We spent Sunday morning in the sky, paragliding (in tandem) over Medellin in amazement about how vast the city was. The view was amazing and we spent about 20 minutes amongst the birds taking it in!
Gavin, being a typical engineer, decided to ask his guide a question about how the operations worked while in the air, unfortunately for Gav he misunderstood and thought he was asking for “maneuvers”!! I was wondering what was going on when I was videoing what I thought was the landing..you can see some of the footage I captured, along with what exactly was going on in the sky here:
Later that afternoon we visited a remembrance museum, Museo Casa De La Memoria. The fact that the majority of information was in Spanish, and we couldn’t understand it, but still came away feeling a sense of sadness for the history of Medellin speaks enough about the museum. In particular there was a beautiful room, in total darkness with about 100 rotating screens with pictures of those killed, kidnapped or disappeared which was really effective.
Sunday evening is BBQ night at the hostel were staying in where Gunther impressed us even more and produced an amazing feed…it was enough to rival the BBQ king of Teapot Lane at home, but not quite as good :)!! It was a lovely evening meeting others staying in the hostel and hearing the various travelling plans.
We spent the following morning doing a Pablo Escobar tour. This was a controversial one, the locals don’t talk about him, and any information provided on the walking tour was about the “greatest criminal of all time”. In addition both during our time in Bogota and on the walking tour in Medellin we understood how much the locals disliked the Narcos series because it only displays the country in a negative light. However, after my reestablished interest in Narcos (I had managed 4 episodes so far which was definite progress), and seeing the passion about the transformation of the city, I was interested to know more about its past.
My very reliable Wikipedia source provides the following on him: Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug lord, drug trafficker, and narco-terrorist. His cartel supplied an estimated 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States at the height of his career, turning over US $21.9 billion a year in personal income. He was often called “The King of Cocaine” and was the wealthiest criminal in history, with an estimated known net worth of US $30 billion by the early 1990s making him one of the richest men in the world at his prime.
The tour began at one of the first properties he bought in Medellin, Monaco house. The guide explained about the Medellin cartel, the money that Escobar was making and how he used this money to pretty much get whatever he wanted. He had 3000 bodyguards, most of which were 16/17 year old youths who left school to work in the cartel due to ease of making money. The danger of this amount of uneducated, armed youths walking the streets of Medellin was explained.
We then went to visit Pablo’s grave. He chose to be buried in the south, near the neighborhood of Engivado, where he grew up. The guide explained while many people see him as a villain, some of the people of the south think he is a hero. It was there that he built houses for the poor, and in addition because he had so much money he hid it in these basic houses dotted around the south – for some time after his death people found his hidden money and viewed him as a hero. From the grave we could see the prison he was in before he escaped. The guide explained how he built his own prison, La Catedral, which had a swimming pool, personal chef, parties and how he led a 5 star life there.
From the grave we went to one of his original family homes in Medellin and place which he hid before his death, which is now an Escobar museum. This is the only house which was retained by the family after 7,000 were seized. Pablo’s brother Roberto Escobar runs the museum and we had the opportunity to meet him. Before Pablo died Roberto had handed himself in to the police and served 14 of his 20 year jail sentence. He was in charge of looking after the accounts. In addition it was explained that Pablo used submarines as a successful method to transport the drugs (and himself when in hiding) into the US and his brother Roberto built three submarines for him.
In the museum two of the “calletas”(hiding places) were still on show, one for himself in the wall, and one for his money in his desk.
We also saw his jet ski, his motorbike gifted from Frank Sinatra who apparently was a very good friend, and his first and last car. Most notable for us was the absolute weight of the doors on the red pick-up in trying to get into it, bulletproof of course.
We then met his brother Roberto who welcomed us and took time to take pictures beside the famous poster offering $10m for the location of either him or his brother. The guide told a story about the poster, when the authorities were looking in Colombia for Pablo he used his submarine to travel to the US, visited the FBI museum there, took a picture beside the poster and sent it to them noting that their security guards should be sacked!!
There are a couple of Escobar tours offered in Medellin and I cannot comment on the others but I felt the personal touch from his brother made this informative morning very worthwhile.
It certainly felt like “magical realism” listening to some of the stories from our guide.