Don't Be Afraid of the M-16!
A Day in Medellín
One of the most famous parks in the city is the Parque de Bolivar, dedicated to Simon Bolivar who won independence for Columbia from Spain in 1819, and became the country's first elected president. The park has a statue of Bolivar riding a horse that stands directly in front of the Basílíca Metropolitana, which is the largest brick church on the continent built with 1.2 million bricks.
People of Medellín enjoy street markets during the day as well as night. I wandered into a very pleasant craft market where local artists sell their jewelry, bags, clothes, and other items. Many of the locals were busy eating, drinking and shopping for gifts. Then, at 10 o'clock at night, Abeja and I again stumbled upon a very busy outdoor fruit and vegetable market near our hotel. What a surprise to see people out and about buying and selling produce while the music of bars and discotecas could be heard from the surrounding streets. Between the ride to Medellín and the action within the city, my experience in Colombia has so far been, at the very least, thrilling!
We're finally in South America! When we arrived in Turbo, the entry port to Colombia, we found it to be everything the guide book says it is: noisy, dirty, run-down, and dangerous. (In fact, we didn't feel safe taking he cameras out so, sorry, no photos!) The harbor itself smelled like one big restroom! Nonetheless, in order to enter Panama via the north coast, it is necessary to pass through the Turbo Immigration Office.
As we got off the boat, our bags were searched and we were questioned
about our intentions in Colombia. We took a taxi jeep to the Immigration Office located on a military police compound. As we drove in, one of the soldiers accompanied us by hanging on to the back of the jeep. At the compound, we were told that the road from Turbo to Medellín is normally quite dangerous, but because it was the Semana Santa holiday this week (Easter Week), there would be extra police patrolling the area.
Riding in a taxi back from the Immigration Office, we passed an overnight bus en route to Medellín, which stopped for us. We paid the taxi and hopped on. We were on our way! The bus ride was about as exciting as any I've ever taken. We first passed several little villages and lush tropical vegetation which was still visible before nightfall.
Then, about two hours into the ride, we were stopped by the police,
which more or less resemble the military with their M-16s, camouflage.
uniforms, and large numbers. Everybody was asked to get off the bus and leave their belongings on board. The men were made to spread their legs and place their hands on the side of the bus to be searched for weapons or drugs. The women just got to watch but apparently they're occasionally searched as well. We then had to show some sort of identification. I showed one of the officers my US passport and he began to ask me if I was carrying US Dollars on me, all of this in Spanish of course. He then quietly asked me, "Tiene Dólares?" which means, "Do you have any dollars?" It was clear to me that whatever I might "have" he wanted to have before I got back on the bus!
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Although I speak Spanish pretty fluently, it's sometimes better to NOT speak a word of the local language, or at least PRETEND to not understand it at all. I called out to Abeja really loudly for her to come over and translate. I made a bunch of noise and it brought so much attention to the situation that the officer became too embarrassed to continue inquiring about my financial situation in front of the locals and his fellow officers. (I figured he'd be just as happy with a camera as with dollars, so I didn't get a picture of him, either!)
A couple more hours into the trip we stopped again, this time because a large truck had crashed and overturned ending up on its side. It was traveling in the same direction as we were but it ended up on the left side of the road. Its front was completely smashed in and its cargo of lumber was spilled all over the road. There was already a police car at the scene but no sign of the truck driver. (Guess how many pictures I took? None! Again, we didn't feel safe showing off our gear on the bus. Sorry!) Between all of these events during the night, we just wanted to get to Medellín safely and as quickly as possible, which fortunately we did.
Team - Eight Days and Counting - Team Members Missing
Abeja - Bermuda, Bahamas, Come on Pretty Mama…Down to Porvenir
Kevin - Jaws!!!:Kevin's Attack
Abeja - Mayday! Mayday! Abeja's Flying the Plane!
Abeja - Heavy Breathing in Ecuador
Making a Difference - The Fate of Colombian Killers
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