In an earlier post I wrote about Medellin being the first place in the world that has introduced gondolas, Metrocable, as public transport. A genius idea in my opinion. What Medellin also has done is to install outdoor escalators in what use to be and still is, one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods, Comuna 13. So is it safe to visit Comuna 13 or is this a bad idea?
After reading up on the world wide web if Comuna 13 is the place to be for a solo female traveler, i of course received a few different answers. Most said, be careful and don't go on your own and some said visit with a tour group. Not the answers i wanted so in the end i checked with my Spanish teacher to see what she thought. She defiantly made her opinion clear and that was; what ever you do, do NOT go on your own. Do NOT go with another gringo, you have to go with a Colombian. She did say that few weeks ago I should have been fine going with another gringo, but at this moment there are some fights going on between a couple of the gangs. This was of course not the answer I wanted so i also asked my Airbnb hosts when i came home. They said i should be fine but maybe a good idea if me and Dan who stays in same Airbnb visit together. Just happened to be that Dan also planned to visit on same day. Not just good for safety but also nice with some company:)
Me and Dan took the Metro to San Javier and we planned to take a bus from there. We were not sure what the direction the bus were going in San Javier, so Dan who speaks a bit better Spanish then me asked a lady. The lovely lady gave an answer that we figured out meant something around taking the Metrocable. After trying again but still no result we felt awkward standing waiting so i made the decision that we should walk..
Are you crazy??? might be what you thinking know since it's one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods her. But yes, we walked and it was a really nice walk. Met some people along the road and they all said hello to us or just smiled. This is with Dan carrying his big fancy camera in is hands, basically begging to get robed. Another reason i was happy to go with Dan was that he could be the man and be in charge of directions of walk utilising Google maps!!!
About 15 minutes later we were standing at the start of the escaleras electrical in Comuna 13. We started travel up the 6 sets of escalators with some breaks to take in the views and to check out the awesome street art. At each escalator there is a guard standing and they always greet you with a big smile, at least they did to us. I was prepared to bump in to a tons of tourists but i was amazed that during the time me and Dan was in the area we didn't see one single tourist. We arrived around noon so its not that we were very early. I believe that this will change in a couple of years and more and more tourists will arrive.
Overall it all felt so nice and quiet, not many people around and since there are no roads up the hill there was no noise from traffic. The people we did meet was all smiles when we met them and one of them started a conversation with us. After a few minutes of stammering through the sentences me and Dan knew we said our good byes. There was also a load of kids running around playing and they all starred and laughed when they saw us. At one point when we were sitting down for a rest a girl started to show off her hand stands against a wall. I was so tempted to join in but since its been a year or so since i did a hand stand, i decided not to. Sooo regret that now, why did i chicken out. Whats the worst that could have happened? i fall on my face and make a total fool of myself. Would make a good story for the kids:)
Some info about the escalators and area in Comuna 13: Not many years ago Comuna 13 was the most dangerous area in Medellin. Controlled by gangs and the city mafia. With no roads leading up the hill the only way to get to your house use to be by climbing stairs. If unlucky and living higher up then you had to climb roughly 360 steps.
In 2011 the city installed nearly 400 meters worth of escalators set up in six sections. During the construction more then a dozen people were killed. This was mostly gang members but also a 9 year old boy was shot dead in the chest, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. My understanding is that back when they started to build the escalators there was 5 different gangs, that figure is supposedly down to two now.
With the introduction of the escalators a lot of dark ally ways was removed and they introduced park benches with a view. The local government paid for the paint for local precedence so they could paint there house. The local government was actively involved in recruiting for the local artist from Comuna 13 to create the street arts. They are now also supplying local artists with economical funds to finish street art projects throughout the city.
So is Comuna 13 safe or not to visit? My answer would be as long as you use your head and not wander away to far away from the escalators then yes. Good idea to leave your gold watch (fake or not) at home as well. As long as you visit during the day you should be fine. Saying that though, you never know. Yes there are guards at each escalator but not sure what they could do if some gang fight started. I walked around taking pictures with my iPhone and GoPro, Dan had his shiny big nice camera and of course a look over the shoulder ones in a while is good but didn't feel that someone would come up and rob us here or on the walk from and to the Metro.
Who knows we could have been in the right place in the right time but overall i do highly recommend a visit to Communa 13 if in Medellin. We did stay around the escalator areas so not sure if I would have felt as safe if i ventured far from escalator. If you want to walk then just check this out link to Google maps.
I decided that it was time for a career break. So handed in my notice to the company who I worked with for the last ten years. It's time to pack my bag and depart from Amsterdam which been my home town for the last 4.5 years. -"Amsterdam, it's not you it's me and I need a break!". Read more
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