Medellín’s Pride and Joy
The Metro is the pride and joy of Paisas* in Medellín. I admit that I was surprised to hear our tour guide say that and more surprised that the Metro was actually a stop in the walking tour! But he explained (through a very well-told and emotional story) that it is one of the city’s key symbols of a transforming and progressing city. Like many mass transit projects, it took decades to complete, having to overcome political and financial hurdles, among all the other problems Medellín was suffering at the time. So when it did come to fruition, it became celebrated and is still a respected place that is clean and well-kept – and people behave themselves inside the Metro system. (I was impressed with the public service message I heard on the train saying that women and girls ride comfortably and safely on the metro, free from comments or any type of harassment. Many metro systems in the world could use those messages, including DC!) The train efficiently gets you from one part of the city to another, and there are plenty of buses where the train doesn’t go. And my favorite part of the metro system… The teleférico! The elevated (ski-lift-type) cable car! Yep, similar to La Paz, (but different). In La Paz, the entire transport system was a teleférico. In Medellin, the main system is made up of trains (many elevated), and then a few final parts of the system include transfers from the train to a teleférico, which takes you up to parts of the city built on the sides of a mountain. To get to Parque Arvi, a public nature reserve, we took the train, transferred to one of the teleférico branches of the train, and then took another teleférico that would take us on a 30 minute ride to the park. It was an incredible public transport experience, as the cable car carried us up a mountain, over the top of a densely populated community on the side of the mountain. Then it continued as the community became less densely populated and later transformed into forest. We sailed over the top of the forest in the pod, enjoying the view of the wilderness from above, and I was impressed by this low-impact way to transverse a natural area. About 30 minutes later we arrived at the entrance to Parque Arvi, a public natural reserve with hiking trails, a river, and picnic and camping areas. While the park was a great way to escape the city scene and immerse ourselves in nature, I have to say that the mass transit experience was the highlight of the day! Famous footnote: Paisa refers to a person from a cultural region in Colombia around and including Medellin.