THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2007. MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA. After a 14 hour bus ride (Rapido Ochoa 90,000 CP; $45), we have arrived in Medellin. We are staying at the Palm Tree Hostel located in a suburb of Medellin. Fortunately, the suburb is serviced by Medellin's above ground metro rail system (the only rail transit system in Colombia). We will be here through this Easter weekend, before continuing on to Bogota.
Colombia is the largest producer of cocaine in the world. In addition to the cocaine cartels, Colombia has been fighting multiple guerrilla insurgencies off and on for over 30 years. Under these circumstances, safety is of course a concern for travellers. So far, we have not experienced any problems. There is a large armed police and military presence, which we see everywhere throughout the day. Strangely, they are few in the evenings. I did not feel any less safer in Cartagena than I did elsewhere in South America. The advice that I read and hear is to stay on the gringo trail and travel only during the day. We are taking this advice as a cautionary measure. Still, I am not concerned about being kidnapped because, as far as the Colombians are concerned, I am Japanese. If we are stopped by guerillas, I will switch immediately to only speaking Japanese (Of course I don't speak Japanese, but the Colombian guerrillas won't know my gibberish from Japanese). Jeff in turn says he will suddenly become a Russian.