Category Archives: RTW Travel

No time for that

There are a lot of things this blog could be about. In the week since I’ve gotten here, I’ve learned about some interesting things.

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Such as: the name Pablo Escobar is kind of forbidden here. Or perhaps not forbidden, but taboo. One of our walking tour guides only referred to him as Voldemort. Which makes total sense, given the damage he did to the city and to the country. However, soon after his death they sold tours of his houses. Even his own brothers led tours through the ruins of his homes. Earlier this year, a building in El Poblado (the ritziest area in the city) built by Escobar was destroyed for no other reason than that it was built by him.

Also there are at least 40 hippos that are descendants from his personal zoo that now live in the rivers; the largest enclave outside of Africa.

But there’s no time for that.

metroI could talk about the Metro, which as I already said is super modern. What I have learned is that was built by the citizens of Medellin just as they escaped the troubles and it serves as a civic symbol of rebirth. It’s the only metro in the country, and it won’t be paid off until 2080 something, but the stations are spotlessly clean and the cars always full and the people are very proud of it. Also the metro stops are always playing 80s English songs like Karma Chameleon or Call Me.

But there’s no time for that either.

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I could tell you that this is a dog friendly country, with big and small dogs everywhere.  Over half of all people have at least one pet. Some towns have public feeders for any dog to get some food. The street dogs are well fed and not threatening and people bring their dogs into malls and banks and everywhere. I even read that they’re establishing a bus line so people can travel with their pets.

But there’s no time for that either.

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The thing that has struck me about Medellin most of all is that it’s really a first-world city.  It has few hallmarks of the developing world–the streets are clean (garbage and recycling bins everywhere), drivers follow the traffic lights, motorcycle riders barely go on the sidewalk. The people are super friendly and (two would-be pickpockets notwithstanding) it’s felt safe everywhere I’ve gone.

But there’s not even time for that.

What I really want to talk about it is how weird it is to travel blog. You have to start traveling with an eye on “content.” You must take notes throughout the day, do research and conduct interviews, or change what you want to do in order to create something interesting.  But at the same time you don’t (or at least I don’t) want to do the standard, SEO based fluff pieces recommending 4 star hotels and restaurants full of unhappy rich people.

It feels inauthentic.

There is a low-key pressure to find interesting things, to document, and to observe. Not all blogging is like this, of course; some of the how-to is simply a list of facts. On the other hand, when you are traveling with “blog vision,” all the information you receive can be sorted and processed. But for thoughtful pieces, you need to collate information, add analysis, put together photos, do some kind of layout, and then disseminate via social media. When you’re on the road, it can take a lot of time. When I was traveling long term (2014-2015), I’d periodically have to take 1-2 days off just to blog.

I’d like to blog more, but ….

But there’s no time for that.

 

 

Yeti Sleeps: The Inhospitable Hostel

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When you book at a hostel, anything can happen. I’ve stayed at some pretty dire places in my time, but Natural Rock Hostel is possibly the worst.

To be fair, the location is great and the rooms are good value. But that’s where the positives end. When we arrived, there was no one there. Like guests or employees, apart from a cleaning lady on the 4th floor. Finally someone showed up and despite a largely empty hotel, they split up our party, putting Zulia and I on the third floor and my Mom on the fourth.

This mattered because at 2am a loud party began on the third floor. Music blasted, people sang at the top of their lungs, and the smell of alcohol filled the floor.
We waited 20 minutes before calling the front desk, who assured us everything was “tranquilo”. The music didn’t stop, the shouting and singing didn’t stop. Until finally they were replaced by the noisy sounds of sex. These lasted longer than you would have liked or hoped.

When they finally finished, we went to check on my mom on the fourth floor to see if she was okay and discovered a) the room next to us was full of prostitutes and b) the man from the front desk, wearing nothing but a towel. A used condom lay in the hallway. All this time I had hoped that it was drunk guests who thought they were alone in the hotel, but this was the dude who had checked us in. He had put us in that very room next to his antics!

What happened next I’m not sure; either the prostitutes didn’t get paid (as they claimed) or they stole something from the men (as they claimed). What it meant was a lot of shouting at the top of the lungs. By 4am, sleep-deprived and going crazy from all the noise, we fled upstairs and discovered many other guests who had fled the third floor. A german lady had fled 30 minutes before us, and a family with a baby had come up an hour before that. Even from the 4th floor, the noise of arguing and banging was so loud we had to turn up music to sleep. In all, we were up from 2 am to 430 because an employee of the hotel was partying with hookers. We left as soon as it was light, asking a new guy at the front desk for either a refund or the owner’s number and getting neither.

Guatape is a lovely town but I’d be lying if I didn’t say this affected how we felt about it. I’ve stayed in some dodgy places in India, Nepal, Thailand, etc but this was one takes the cake.