Making our way from Lima to Medellin, we stopped for one night in Bogota. The hostel we were staying in had arranged for a driver to collect us from the airport. His name was Good, and he was a very good man. He showered us with tips for Medellin and Bogota (where we'd be returning to explore later in our stay in Colombia), spoke to me in Spanish and English to help me learn and also insisted on collecting us when we return for our proper visit to Bogota.
That night we took it easy in the hostel save for a darting trip to the local shop to source some unfathomably cheap vegetables for our dinner. Since being told it was not safe to be out in the streets around our hostel after 9pm, we had no qualms about returning for some comforting pasta and an early night ahead of our 3am start the following day.
The next morning Good arrived back at the hostel, chirpy as ever, to take us back to the airport. We were briefed on our back story about being his cousins (police at the airport try their best to curb the use of unofficial taxis and Ubers), dropped off, checked in, and through to the gate in no time.
The flight itself was a joy; even from an aisle seat the views through the windows were absolutely stunning. We flew over thick mountainous jungles, their bushy peaks bulging through the clouds, alive/verdant/viridescent and dense with mystery. The drive to the hostel was equally abundant with breath-taking landscapes, matched only by the beautiful views atop the roof of our hostel.
Los Patios Hostel Boutique was one of the nicest I stayed in in South America - really well located with loads of activities and tours on offer. We spent about a week here and felt safe the whole time.
The following day we were up early for a tour of the infamous Comuna 13. In the lobby of the hostel we met Jason, our 23y/o Colombian guide. He was a bizarre man with a blurry backstory but who knew his way around the comuna and was well known in the area. We found him to be comical when his personality flipped from cool street wise guy to over-zealous drama student at every site we reached, spurting out his animated and well-rehearsed speech before switching back to regular Jason, asking us to take our photos and move along.
In our downtime, he told tall tales of how he'd been a robber in Bogotá before moving to Medellin at 18 but would "never rob a tourist, only rich businessmen". We heard about the recent demise of his 1-month relationship with a girl he met on Facebook which ended because he was 'too busy for her' and saw the photos he paraded of his gun which he'd yet to move to Medellin with him.
The comuna itself was beautiful. A colourful hodgepodge of rickety brick buildings corrugated iron roofs balanced on one hilly wall of the valley Medellin sits in. The theme of the tour was transformation and it was inspiring to see how much had changed there in the last 20 years. The street art told the story of the area's transformative years and the struggle to escape the harrowing violence which had defined it into the turn of the new millennium. One company had come in and painted a whole load of seemingly random houses as an act of good will. When viewed from afar, the painted houses form the shape of a heart on the side of the hill.
Jason passionately told us the story of the transformation here, the gruelling and complicated conflicts which the inhabitants try to remember. We had the pleasure of visiting the studios of graffiti artist and local superstar Chota13 whose tag can be spotted on a great number of the neighbourhood’s most iconic pieces of street art. We tasted some local frozen-fruit lollies which were sweet and refreshing.
At the end of the tour we attempted to make our way up one of the city’s cable cars to marvel at the stunning views. Our attempts were hindered by the state of public frenzy that day: It was the weekend of the Colombian Presidential elections which meant that while the sale of alcohol had been banned, public transport had been made free to all meaning that every man and his dog was out using the metro and cable car system. Best saved for another day.