Entering Medellin was something I wont forget in a hurry. About twenty minutes out the narrow, winding road I’d been on morphed into a gigantic six lane motorway that was all but deserted.
I was a bit worried about navigating in the city but it turned out relatively easy to manage. The city is in a narrow valley with the motorway cutting a swathe through it so all I needed to do was stay on the motorway until my exit, and from there it was just a few minutes to El Poblado, the area I was staying in.
Traffic got very hectic off the motorway and the drivers here liked to pull straight onto the road rather than waiting for a gap in traffic. I quickly learned that my best defense was the air-horn. It’s an aftermarket item that has three times the decibels of the standard horn and made my life much easier in the frantic traffic here. Rather than swerve or brake for merging cars I would just give them a blast on the horn and it would scare the bejesus out of them and they immediately jumped on the brakes. It definitely got me noticed, and in my mind the air horn was the single best safety feature on the bike, better than brakes even.
As bad as driving here was, I soon realized that being a pedestrian here was even more fraught with hazard than being a motorcyclist. After arriving at the hotel I figured I would park the bike for the rest of my stay here. A morning on foot trying to dodge maniac drivers cured me of that idea and from then on I was back on the bike to get around.
The main reason for staying in Medellin was to get the bike serviced. Colombia has a huge bike culture and service and parts availability were better and cheaper than at home. While I got some urgent work done in Costa Rica, I had the oil, tyres and brakes changed here at a fraction of the price and time it would have taken in the US.
The rest of the time was spent mostly socializing. Most of the bikers from the boat were here too, so much beers were had and tall tales shared. I also caught up with Mark, who I first met in Costa Rica. He was waiting on parts for his BMW after taking a spill up in the mountains.
The hub of all this activity was Shamrock Irish Bar and Grill (Scottish/Dutch managed), in the leafy district of El Poblado. They rent rooms to travellers but were booked out so I settled into a hotel around the corner and joined the nightly congregation there
One of our group from the boat, Annie from Scotland, got into an accident on her Harley while en-route to Medellin. She was run over by a bus and broke her arm and leg, and had to be transferred to Medellin for an operation. We visited her the evening before the operation. Albert, the owner of The Shamrock came along and smuggled in a bottle of wine for a pre-operation toast!
Despite (or maybe because of) the wine, Annie’s operation went well and a couple of days later checked out of hospital and settled in for rest and recovery at the Shamrock. More of the “boat people” came by to wish her a speedy recovery.
Medellin might have had a violent reputation in the past, but not anymore. It was very safe and orderly (apart from the traffic!). I didn’t do much sightseeing though . I was happy to hang around in the El Poblado district. It was clean safe and packed with restaurants and bars. Most establishments had Wi-Fi and I frequented so many of them that it got to the point I could walk down the street and have almost continuous Wi-Fi coverage as I passed by the bars and restaurants I had previously visited. I took that as a sure sign I was getting too comfortable in the city and it was time to move on again.
By now you might have noticed a pattern: Once I get settled in, I’m having a tough time dragging myself away from large cities. Medellin was no different and once I got pulled into its orbit it took significant effort to get away. Eventually, after five days I managed to get going.