Sunday, May 22, 2011

Medellín: Parte 2

More Colombia pictures…

Our last day in Medellín was one of my favorites of the trip. In another feat of public transit, we took the Metro to the end of the line and transferred to the Metro Cable, a system that is like a cross between a ski lift and a train car. The Metro Cable was built to connect the slums on the mountainside to services and jobs in the city center, but it has also proven to be a boon to tourism.

After the first Metro Cable ends near the outskirts of town on the side of the mountain, there is another Metro Cable, the special Cable Arví. It goes directly to a national park, called Parque Arví, where one can hike in the cloud forest (a high elevation rain forest), visit the butterfly house, and ride (?) the zip line (cable-flying, as it’s called in Spanish). The activities in the Colombian national parks are generally run by concession holders, rather than directly by a government entity, so while Parque Arví includes several small villages and a whole lot of inaccessible rain forest, we only visited Piedras Blancas, a smaller area that is developed for ecotourism a short bus ride from the entrance to the park. We’d been told that it was a 50-60 minute shuttle ride, and weren’t sure we’d be able to make it fit with the logistics of flying between cities, so we were pleased to find that it was actually a 15 minute walk/bus ride up the road from the park entrance.

Even before we entered the ecopark, we noticed the flooding. As I mentioned in my last post about the flooding near Medellín, this winter has been the worst in Colombian history. The river running through the park was higher than ever, and large swaths of the usual tourist areas were underwater.

We walked around the mariposario (butterfly house) for a bit, which was thankfully on high enough ground to avoid the flooding, admiring in particular the wide array of chrysalises hanging behind the glass of the laboratory-office area. The staff said that they go out each day and collect both larvae and chrysalises from the forest, and also release many of the butterflies that hatch in the house into the wild. All of the species they raise in the mariposario are native to the cloud forest.

Alicia had had her heart set on trying a zip-line while we were in Colombia, and I didn’t think we were going to be able to do it. When we realized that it was, in fact, available at Piedras Blancas, however, Alicia was thrilled and I agreed that it could be cool. One of the lines was partially underwater, but the other stretched happily across the river, so we did that next. (Sorry the video is sideways... I can't figure out how to change that.)

After a bit more walking around, we headed back into town, ready to pack up and fly to Cali for the third leg of our trip.

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