So, last one then.
After a huge good bye party in Atacames with the other volunteers I rolled back to Quito ready to get prepared for the madness of Colombia. Everything I had heard had led me to believe I was going to a land of ridiculously beautiful women and was going to get kiddnapped. Had to be done then.
From Cali airport the minibuses wind their way through sugar plantations in ridiculous (40 degree) heat towards Colombia's third largest city. As you enter city limits a sign welcomes you to "Cali, the home of South Americas most beautiful women". No seriously they have the sign!
I rolled up to the plush hostal Iguana and quickly went hunting for some food at a local supermarket where the disadvantages of stupidly hot women everywhere became evident. Firstly, the beauty section was about a third of the shop! Secondly and probably more importantly the staff kept trying to help me and I kept knocking things over! Apparently I am still scared of girls. Escaping with some basic provisions (aguadiente, juice, coffee and bread). I rolled back into the dorm to discover my new roomates in the middle of a flowing hebrew argument. After introducing myself and breaking up the near conflict between Tal, Shai and stoned Israeli kid (never did learn his name) we decided to hit the nightlife for which Cali is famous. It was pretty damn good for a Wednesday, though I really can't salsa and we only seemed to be able to attract the attentions of guys from Cali, who bought us copious amounts of alcohol, and girls from Mexico (I was told one of them had beautiful eyes, I mean who says that?).
A next day and feeling a little the worse for wear we woke early and headed for the nearby village of San Cipreano in the jungle. Colombian bus stations are really nice, Colombian buses are horrific. As we weaved along bumpy roads, through stunning jungles and past tanks, soldiers and seemingly limitless road blocks, assorted Colombians decided to amuse us with the contents of their stomachs. Me and Shai appeared to be the only people not getting sick and so traded stories from when we were 18, him blowing holes in people/houses in the West Bank during 2 compulsory years in the Israeli army while I blew up 3000 balloons in my school at 3am. Different world. On arrival in Cordoba we rocked onto the craziest train I had ever seen. It was a motor bike attached to the rails with wooden planks where the sidecar would be. We then rocketed through stunning jungle all holding on for dear life while the driver just laughed and went faster. On arrival in San Cipreano we headed straight for the River where we swam, tubed skimmed stones and generally wasted an afternoon. The way back on the train it was rainingand I was pretty sure we were close to derailing on every curve!
On arrival in Cali we where informed that it was the 472nd birthday of Cali and that there was a gigantic beer and salsa festival to celebrate. We hit the beer festival hard for $5 all you can drink! Then we headed to "Blues Brothers" for live Salsa and weren't disappointed either by the Caleñas or the band. Following this epic night we grabbed savory churros (absolutely gorgeous) and staggered to bed.
Friday I realised signalled 5 months away and as a result I felt spontaneous so headed to Medellin for the flower festival. So Medellin has a bit of a bad reputation on account of previously having the worlds highest murder rate in the early nineties while some guy called Pablo Escobar ran the infamous Medellin cartel exporting the white stuff. If you can find it watch Rosario Tijeras, which is probably the greatest film I've ever seen, but I fear you cannot get in English subtitles.
The drive was stunning as we saw huge coffee plantations, jungle and the mighty andes all in one fail swoop. Arriving in Medellin I was disturbed to discover Casa Kiwi - the place to be - was filled with English people and that I would be sleeping in the TV room, allbeit at knockdown rates.
Having chatted to some lads from London and Sheffield it appeared Friday was gonna be pretty big so we headed out into El Poblado, Medellin's zona rosa. So basically this is the first time I say this, but it wont be the last and I probably will be going on about it all summer; the girls in Medellin are the hottest in South America (maybe the world), nothing else even comes close, I have honestly never seen anything like it. This said unlike Buenos Aires they are really really friendly and almost everyone goes out of their way to make you feel welcome.
OK back to the night fastforward a couple of hours of reggaeton (thank god) and we got thrown out, not sure what for, I think for drinking someone elses drink but I don't know and walk out into a massive fight. The scrap was very brief as we quickly find ourselves staring down the wrong end of 2 soldiers Kaleshnikovs. We were informed that in order to avoid arrest we would have to pay them 20,000 pesos (US$8) and that they wanted one of the other guys green hat ("it looks military"). Following a lot of swearing and threats (in english) we paid and wandered back to the hostel. Someone wanted to watch City of God which was fine by me but I got almost no sleep.
The next morning I was up bright and breezy to do Medellin's sights. Having jumped on the metro I began to work out a plan. As the birthplace of Santiago Botero, Medellin has the largest collection of his works anywhere in the (free!) modern art museum and also has loads of statues in the Plaza de Botero. I started with the museum of modern art and was again distracted by the ridiculous amount of beautiful assistants all of whom wanted to show me around. The museum is really cool and the Botero section is amazing, though you can't take any pictures. Having wandered around the square checking out the crazy statues I headed for the, again free, cable car which gives stunning views over Medellin. I then grabbed an awesome strawberry batido at the botanical gardens before heading back to the hostel to meet the guys and do the flower festival. The flower festival was kinda crazy, basically a massive advertising parade with a few horses (no flowers) and I'm not really sad I forgot my camera.
Following another crazy night out, I headed back to Cali for my flight the next day. I was sorry to leave Colombia and definately want to go back to do the whole country properly. Though I did nearly miss the flight on account of being searched 4 times and xrayed twice before questioning about my colombian family(!?) and job description.
Anyway, Dad I'll see you tomorrow, everyone else see you Saturday!