The journey between Colombia’s two biggest cities is a must for the discerning traveler. Therefore we provide you of a helpful guide to what to expect from this 10hr travel experience.
First things first: don’t get robbed in the Bogotá bus station. This is probably one of the least risky Colombian bus stations to be hanging around with a backpack and a gringo-esque appearance, but you don’t want to spoil your trip at this early stage so keep your wits about you. Now that you’re in the bus station you need to buy a ticket.
There are various companies offering tickets to Medellín, and a spot of shopping around will serve you well in terms of getting a nice cheap ticket. An effective strategy is to find a bus that’s about to depart and whose staff desperately want to cram on that last couple of passengers, and suggest that maybe for a discount of $10,000 pesos you might consider going on their bus. No problem.
Within the bus itself a seat at the very back offers the most leg room for the average foreigner, who will already be well acquainted with uncomfortable Colombian public transport seemingly designed for people of 5 foot 2 and under.
A low budget action film will just be getting to the first shoot-out as you board the vehicle, and the relentless stream of car chases, square jawed mavericks and ladies with unrealistic cleavage will accompany you all the way to your destination. Just a few of the delights witnessed in one Bogotá – Medellín trip included an unpleasant robotic torture scene, a man on fire running along a street firing a gun into the air, and the piece de resistance – a flaming helicopter crashing into an office building.
The road west out of Bogotá in bad weather is a muddy concrete slog through rows of petrol stations and warehouses. Delivery men on bikes negotiate puddles and potholes while women slip and slide through the mud holding soggy newspapers over their heads.
Once out of the city you will pass through a number of cute towns before reaching a narrow, bendy stretch of highway through the mountains on which your bus driver will insist on overtaking chemical tankers marked “toxic” on blind corners. Every so often a little village flashes past, full of small houses with geraniums and chickens roaming the streets.
A mere two hours out of Bogotá you will have left that uncivilized cold climate behind, and all around you are palm trees and people in shorts and t-shirts while the air smells of fruit and flowers. This type of landscape will continue for several hours. If it is during the rainy season big fat drops of water fall from the palm fronds onto the corrugated iron roofs of the buildings and rivers of coffee colored water stream down the mountainside.
Smokers must be prepared to only be allowed to smoke once, unless the bus gets involved in an accident or a blocked road and you can take a puff or two before continuing the journey.
If you travel during the day it will be dark by the time you arrive in Medellín, and the lights of the city all spread up the mountainside will provide a most beautiful first glimpse of the city. Enjoy this tour through the regions of Cundinamarca, Caldas and Antioquia which will allow you to see parts of the country you would be totally ignorant of were you to travel by plane, and remember you get to do the whole joyous ten hours again on the way back.