After Santa Marta we headed south to Medellin, where we would eventually start our long journey out of Colombia and into Ecuador.
Unfortunately, I fell quite ill after our jungle trek and so we weren’t able to enjoy Medellin as much as we had expected to. We had wanted to go and see Medellin’s famous Salsa dancing scene at one of the clubs, but instead we were limited to exploring the area around our hostel until I was well enough to venture further.
Luckily for us, our hostel was next to a street that became a hive of activity after dark – packed with vendors selling delicious looking street food (which only Dale was able to sample!)
One particularly busy evening was the night after Colombia’s loss to Brazil in the quarter finals of the World Cup – even though Colombia was out of the competition, celebrations still went on into the small hours, with people dancing energetically in the street.
On our last day in Medellin we decided we needed to see more of the city before we left, so we took the metro to the city’s cable cars for a birds-eye view. The ride to the top of one of the mountains surrounding Medellin was fascinating – the cars glided directly over the houses and buildings, which you could see change from general apartments and shops to poorer areas on the outskirts of the city, with run-down huts made of corrugated steel. It was an interesting glimpse into real-life in Medellin, which we ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to access safely.
The most impressive part of our ride was the view from the top of the mountain – the massive city of Medellin sprawled out below us against the backdrop of misty mountains. It was impossible to see the edges of the city, which seemed to stretch on forever.
We were up early the next morning ready to start our journey across the border to Ecuador. In total, the journey would take three days and involve two coaches, two busses, four taxis and two collectivos. We could have taken a simpler and shorter route, but we had heard that some people had encountered problems (thefts and muggings etc) while travelling at night, so we decided to take it slow and travel only during the day.
The first leg of our journey was a nine-hour coach trip from Medellin to Cali, which went by quickly as we had comfy seats and wifi. The views from the coach were also spectacular – it’s amazing how mountainous Colombia is!
The second part of our journey was a second nine-hour trip to Pasto. Unfortunately, none of the premium-style coaches we knew of were making this journey during the day, so we opted for a local bus company – a bit less comfy, but it got us there safely.
The third part of our journey was another bus (for around three hours) to Ipiales – where you can easily catch a taxi to the Colombian/Ecuadorian border. Before reaching the border, we wanted to take a small diversion to a nearby church called Las Lajas, which is built across a huge canyon. The church was built in the 1900s, so it’s not particularly ancient, but it is extremely impressive none-the-less. There was a service happening while we were visiting and it was interesting to see several people with differing ailments who had obviously come to be ‘cured’.
After spending a few hours at the church, we continued our journey with a collectivo back to the bus terminal and then an onward taxi to the border. After crossing into Ecuador, we jumped into another taxi to get to nearby town Tulcan, where we were hustled on to a coach that was leaving for Quito – Ecuador’s capital – in the next five minutes. This last leg of our journey took six hours and we eventually arrived (later than anticipated) in Quito.
Colombia exceeded all our expectations. It’s a fantastically diverse country with amazing scenery, interesting places to visit and very friendly people. It’s a shame people are still put off by its shady past, but we could see during our visit that increasing numbers of tourists are starting to consider it as a good holiday destination. We hope that Ecuador will be another highlight of our round-the-world trip.