A big splash of terracotta

Brick buildings up the hillside

Well, this is a bit different! Throw away your negative stereotypes of drug lords and guerilla-controlled jungles; Colombia is modern, warm and very very friendly.

We flew into Medellin via Quito, crossing the equator on the way and dropping us into a bustling city of skyscrapers and red brick houses spread into the distance along the sides of a valley. The place is as diverse as it is large; at one end of the valley are hundreds of tower blocks of condo appartments, while at the other the hills glitter with the metallic reflections of shanty town tin roofs. Above all, the colour is terracotta, reminiscent of La Paz as the brickwork takes over every hillside.

A highlight was being able to take a cable car (part of the city’s metro) up one of the valley sides to the mountain at the top. The way up affords fantastic views over the distant city, as well as a fascinating and voyeuristic look at the lives of those living in the poorer areas of the city over which it passes. At the top of the mountain is the Parque Avi, a collection of walking and cycling trails in the forest. Think National Trust in a tropical forest, complete with picnic benches. It wasn’t quite what we were expecting to do on our first day in Colombia!

A voluminous Botero bird

The city is also the home of Fernando Botero, famous for his ‘voluminous’ sculptures and paintings, which are exhibited the world over. He says he’s not actually trying to depict fat people, just to challenge notions of size and proportion in his work. Looking at them, it’s pretty impressive how he manages to convey a sense of volume in everything – humans, obviously, but also flowers, and even houses.

After a restful afternoon in the Botanical Gardens, we’re now off on an overnight bus to the Carribean coast and the much-hyped city of Cartagena. We’re hoping for tropical sunshine, idyllic beaches and a bit of downtime; we’ll let you know what we find!