We woke up yesterday morning bright and early, ready to explore the city. Medellín is about 80% of the way from Cartagena to our cousin’s house in Pereira, so it was a good stopover to break up the long trip. I’m certainly glad we decided to spend a day looking around rather than leaving immediately. When we got up, the friendly hostel staff gave us a map of the town and pointed out various attractions that we might like to see. After a week wandering the downtown core of Cartagena, we were ready to do something a little quieter, so we decided to check out some of the city’s parks.

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The first park we headed to was at the top of a mountain near the city. Our metro ticket got us halfway up the mountain by cable car, and then we bought a supplemental ticket to continue the rest of the way to the park at the peak. For about $2 apiece, we enjoyed stunning views as the cable car took us over the city, up the mountain, and through a forest to the park entrance, which was included in the price of the ticket there.
The park was just where we needed to be. We were far above the bustle of the city, surrounded by greenery and the smell of pine and cedar trees. Quiet trails led off in all directions (none of them signed) and we ambled this way and that trying to follow the completely inadequate map, while taking pictures of flowers and trees along the way.

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Smaller than my pinkie fingernail!

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There were so many types of variegated flowers

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Love the colour on these berries!

Eventually we gave up on finding the trail along a stream, which kept leading us into people’s farms and backyards, and wandered the flora trail instead. This trail was marginally better marked, with occasional signposts along the path, albeit blank ones covered in graffiti.

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We had no idea which way to go from this sign. This wasn't an isolated incident - all the trail signs looked like this.

After several hours’ walk, we returned to
the park entrance, where we bought lunch at a bustling market. Our set lunch was amazing – rice and pork with a hard-boiled egg, fried bananas, potato salad, and a big slice of bacon, all wrapped up in a banana leaf. We shared one between us so we’d have room for dessert – rice pudding and local mixed berries – before heading back down the mountain to our other destination, a park in the city.

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Exactly what we wanted for lunch

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Probably tastes better than it looks - I wish I could send photos of the smells and flavours, too!

The second park was next to the planetarium in the heart of the city. If we’d spent a few days in Medellín, I’d have spent a full day there and another at the planetarium besides. (The planetarium had a Darwin exhibit I would have loved to see, even if it’d be hard to understand in Spanish.) The park was a perfect place to have a quiet day in the city. There were plenty of peaceful corners to set up a picnic. We decided to head to the butterfly garden first, as I’d wanted to see one in Costa Rica and we’d decided against it because it had been expensive. This park was entirely free, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. It did not disappoint – I got to take pictures up close of a variety of species I’d seen in the wild, as well as a couple of new ones I hadn’t seen in Costa Rica.

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Monarch butterfly

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Pretty brown butterflies were everywhere.

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This one let a girl touch it!

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This one looks like an owl to deter predators. It is blue when its wings are open, but I guess my camera looked like a predator.

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Don't know what kind this was

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Blue Morphos butterfly - this was a mounted specimen but we saw tonnes in Costa Rica

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Almost transparent orange butterfly

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Amazing iridescent specimen

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Not yet hatched

After the butterflies, we began to explore the medicinal garden, but had to turn back because Ellen was getting tired.

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Luckily we didn't leave before we saw this lizard - he was huge!

She went back to the hostel while I went to the bus station to buy our tickets to Pereira for the morning. On her way to the hostel, she stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few bottles of the local microbrewery’s offerings, which were so good we drank them all as soon as I got back. We had thought about heading out to look at Christmas lights along the river, but we decided to spend a quiet evening in the hostel instead.

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Excellent local microbrew - hope local beer is available in Pereira, too!

Overall, Medellín was a delightful stop on our way to Pereira. If we have more time, I’d like to come back here – rumour has it there is good paragliding here that’s among the cheapest in South America. Certainly, the weather (cool but not cold) and the friendly people make Medellín even more pleasant, and the microbrewery’s tasty offerings are the icing on the cake. If you have the chance to visit, don’t pass it up.

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