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Tue Jan 28 2014: Up-Paisa-Down in the Park

We can't seem to leave Medellin.

So much so that we're bumping up against several deadlines: our month-long lease on the apartment has come up, our three-month tourist permit is expiring and so is our vehicle insurance. I can't believe we've been in Colombia for three months!

Government buildings downtown where we visited the Aduana offices

It took us a few days to visit all the different offices which were scattered all over the city: DAS (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad) to renew our tourist visa, Aduana for our vehicle permits and Sura, which was the only company that would insure imported vehicles. The upshot is that we're legal in Colombia till the end of April! Actually, we only purchased insurance on a month-to-month basis, because surely we're not going to still be here in April!?!

But then again this is us, so you never know...

Diana and Neda at AcroYoga

Early in our stay in Medellin, Neda had an irritating (to her) experience at the Exito, the grocery store that we live beside. At the meat counter, she asked for some cold cuts in Spanish. The guy behind the counter replied back in English. IN ENGLISH!!! Neda returned home furious! You see, all over Latin America she's been very proud of the fact that everyone congratulates her on how good her Spanish accent and grammar is. They always ask if she is a native speaker. Until now...

"DAMNYOU, MeatCounterGuy!"

So to fix this, she logs onto Couchsurfing, a web site that's primarily used for finding accommodations for travelers in new cities, but it can also be used to meet local people who are willing to show you around. On there, she finds Diana, who is willing to meet up and converse with Neda in her native Medellin tongue in exchange for some English practice.

The two become fast friends and when Diana finds out that Neda is a Yoga fan, they meet up on the weekends as well to practice AcroYoga in the park.

Warning: Do not try this at home. Yoga professional at work.

Neda has been trying to drag me out to AcroYoga for weeks now. I've never had any interest in Yoga before and AcroYoga sounded way too circusy for me. But one weekend, I relented...

I was right. This AcroYoga stuff was totally sideshow...

I was not enjoying myself. Not. One. Bit.

So the whole point of AcroYoga is to combine Acrobatics with static Yoga poses. I quickly learned why they practiced in the park because if you're a novice, the poses involve a lot of falling down, hopefully on a soft surface like grass. If you get a face full of dirt, then you're doing a variant called AgroYoga.

Hint: if you see participants practicing on hard surfaces or on top of a really high platform, it means that they're really good and they're showing off.

More advanced stuff... kinda hot too...

A different kind of showing-off

We've made some friends in Medellin and created a semblance of a life with some routine, so when our lease on the apartment came up, we knew we wanted to extend our stay, but for how long was up for debate. In a strange turn of events, it was Neda who wanted to stay longer, perhaps to renew the lease for another month. I didn't want to leave immediately, but another month seemed too long. So we compromised and we're set to depart Medellin in two weeks time.

Before our trip, I never would have thought we'd stay put in one place for over 6 weeks! It's been really awesome here, but I'm starting to get itchy wheels syndrome!

Medellin Transit involves trains, gondolas, blimps, hovercrafts, submarines...

One morning, we headed out on the Medellin transit system, which is called Metro, up into the mountains. The trains transfer to a cable-car that takes commuters up to the residences and buildings that carpet the mountainside. These gondolas are actually a necessity, as they make the barrios up here accessible to public transit, since buses have great difficulty traversing the narrow streets that wind through these steep hills. There are currently three different MetroCable lines that go up into the mountains.

Catching the "L" MetroCable line at the Santo Domingo station

We're taking the "L" line, which travels deep into Arvi Park, a nature preserve set up by the Medellin government at the peak of the eastern mountain range. The introduction of the Metro Cable has made it very accessible to locals and tourists alike, and the park boasts lots of hiking trails, flora and fauna.

Surprisingly, this is *not* part of the Metro system...

At Arvi Park, the government has set up a free bicycle rental. How nice! So we fill out some forms and now we're roaming the park on two wheels again!

It was here that we experienced our first run-in with the law. Although Neda is pro-helmet when it comes to motorcycling, this belief stops when it comes to bicycles... As part of the rental agreement that we signed, it stipulated that we would wear our helmet at all times. So when Neda coasted to a halt at one of the bicycle rental stations sans helmet, the official on duty pulled her aside and confiscated her bicycle. It was then that we were introduced to a new Spanish word: "Multa" which means fine.

We were going to get fined for a free service?!? That's a great way to make money for the city...

We surreptitiously walked away from the bicycle station and talked to a tour guide who was leading a group up to the viewpoint where you could see the whole of Medellin from up top. The bicycle official seemed to forget about us, so we thought we'd avoided the "multa"...

Hey, it's the Medellin Epcot Centre on Nutbar Hill! We're a lot higher up now...

After a 15-minute hike, we got to the viewpoint and while it was true you could see the entire city, it was less than impressive because a thick cloud of smog and pollution blocked our view. I had to do a bit of Photoshopping in the picture above so you could actually make out any detail.

We made some friends with some local guys who were also on the tour, they were asking a million questions about our trip and our motorcycles. When we got back to the bicycle station, we decided to pay our "multa" and ride the bikes back to the MetroCable. The official wagged his finger at us: the "multa" wasn't monetary - it was "Bicycle Rental Privileges Revoked for Five Days!" LOL!

We walked sheepishly back to the MetroCable station and caught up to the locals who we had met earlier. When we told them about our "multa" they laughed at us and made fun of us the whole walk back. Good times!

Our tour buddies, Lenin, Julian and Frank at Arvi Park
On the walk back, they taught us Colombian swear words and we taught them English ones! :)

These guys were hilarious. While we were on the long cable car ride back, we tried to help them pick up these very pretty Japanese tourists. No joy for them, but it was funny as hell!

Back at ground zero

We heard something amusing from an American who was also traveling south on the Stahlratte with us. He swore that every Latin American beer was made from the same company but they just slapped a different label and shipped their weak-tasting beer to all the countries in Central and South America. Anyone who's sampled every weak, thin-tasting beer from Mexico all the way down south has to laugh, because it's so true!

However in Taganga, we were introduced to an amazing brew called Apostol. We especially like their darker beers, they reminded us of the English ales that we just can't seem to find anywhere down here. So when Neda found out they offered a tour of their brewery here in Medellin, we totally jumped at the chance to get some yummy beer-tasting in our last days in the city!

Yeah yeah, enough of the history of the company, when do we start drinking?!?

Different beers have to be poured at different angles to bring out the taste.
Yeah yeah, when do we start drinking?!?

The tour was actually quite interesting. The reason why ales are not that common in Latin America is that the grains required to make the darker, fuller-tasting brews require four seasons to harvest. We did not know that. Apostol imports all the grains and the ingredients from Germany, and their brewing equipment is German-made as well.

Even our tour guide's name is Hans. Hans Rodriguez-Gonzalez...

Pretty, pretty colours

Speaking of equipment, I was entranced by the deep copper colours of these tanks, so as the tour went on, I stayed behind taking a million pictures. I think the security guard that stayed with me got a bit weirded out because I was acting very Smeagol-ly towards the pretty, precious kettles.

My Precious...

Anyway, enough of all this non-motorcycle stuff... our time in Medellin is winding down. Wheels up, next blog entry!

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