Changing the Caribbean heat scene for the pleasant green valleys of the Andes mountains was a spectacular transition for us. Medellin impressed with its surrounding nature and the breathtaking views from El Peñón de Guatapé granitic rock. We loved the vibrant atmosphere of the city and the voluptuous sculptures of Fernando Botero. But more than this, Medellin was the place we chose to have our second prenatal control and where we would find out if we would have a “varoncito” or a “niñita”. At the Hospital Universitario San Vicente Fundación we had received a world class service and got the news! Guess what?
As we progressed towards Medellin we noticed a considerable change in landscape. There were pleasant views of valleys, meadows and hills covered with fresh green vegetation. We were finally in the popular Aburrá Valley of the Andean region. So beautiful!
We left the heat and humidity behind and entered into an invigorating climate. Finally!!! No wonder why Medellin is nicknamed the “City of the Eternal Spring”. Located at 1500m altitude from sea level it has a subtropical highland temperature, a comfortable mild weather year round.
Entering a metropolis is never easy and it was clear that Medellin was a busy one. It is Colombia’s second largest urban area, just after Bogota. The communities or “barrios” on the hills and mountains attracted our attention. They looked like the “favelas” of Rio de Janeiro, although they seemed more organized. The visible “Metrocables" (a cable car system integrated with the metro) connect the “barrios" to the central area of Medellin. This innovative system built two decades ago brought transportation solutions and opportunities to the people of these neighborhoods. It was a strategic project which changed the dynamics of the city, bringing security and prosperity to the metropolis and its people. Medellin is no longer reputable for its dangerous drug scenes and Pablo Escobar's cartel.
It is no secret that the city became internationally known mostly for its former drug dealer resident, Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel. And although it is the birthplace of the world-famous painter and sculptor Fernando Botero, more people still link Medellin to Pablo than to Fernando. Considering all the problems and the stigmas that Pablo brought to the community, it is no wonder that locals become upset with tourists interested in experiencing the “Pablo Escobar City Tour”. Somehow Pablo is still a taboo character and they do not want to be associated with that past. They are proud of what Medellin has become. Today it is recognized as a relatively safe city, free of drug cartels, with a lot of culture, art, and cool places to hang out with friendly locals.
On the day we arrived we wanted to check out the Hospital Universitario San Vicente Fundación which we had chosen for the second prenatal control. I was 16 weeks pregnant by then and I was looking forward to finding out if it would be a boy or a girl.
Luckily, we got an appointment for the following morning. We left the hospital to run some errands in the city before heading to the place where we would park for the night. JP’s passed by Lavy’ Maloka hostel in Medellin to collect his new debit card which the bank had shipped. We ended up setting ourselves up for the night at a car wash parking lot which was recommended on the iOverlander :-)) It was central enough; the price was right, and it was safe. Although not amazing, it served the purposes.
The next morning with a racing heart we departed by Uber to the hospital to find out the latest about the pregnancy development. I was so nervous because I wanted to be sure all was progressing naturally with the baby.
After a thorough analysis we were relieved to understand that everything was developing well. The doctor was very friendly and professional. He checked everything with such attention to details, asked all the right questions about our background and prepared a whole file with the pregnancy evolution so we could take it with us on our next prenatal controls south the continent. As we paid private we had priority service anywhere we would go. We did not have to queue, and the blood analysis came on the same day. That professionalism and care made an impact on us. It was probably the best service we received from any hospital, even when comparing with the expensive ones in Dubai. We were nicely surprised. Thank you, Colombia!
At some point during the scan the doctor popped the important question, asking us if we wanted to know the gender. We responded, yes, of course! He smiled and told us it was a “varoncito”, which is the Spanish for little boy. I was incredibly happy about the news. I always wanted a boy, or even two! But most importantly, I wanted the baby to be healthy and to develop well. In that moment nothing could shadow my joy, that miracle, that extraordinary feeling of completion. It was one of the most emotional and genuine moments of my life.
The following day I had to return to the hospital for vaccination, blood and urine tests. Once that was done, we were good with prenatal controls for one month. The next one would probably be in Lima or Cuzco, Peru.
We headed next to discover a little bit more of Medellin and its artful setting. We went to Botero Plaza to meet for the first time the famous sculptures of Fernando Botero.
The exaggerated volume figures of the artist are famous worldwide. It is actually a signature style called “boterismo” and it can be admired in art museums and metropolis’ plazas all around the world, including New York, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, etc. And although I am not an art expert, it is so easy to recognize his work because of the “fat figures” he likes to portray. The artist depicts political characters and regular people expressing his criticism and irony. His humor is obvious as well. Fernando Botero’s art is valued to millions of dollars apiece.
Walking we found a busy city center with people from all social classes zooming around, street vendors at every corner, music, action and intensity. There was something going on everywhere in that part of town. We found Medellin vibrant and with a stimulating atmosphere.
El Peñón de Guatapé
Located at about 85km from Medellin, El Peñón de Guatapé or The Rock of Guatape is an isolated huge rock in the middle of an apparent flat field full of lakes. The view from the top of the inselberg is pretty jaw dropping.
On our way there we admired hills, meadows, mountains and farms covered with lots of greenery. It was a very interesting mix of subtropical high-altitude flora and fauna. We could observe from pine trees, cultivations of corn, potatoes, tomatoes to banana trees and pineapple cultures. There was plenty of cattle farming as well. Fresh meat and cheese were amongst the delicious local offers, a considerable trade of what we had experienced that far in Colombia. We really liked that mix, not only the nature and the food, but the people were incredibly nice, welcoming, they seemed more educated than in the north and their households much more organized. Our excitement to explore more came back.
Of course, we had to climb the huge rock to the top. It goes up to 200m high and there is a 649 steps stairway to the top. I thought I was going to have a heart attack on the steep way up. When I reached the end, I was feeling both my heart and the baby’s heart. I felt like killing JP for pushing me that far :)) but when we saw the landscape from the tip it was surreal. We were happy we did it.
We decided to camp that night back in the neighborhoods of Medellin since we did not find any welcoming camping spot near Guatapé. We chose to stay at El Bosque Hotel and Glamping located in a beautiful mountain resort close to Santa Elena. We were at about 2500m altitude. It was refreshing, pleasant and safe. We took the opportunity to rest a bit and catch up with some blogging. Coincidently we met again Tim and Julia, a young German couple that we previously came across in Panama City just few weeks back. It was nice to share from our travel experiences from Panama to Colombia, especially our traumatic one when we figured somebody broke into our truck in Santa Marta. They were the people that could relate and understand how damaging that can be for an overlander. You are never alone on the road.
Although it was a relatively short stay in Medellin, we loved that green Andes region. It was a breath of fresh air from the tropical humid climate of the Caribbean coast. More than anything in Medellin we were reassured that the pregnancy was developing normally and that we would expect a baby boy. Exhilarating news! That little miracle was part of our lifetime journey!