were grateful for the cheaper beer and toilet and made the most of the alcohol before heading inside the stadium.

It was my first football match, 13.5 years after Dad had promised to take me for my 10th birthday, and I instantly loved the atmosphere as we stepped inside. The home fans up on end were bouncing around the entire game, with their own band, giant flags, etc. Everyone had a coloured bag on their seat to spell out the Atletico name for support and every time a goal was scored the place just absolutely lit up! It was so incredible. Atletico ended up winning 4-1 to fireworks and an insane uproar as the trophy was lifted and paraded around the pitch. What a fabulous evening.

Our next morning was an early one because we had booked the Escobar paintballing tour. Luckily so had Moritz, Rachel and Musty (who we’d met at the football) so the Black Sheep gang descended to one of Pablo Escobar’s mansions an hour from Medellin, riding on top of a jeep whilst brushing our butts along the way. Here we had a tour of the house, guesthouse, pool, pool house, bar, stables etc. AND we got to play paintball in the stable and guesthouse area (since they were the only non-bombed buildings when the DEA tried to hunt Escobar down. We may have lost overall and I had a piece of sh*t gun that wouldn’t fire properly, but we had a great time. We later found out a member of the opposition was a professional paintballer which explained our bruises and being taken out so much!

We had lunch in the ‘Paradise Bar’ at the mansion and then piled in to boats to sail us along the lake to Guatape town. Guatape is Colombia’s most colourful city and a beautiful town. We stopped here for coffee and cake and a wonder around and then hopped on the bus towards ‘The Rock’ (an imaginative name, I know!). This rock was taken by a local man who built stairs up the side and charged everyone entry. He must make an absolute killing considering the beauty you experience at the top and the amount of daily visitors. After 740 steps and a serious lack of breath, we stopped sweating and made the most of the dusk photo opportunities before humming our way back down to the Casualty theme tune!

We arrived back to Medellin at 8.30pm and showered, made dinner and joined forces for pre drinks prior to our night out. It was a fun evening spent playing ring of fire and riding the bus, and then we head up to the roof terrace for a last few before ordering cabs. We’d organised to meet up with Connor and Emily for the night out and head to the bar for a house night (finally no reggaeton!). We also bumped in to Duncan and Will here so it really had been a Colombian reunion. The night was a lot of fun and ended with an afterparty back at our hostel from 4.30am onwards. I made it to bed about 10am, wondering like a zombie desperate for sleep!

 As such, we slept till midday and went out for a pizza lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon in front of the TV and asleep whilst the boys watched football. Guy laughed that he’d met us on that exact same spot on the sofa and was now saying goodbye to us here too. But what else can you do on a hangover day?!

About 6pm, Musty and the gang came to find us for dinner and we wondered towards Poblado under Musty’s recommendation of Baobow; an Asian restaurant with the most incredible food ever ever ever! What a perfect way that was to end our Medellin adventure. And a lovely way to say goodbye to the little group too. Although we were a little sad not to see Simon and Mike before we left.

So, 196 days in to ‘life from a bag’ and Medellin was truly mad, mental and magical. A fabulous city, some fabulous company and a fabulous near end to this great country.

Gabby x


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