Pura Vida Travels - A Guide To Travel In Latin America

On Sunday I headed to the airport around 2 PM for the short flight to Panama City, Panama followed by another short flight to Medellin, Colombia. I arrived in Medellin around 8:30 PM and began the process of working my way out of the airport. I will say this many times in this report but remember these words, traveling to Colombia is not recommended unless you are a SEASONED traveler and you speak passable Spanish. The first stop on your way out of the airport is immigration. This will tell you something about Colombia, there is NO line for tourists. There were 4 lines and all of them said ďresidents onlyĒ so I just picked a line hoping I was in the right place. When my turn came I handed the guy my passport and he fired a bunch of questions at me in rapid fire Spanish. I had no idea what he was saying so I nodded and looked concerned and mumbled from time to time and whatever I said was the right answer because he let me go. The next stop is baggage claim. When my bag thankfully arrived it was covered in melted ice cream. I have no idea how that happened but I was in no position to raise a fuss about it. After you get your bag you get in line to go through customs. You MUST have the little sticker they give you when you check your bags that matches the one on your luggage. They check every bag and COLLECT the stickers, check to see that they match, and only then can you proceed. The next stop is the ďred light/green lightĒ station. You push the button and normally if you get a green light you are on your way to your car. Not in Colombia. It didnít matter what color light you got because they searched EVERY bag from every passenger. Before they search your bag, however, they search you. Every passenger is thoroughly frisked. Iím not talking just a pat down, a guy in a military uniform put his hands in places I donít like a guys hands if you know what I mean. Finally, they go through everything in your bag, check all the pockets, open things, etc. Itís definitely the most complete baggage search Iíve ever encountered and this was after getting OFF a plane.

After finally passing through all the checks I exited the airport to a mob of humanity. I had the good sense to have a driver waiting for me and he was there with a sign with my name on it. We went to his car and while he was waiting for me someone stole 1 of his windshield wipers. At least they had the courtesy not to steal both of them and only the one from the passenger side of the car. The Medellin airport is about 45 minutes outside of the city. The ride is not for the timid. The city of Medellin is nestled in a mountain valley at 5000 feet above sea level. The airport is on top of the mountain at around 7000 feet. To get from one to the other is a 2-lane road featuring hairpin turns, landslides, and insane drivers. The views are breathtaking in spots and downright frightening in others.

Colombian Breakfast, Eggs And Sausage

View From The Apartment

Oveida Mall

Oveida Mall

We arrived safely at the apartment I had rented at around 10 PM. The guy I rented it from was waiting for me with the keys and led me to my new home for the week. Since I was on vacation I splurged for a nice place. I was a little nervous since I did this all online but I was not disappointed. For $80/night you can live like a king in Medellin. The apartment is beautifully furnished, has a huge walk-in closet, all marble bath with a Jacuzzi, a big screen Sony TV, a computer, and just about anything else you can think of.

Avenida Poblado

Hot Tub

Huge Bathroom

Walk-In Closet


Nice TV


Great View

Great View

On Monday I awoke to my first daytime views of Medellin. The mountains are incredible and the views of the city are different from anything I have ever seen before. The city sits in what I can only describe as a giant bowl. It spreads out from the base up the slopes of the mountains. Even though Medillin is at over 5000 feet above sea level it is known as the city of eternal spring. Because of itís proximity to the equator and itís elevation the temperature is a near constant 75 degrees year round. The bizarre thing is that the plants are more tropical than anything else. Itís odd being in the mountains and having palm trees everywhere.

I decided to go out and explore a bit and try to get my bearings on the city. The area I was staying in is called Poblado and is very upscale and safe. I was only about a block away from the Oveida Mall so I decided to check that out first. If you are a heterosexual male this is the mall of your dreams. NEVER in my life have I seen so many beautiful women in one spot. As an added boost to your ego, if you are a reasonable looking gringo they will all be checking you out as well. I felt like Tom Cruz walking around in there. This is when I was starting to get the feeling I was going to like Medellin.

Around lunchtime I headed back to the apartment and got a lesson about phones in Colombia. I tried to call my amiga Maria from the phone in my apartment and all I kept getting was some jibberish in Spanish. It turns out that you canít call a cell phone from a landline and vice versa in Colombia. I tried to use my US cell phone and that wouldnít connect either. Next, I tried to use my skype phone and it worked but the connection was really bad so I kept losing her. Unbeknownst to me it was her bad cell reception in her office and not Skypeís fault. Since I thought Skype was the problem I finally gave up and walked down the street to the cell phone store figuring I would just buy a cheap cell phone. It turns out they rent them for $4/day so I just did that instead. I was finally able to get in contact with Maria and we made arrangements to have dinner that evening after she was done with work.

Tropical Mountain View

City Street

Motorcycles Everywhere!

50,000 Pesos ($22 US)

20,000 Pesos ($9 US)

10,000 Pesos ($4.50 US)

Around 5:30 I gave her a call and we made arrangements to meet. She arrived by cab and we went back to her house to get her car. It turns out that traffic is so bad in Medellin that you are only allowed to drive your car during the day on certain days of the week based on what your license plate ends in. This was her day to not be allowed to drive until 7:30 PM. She lives nearby so it was a short ride to her house. Once we were at her house I got the third degree from her daughter to make sure I was acceptable for her mom. I passed the test and we were on our way to dinner.

Since I knew next to nothing about anything in Medellin I asked Maria to pick wherever she wanted to go. She asked if I liked traditional Colombian food and I, of course, lied and said yes. Itís not so much that I lied itís just that I really didnít even know what ďtraditionalĒ Colombian food was. We went to a beautiful restaurant in the mountains with a spectacular view of the city. The food was excellent. It turns out traditional Colombian food is rice, beans, and all things meat which is convenient for me because I like all of them.

While we were having dinner I learned something else interesting about women in Colombia. While they are not shy about checking you out when you are alone they are downright obvious about it when you are with a woman. Every time the waitress came over she would put her hands on my shoulders and lean over me to talk to Maria. I honestly didnít know how to react and was a little embarrassed by it. Maria didnít seem bothered by it though and later explained thatís just how Colombian women are. She said they are very competitive over extremely handsome men. Well, finally, after years of searching I found the one country on earth where women are blind! I did fail to mention to her that when she went to the ladies room the waitress came over and gave me her phone number. I didnít really want to start a catfight in the restaurant over little, old me.

"Plato Typico"

Me And Maria

View From The Restaurant

End Of Day 1

Click Here For Pics Of Day 2 In Medellin


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