Saturday, August 15, 2015

Long and crazy drive to Medellin

This is Mike...
We left Cartagena, on Thursday, bound for Medellin. We got a late start out of Cartagena because it took nearly 2 hours to buy a light bulb for my taillight. Basically we wanted to avoid any issues with the local police for having an inoperable light bulb. After 4 hours of driving we stopped in a town called Sincilejo because we wanted to make sure we had a hotel room for the night. Since we have never driven this route before we chose the town of Sincilejo because of it's size and probability of having a hotel. Now, fter driving on highway 90, I can say at least half of the little towns on the way have some accommodations. Staying in some of the smaller towns closer to Medellin might be a better option as Sincilejo is a congested town and worse still, our Garmin (with the latest version of maps) had all of the one way streets incorrectly marked. Yeah that's right, Garmin had incorrect data on a city filled with one way streets. This left us in a pickle on several occasions where I had to reverse out of a street with head-on traffic, so if you do drive to Sincilejo be aware the GPS data may be incorrect.
   On Friday morning we left extra early for a drive up the foothills of the Andes and back down to Medellin because we knew it would be long day. The road was incredibly undersized for the traffic it funnels between the cities. After driving up to about 8000 foot elevation we started to descend down to about 5000 foot elevation and eventually into Medellin, just in time for rush hour traffic on a holiday weekend. It took 11 arduous hours to drive 291 miles (469 kilometers) and 60,000 Pesos in toll fees to drive the route. We ate junk food along the way and only stopped for gas and a potty break two times to minimize down time. All four of us were exhausted by the time we arrived in Medellin. The two days of driving from Cartagena to Medellin totaled 15 hours of driving.
   Driving into Medellin was jaw dropping because how the city lays in the valley with steep slopes that rise up to the clouds. The suburbs go all the way up both sides of the 1000 to 2000 foot valley walls. The city constructed a series of gondolas and escalators to aid daily commuters to the metro rail links so they can get into the city center without cars. Even with these mass transit solutions the roads are congested and chaotic.
   We are staying in the el Poblado neighborhood which is a yuppie, urban chic area. Though the weather is totally different, it reminds me of the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. This neighborhood is filled with cool eateries, bars, shopping and all of it is accessible by foot or quick taxi ride. We arrived last night so we don't have any pictures of Medellin yet but will upload some soon I'm sure.
A view of the Castillo from across the bay
A view of the new city called Boca Grande in Cartagena from across the boat harbor
I stopped on the highway towards Sencilejo because I wanted to photograph some parrots.
I took a picture of Arroyo Muerto because the name sounded cool.
Driving up the foothills of the Andes was a slow affair. Notice the child stowaways hiding in the tubes and one kid holding on while riding his bike for a free ride up hill. 
Much of the drive in the higher altitudes was nice pastoral setting
The drive meandered through many medium sized villages.
Notice the Garmin is showing "Unpaved Road" but we were actually on the main highway which was paved. 
Some people built homes along side the retaining wall of the highway for secure footing

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