Thursday, March 13, 2008

A surprise trip to Medellin, Columbia

This week we've been saying goodbye to several friends. Natalia and Luis (below left) are leaving Saturday for the San Blas, but they'll only be there for a few weeks before packing up to fly back to New Zealand. They are rejoining the Canadian owners/friends they left there after sailing from Cartagena to New Zealand last year with them. For six months a year for the next three years they will continue to circumnavigate. They had us over for a wonderful dinner on Vagamundo. Our friends Don (below, far right) and his grandaughter Jessica (right) are leaving for a cruise up the east coast of Latin America and back to Florida.

We had a dinner for them with neighbors Jennifer (below, in the middle)and Dickie from England and Jessica's mother Linda, visiting from the States. We have been working hard to finish up our boat repairs and sail off to Panama but our generator has been stubbornly refusing to cooperate.
This 400 pound bemouth, a Westerbeake 3 cyclinder red machine, has been hauled up and down inside the boat and once removed entirely. A line through the hatch, a winch and two very strong men are needed for this job. The engine portion worked when returned but the electrical system was damaged somehow. Up the generator went again to remove this portion to be rewound again (we had it done twice in St. Lucia).

Our dodger is now behind schedule as well but it was the sudden discovery of Easter week starting Monday that clinched our plans to leave. Nothing gets done here the whole week! We thought outside the box for a minute and decided this was the perfect time to see some of the interior of Columbia. One long afternoon on the computer and help from Luis and Natalia and we had plane tickets and hotel reservations - to Medellin!
"City of Eternal Spring" or "City of Flowers", Medellin is located in a valley between 12,000 foot mountains. The first Spaniards arrived on the coast of the present day department Antioquia, of which Medellin is the capital, in 1501 to find various Carib tribes living there. They wiped out most of them pretty quickly. But Medellin itself was founded in 1616 by Jewish settlers (paisas) fleeing persecution in Europe. They were farmers not conquerers and divided the land up into small farms they worked themselves with no slaves. They lived in isolation, afraid of renewed persecution. Of course other settlers followed and the city was named Nuesta Senora de la Candelaria de Medellin in 1675.
In the 1950s terrorized populations from the countryside fled the ravages of the Civil War and put up shacks in barrios around the city. During the 70s and 80s drug traffickers recruited from these areas and there was a lot of violence. In 1983 the government began an all out war which ended with the capture of Pablo Escabar in 1993. Today Medellin is a peaceful and thriving city and almost 100% of the city has electricity, water and sewage facilities. Today the drug trade is run mostly out of Cali. We will be flying on Columbia's Avianca Airlines through Bogata on the way there and direct back. It's only an +- an hour for each flight. We will have five days/four nights.
Well happily before leaving our mechanics reinstalled the generator and hoorah! it works. Then the canvas makers came by with the new dodger and it looks great. And to top it off our dinghy motor came home after a thorough cleaning. Life is great - and we're off to Medellin on Monday

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