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To Medellin and beyond

After Santa Marta we headed south to Medellin, where we would eventually start our long journey out of Colombia and into Ecuador.

Medellin itself is set in a valley - surrounded by green mountains. At night the mountains seem to light up with twinkling stars as buildings on the hills turn their lights on

Medellin itself is set in a valley – surrounded by green mountains. At night the mountains seem to light up with twinkling stars as buildings on the hills turn their lights on

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!)

Just some of the street food available in the city; doughnuts, plantain crisps, grilled meats and (of course) empanadas

Just some of the street food available in the city; doughnuts, plantain crisps, grilled meats and (of course) empanadas

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.

Unfortunately we didn't take this picture, but it's a very similar scene to the kind of thing we saw that night

Unfortunately we didn’t take this picture, but it’s a very similar scene to the kind of thing we saw that night. They certainly love their football!

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.

Boarding the Teleferico

Boarding the Metrocable

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.

A view of Medellin from the cable car

A view of Medellin from the cable car

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!

Some of the scenery on our journey through southern Colombia

Some of the scenery on our journey through southern Colombia

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.

One of the buses we took (from Pasto to Ipiales). This one wasn't very high-tech, but we made it eventually!

One of the buses we took (from Pasto to Ipiales). This one wasn’t very high-tech, but we made it eventually!

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’.

Impressive architecture: Las Lajas Church, Ipiales, Colombia

Impressive architecture: Las Lajas Church, Ipiales, Colombia

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.

The Ecuadorian border!

The Ecuadorian border!

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.

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