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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Medellin 3 - transportation

By now I'd gotten more confident with the transit system in Medellin so, with Sebastian's tutoring, I went to the bus stop nearby, took the bus to the terminal, walked a few meters to the train station, took the train to the other end of the city, got off, walked another few meters to the MetroCable station where I caught the arial tram up the mountainside to the end of the line.

A fellow passenger I chatted with

This is not a tourist tram but part of the transit system and another piece in the strategy to bring services to poor communities. There are several stops along the way and the final destination is in the heart of what was a very marginal and violent barrio. Now there is a big library complex (unfortunately under wraps for construction) where kids can use computers and study and there are playgrounds and sports facilities. It's still edgy but a far cry from what it was. From there, another tram goes way up into a big national park, the 1750 acre Parque Arvi, that was once part of the vast highland tropical forest that flanked the eastern slopes of the Aburra Valley.

Over the park

Relatively new, Parque Arvi is another piece in the revitalization of Medellin. My companions for the ride were two young folks, a guy and a gal, who worked for MetroCable who were on their way to start their work shift at the top. They spoke enthusiastically about the park and the tram and the changes in Medellin. Nice kids. As we ascended, the air became cooler and under us was dense, lush forest interspersed with agricultural land. I walked a little in the park but it was getting toward the end of the day so I didn't stay too long. I did notice a bike station there, part of the bike share program. On the way down where one has to transfer to the other MetroCable, I wandered around the crazily steep streets of this Santo Domingo neighbourhood a bit, a suicidal act not too many years ago, now a place to be aware and cautious, but not deadly.


Then all the way down, caught the train and the bus home, easy, cheap, quick and relatively comfortable.

One day Sebastian and I went to lunch by bike and I got to try out the bike share system. Right now it's still rather clumsy, using staff people that man the stations and sign the bikes out. That's changing and new self operated stations are almost ready to go.

The new docking stations awaiting bicycles

The bikes also have no lights so are only available during the day presently and I don't know if there are plans to equip the bikes with lights. (By the way, the lunch was terrific. A vegan restaurant with their version of the set menu lunch. Truly excellent!). I saw another demonstration of Medellin's bike culture one evening as Diana, Sebastian and I were walking home from a very nice Mexican dinner. Suddenly along came a huge crowd of cyclists occupying the whole street. And they kept coming and coming. Must have been hundreds of them, many costumed up, many with pro-bike banners. Sebastian explained that this event, called SiClas, happens every Wednesday evening in a different location and the intention is to heighten awareness of bicycling and rights of cyclists. The group wheels through the streets of Medellin blowing whistles, ringing bells, and chanting cheers like "Mas amor! Menos motor! Por la carreterra!" (More love! Less cars! Take to the streets!) A sort of more benign Critical Mass type of thing. And me without my camera. You'll have to use your imagination.



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