Bring Us to the Mountain

Street Art MedellinWe passed this side street on innumerable occasions, but never really gave notice to the wall art. Today as we walked to the metro, we did stop to snap some shots.

Parque Arvi is way up in the mountains. It is so far, in fact, there is a cable car system to aid local residents of the mountain to get back and forth into town. Parque Arvi, which sits at the top of the mountain, is really a 1,761-acre valley. Here they have found archaeological treasures and roads made of stone that are wider than those of Cusco, Peru are, but still built centuries ago.

Our mission for the day was to ride the cable cars, pure and simple. After our mile long walk to the nearest metro station, Poblado on metro line A, we rode the metro for eleven stops arriving at Cable Car MedellinAcevedo station. The regular fare is about 45 cents at today’s exchange rates.

From the Acevedo station, there is a free transfer to line K, the first cable car. This is a shorter route, but with more stops. You can get off at Andalucía, Popular, and finally Santo Domingo Savio. These four stops comprise 2.1 km or 1.3 miles, but the ride takes approximately 10 minutes from start to finish.

As we ascended to the top, magnificent black buildings came into view. The young women traveling biblioteca españa medellinwith us inform us it is Parque Biblioteca España. We later learn a Spanish governmental project: Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation funded the construction. Giancarlo Mazzanti, a Colombian architect, designed the buildings to look like black stones. Platforms connect the three buildings.

Each building has a different function: library, training center, and auditorium. Deliberately created with small windows, this gives visitors the ability to disengage from the poverty of the surrounding neighborhoods. At nighttime, they illuminate. However, our young tour informants said they closed it temporary due to reconstruction on one of the buildings. There are problems identified with the façade.

Once at Santo Domingo Savio, you must change to a different cable car, line K. There is no free ride here. You are required to hand over an additional 4,500 Colombian pesos or $1.37 each way (today’s exchange rates). This is a real bargain for a 20-minute ride covering 4.6 km or 2.9 miles and has only one stop, Arvi.

Our travel companions in the car included a husband and wife from Colombia and their grown Parque Arvidaughter. They have lived in Boston since before the daughter was born. Each time they return to visit family; they never do anything touristy, this was their single non-family adventure. They were as excited as we were with the ride.

If we had been more energetic, there probably is much to do here. A small tourism kiosk sits just outside the terminal building. Signs with pictograms show the offerings, but this is on the side of a steep mountain. Where they see a valley, Parque ArviI see overexertion. Where they see adventure, I see sweating profusely. Where they see nature walks, I see an aching back and flat feet.

The farthest we wandered was across the street where we found bathrooms and an artisanal beer stand. This was our great adventure for the day. As a late in the day lunch, we ordered quesadillas with our beer. It never fails to amuse me how foods transition with interpretations. What arrived before us was a large flour taco folded over, filled with chicken and what looked like canned mixed vegetables in a creamy sauce. There was a ribbon of picante sauce across the top. It did serve as lunch and Colombia - Medellin January 2016 542dinner. It was that filling.

Young man's hatA young man having a beer, had a festive hat on. I asked if I could take a photo. He said he has never been asked this before, but was happy to oblige.

On the way down, we had the car to ourselves. Posted on the door are the rules for using the car, but the funniest was “Do not prance or bustle about”. Ron tried to bustle to take pictures. It is not easy with thick plastic windows that have suffered over the years.

The views of the homes along the way were a cultural experience in itself. Some of the homes are on steep parts of the mountain with long staircases reaching up to them. Still, it is difficult to determine how they initially get No prancingaccess to the bottom of the stairs. Poverty comes in all shapes and colors. Colombia - Medellin January 2016 558

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.