Summing up first impressions of a city can be unwise as one tends to concentrate on the 'wow' factors and some of the minor annoyances and I have definitely noted a few of each. A week in and I find myself living fairly luxuriously and contentedly with some agreeable and helpful apartment sharers; I have identified a timetable of regular activities punctuated by exploration of some of the city's main attractions.
|Apartment in Belen, Medellin|
Cycling is a pretty substantial focus and you can see the rides I have completed on the Blog's Strava feed. When cycling in Medellin extra care is needed – drivers seem fairly forgiving but eager to get where they are going – there is a lot of traffic and the fumes are horrible. Thus far my new friend Juan Carlos has shepherded me through the streets and we have set off for 3 mountain climbs, Las Palmas, Altos de Minas and Alto Sierra. The climbs were long, each more than 15km and offered great views of the city below, and in the case Altos de Minas of a dense and stunningly green forest.
|having climbed Alto de Minas|
On one day we went to a cycle track and had a training ride on the flat with 26 circuits of a 0.9 mile race track – the other rides were short but hard and I am feeling some of the effects of the altitude leaving me somewhat breathless on the steeper sections. I am pretty pleased with the cycling here and we have a long group ride planned for Sunday, leaving around 6am with the team and a 4 day road trip planned over Easter weekend. My aim is to drive up my fitness and if possible lose a little weight.
|At the practise track|
My other focus to date is salsa. I am enrolled at a dance school in a group salsa/rueda/casino class and am taking individual lessons in Cali style salsa. The lessons offered are of good standard and very economical by comparison to London. I will probably take a block of individual cross-body lessons as well and there is a free lesson offered on Tuesdays at the Wandering Paisa Hostel. There are also some social dancing options offered by the salsa school. Unfortunately these venues are somewhat distant but I can walk in one direction and the taxi fare back is about £2.50 – not a problem!
The other night I found a more local dance school, 'Swing' and dropped in to check it out. They were running a social dancing session and the instructors, all but one of them young men invited the mainly much older women to dance. I danced a little with the manager and a few others and she was quite encouraging but the dance repertoire was so wide-ranging as to confound me completely. During the time there they danced merengue, cumbia, cumbia electronica, cha cha, porro, tango, milonga and bolero. I didn't recognise one salsa tune and so I ditched it and came home.
In terms of being a tourist, most notably I have visited some very lovely botanical gardens and viewed the Botero sculptures in the centre of the city – they were both fantastic visits and you can check my Flikr feed for more photos.
Aside from all this, minor annoyances include heavy traffic, its fumes and motor bikes – impenetrable street numbering and occasional biblical rainfall; but on the plus side, there is good infrastructure, particularly the Metro, Cable Car and Metro Plus, the friendliness of the Paisas themselves as the People of Antioquia are known and, the almost ideal climate. I am pretty sure I am going to love it here and I am looking forward to all the great things I might do.