So far, Colombia is AWESOME!

Sep 27, 2014

Colombia was not on our list of places to go originally. In fact, I think I recall saying something like “eh fuck it, Colombia doesn’t really appeal to me and we’ll probably fly into Quito anyway.” Well, let me tell you just how wrong I was and, how frequently Colombia reminds me of that fact.

We have only been to Medellin and now Guatape but everything I’ve seen so far tells me that this once dangerous country of cocaine cartels and paramilitary guerillas is on the rise. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when we arrived in Medellin but I envisioned a typical Central American big-city with shoddy infrastructure and small region for the “haves” surrounded by a sea of the “have-nots.” I was way WAY off base. Not only was the infrastructure very good but there is also a thriving middle class, and it is growing quickly. Don’t get me wrong, there is a sizable community of low, very low and no income families in Medellin with its 2.5 million inhabitants but, it is nothing like other major Latin American cities we have encountered. The impression I got from our short stay in Medellin was that optimism is in the air and the troubling times from 1960 to 2000 are thankfully fading into the past.

P1010226.jpgEvidence of the growth can be seen all over Medellin. New turnkey business parks are being built to house new foreign and domestic companies and the excellent public transportation system consisting of elevated rail lines, cable cars (gondolas), and busses is expanding. It’s fantastic to see but much of the growth hinges on the stability of the government and continuing efforts to find peace with the armed guerillas to the north and southeast known as the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Relations have improved significantly over the past 10 years but the FARC operates in rural areas where joining their forces is a good way to make money. Small ambushes on police and military personnel are still carried out in remote regions from time to time but there’s no longer a will or capability to engage in outright combat. As the government makes changes and the economy improves, the people in Colombia will undoubtedly enjoy the benefits and I would guess that the FARC would all but completely lose steam.

P1010252.jpgAnyway, we are now in Guatape, which is about a 2-hour drive outside of Medellin, and again Colombia is surprising me. Guatape is a small town sitting on a man-made lake high in the Andes (7000 ft) that was created after the building of a hydroelectric dam that supplies roughly 30% of Colombia’s electricity. Guatape has more evidence of growth with its excellent K-12 school complete with swimming facilities, a BMX track, a futbol (soccer) stadium and other modern ammenities. As in Medellin, the infrastructure here is far better than most places we've been and people clearly care about their homes and their appearance. Several times today one of us noted just how little graffiti we have seen and how well organized the electrical utility poles were in comparison to the awe inspiring rats nest of bad wiring that adornes many of the poles in Central America. The town aims to be one of the top leisure and tourism destinations of the region and from what I’ve seen so far, they should have no problem achieving it with a little effort and planning. The climate is damn near perfect here and the mountains are picturesque, to top it all off there’s a beautiful lake with heaps of coastal property. If you wanted advice on an unspoiled place to setup a retirement property, this place would be on my list. It has just about all the beauty of Boquete, Panama without the hordes of gringos.


Well that’s all for now but take it from me, you should learn some basic Spanish and visit Colombia. Don’t write it off as the cocaine production center of the world (that title now belongs to Peru) or as a region you should avoid unless you really hate beautiful countryside, good coffee and perfect weather. 


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