We are up early, packed and ready to go by 7:00am, and then we look outside…..it’s pouring, and we have about 10-15 minutes to walk to the bus terminal. Thankfully, like most tropical storms, it is over in a few minutes and we head out. We catch the 7:30am cooperativo and squeeze into seats with our backpacks – why do the seem to expand as the trip goes on?
Traffic was a little heavier, finally it is a work day, however we still managed to be at the Pereira bus terminal by 9:00am, an hour early. Time went by quickly and at 10am we boarded our double decker ‘Elite’ bus. The seats were comfy except that the people in front of us had their seats fully reclined – Colombians seem to have a love affair with almost laying flat while on tour. After some convincing they pulled their seats up and we were comfortable.
Travel was slow due to traffic and the never ending winding roads of this region – after all we are in the Andes and it makes for beautiful scenery. From the moment we left Pereira, there wasn’t even a half kilometre stretch of straight highway. Until we arrived in the suburbs of Medellin, it was two-way traffic. How our driver managed the hairpin turns with our huge monster bus was amazing!
The lush steep hills of coffee farms eventually gave way to equally green but different foliage and trees, and into more fruit farms; pineapple, banana, guayaba (guava), Maracuya (passion fruit), limes and many others. Half way to Medellin, the climate was a touch drier and we followed a huge river through a rather steep canyon. Eventually, the canyon walls became shallower and we were at river level.
Now……..for the long winding climb – up, up, and up, hugging the side of the mountains until we reached the ridge. We then wound around each curve of the mountain staying high in the mountains for what seemed like forever. The valley was far below, beautiful, but very far down. At some spots I declared, we have hiked ridges wider than this! Amazingly, all of the towns and villages were clinging to the side or on top of the ridges. The whole population was living on the top of the world!
Our driver expertly manoeuvred the bus around each sharp, serpentine bend, and many times we had to wait at a curve for other large vehicles to pass as we both wouldn’t fit. It was a bit of a nail biter and I was very happy once we came down and entered the suburbs of Medellin. The entire journey reminded me of the old Colombia coffee commercial with the train snaking its way through the Andes. I swear the roads have barely changed since then!
Finally 5.5 hours later (and only 217km) we rolled into the Terminal Del Sur of Medellin, glory hallelujah! It was a short 10 minute taxi ride to the Dann Carlton hotel which is a beautiful property. We requested a higher floor and, while waiting for our room to be ready, relaxed in the lobby bar with a nice bottle of Chilean Chardonnay. We had a bit of a challenge getting the server to pay attention to us as we were wearing shorts, running shoes and carrying backpacks. I think she thought we were transients or hooligans or who knows what, as she reluctantly came over to take our order. Once she did, her first question was ‘and will you be paying cash?’ This thoroughly annoyed us – I have learned over the years in tourism, never to judge people by what they wear on vacation! Little did she know we were guests and just waiting for our key. So rather than cash, we paid by Gold Amex and that seemed to change her attitude a wee bit. Not really a good first impression on our first afternoon in Medellin, but we shrugged it off as one bad incident does not a city make.
Wine consumed, key received, we merrily made our way up to the 16th floor with an incredible view of the northern mountainous neighbourhoods of Medellin, what a gorgeous city, and a delightful room to boot. Hmmmmm, need to get out the better clothing for this city.
It was an early night as we were tired from the journey. Tomorrow is another day!