Colombia 2: Medellín

Ang and Simon tore open the first clue of this leg of the race and departed the pit stop at 11am for the short taxi ride to the airport.  There the check in formalities was completed rapidly and the team commenced their wait in Cartagena airport.  After joining the queue to register that they were waiting at the boarding gate, the team returned to their seats.  Moments later passengers were again called and the team queued to commence boarding.

After a mostly uneventful flight, as the team’s aircraft was on final approach to Bogotá, Ang commented that “it really is boggy here isn’t it”?  This caused Simon to laugh as recent rains gave the area around the airport the appearance of marshland.  Once inside the airport they waited and then boarded the next plane that was an hour late for Medellín.

In the past, Medellín was the stronghold of Pablo Escobar and at one time, the murder capital of the world.  Violence was a regular part of city life with Pablo Escobar paying up to$1000 USD for people to kill policia.  Pablo himself was gunned down on a roof top trying to escape the Policia in 1993. The city and the country of Colombia has instituted a number of key initiatives (including killing Pablo) over the past 20 years that have helped to contribute improved security. However, despite these initiatives, Colombia is no Switzerland, so Ang and Simon were nervous to be arriving after dark.

Their plane touched down and they headed out to ground transportation.  There they met a nice American, who was heading to the same area.  They chatted on the bus into town where they changed to a share a taxi to Pobaldo (where Pablo was gunned down).  The team rapidly found their hostel and went out to Parque Lleras where they had what Simon and Ang agreed was a great meal.

Parque Lleras christmas decorations

Receiving their next clue the next morning, the team raced to the Botero exhibit.  There they viewed the impressively paintings and scultures.  Ang was particularly pleased as “Botero’s work makes me laugh”.  Completing this challenge they were given their next clue and the next morning travelled to one of three cable car lines on Medellín’s metro system.

Panorama of a Medellín park (complete with Chrismas theming)
Busy Medellín street Medellín skyline
Medellín church
Guy looks at the Botero statue of a guy on a horse Another pair of Botero statues
Trumpet art in the Botero museum Kind of like a phone box, but with a real person and a mobile

Transferring from the metro line, without paying extra, the team stepped into the cable car cabin and commenced the ride.  As part of the regular transportation system in Medellín, the team shared the car with other tourists and locals.  The spectacular ride took the team high into the hills around Medellín.  Ang and Simon received their next clue and then headed back down to the metro station.

Racers pose for a photo in a cable car Integrated cable car transport

Travelling once again by Metro line and then on foot, the team headed to their next destination, the Museo of Modern Art.  Owing to this being a Monday, the museum was closed.  The team opted to forego this challenge rather than wait for 24 hours for it to open.  After serving out a 30 minute time penalty, they were given their next clue.

On foot they raced back towards town and along the Rio Medellín.  This stretch of the river side had been transformed into a carnival of Christmas.  Simon christened the 2kms of semi wasteland Navidad Street.  Unfortunately, despite the lights being on in the fantastic decorations, none of the stalls were open.  The team walked the entire length and decided to return later that evening.  At the end of Navidad Street, they received their next clue.

Ang next to the christmas display, Navidad street

Walking over a still being constructed footbridge, the team headed to a nearby park.  The park offers a tactile experience for the feet.  Unfortunately, owing to gardening, this park was also closed and it was not clear when or even if the construction work would be finished.  Again the team opted for a time penalty instead of returning the next day.  Waiting out the time penalty with icecreams in hand, the team received their next clue.

They walked back into the centre of town and boarded the metro line, heading for the Jardín Botánico de Medellín.  Upon arrival they were informed by a helpful printed sign and some laid back guitarists that the park was closed.  Once again a time penalty was taken and the team opted to walk around the park to fill in the time.  After witnessing more of the contrast between Medellín’s modernisation development and shanty favela suburbs, the team returned to the Metro line where they were given their next clue.

Panorama of a plaza in the city centre

Racing to almost the end of the northern line, the team arrived at the station for line J, another cable car.  This particular car took the team high above the barrios providing fantastic and interesting views of Medellín and the Biblioteca Español.  As they approached the summit, they noticed that line M was closed.  This meant they would be unable to complete this challenge and again would need to take a time penalty.  After a short wait, the team once again boarded the Metro line as the sun set.

The view from the cable car Biblioteca Español
Favelas, Medellín style
Panorama looking up the metro cable line

For their final task, the team travelled by Metro then foot back to Navidad street.  There they were able to walk the entire length of the festive street, which was unusually open.  They took in the sights of the decorations and the people and soon reached the end of the street.  There they were told to make their way to the pit stop.

Decoration in Navidad street Navidad street by night
El Tren de Navidad Another decoration
Navidad decorations over a smelly canal

Travelling by Metro once more the team returned to their hostel in Pobaldo and checked into the pit stop for this leg of the race.

In a post race interview both Ang and Simon were annoyed at the number of challenges they were unable to complete, but still enjoyed this leg of the race.  Simon liked the metro cable system saying “where else in the world can you ride a cable car that is part of integrated public transport.  It makes a lot of sense for a place with hills to do this”.  Ang was particularly pleased that she was able to see Botero’s work, saying that “his art makes me laugh, there is something about the way he paints and sculpts that is great.  I thoroughly enjoy the visit”.

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