A Day In San Cristóbal: Hiking the Andes

June 6, 2018

 Amigos Hiking near San Cristóbal: Fabiola, Mariah, Yo.

 

Recently, we spent a delightful day visiting friends, and hiking in the Andes. Our dear amiga, Fabiola, on the left above with her dos perros, invited us to her home, a warm & cozy apartamento on the outskirts of Medellin. Our day included short trips on each one of the local modes of transport, first El Metro, then the Metrocable, then a local bus, and finally a taxi. Here are pictures of our visit with Fabiola, and our hike waaaaay up to the finca where she works.

 

A Holiday in Medellin, thus the almost empty Metro car!

 

First photo: It's rare to find an empty seat on the Metro, except on a holiday. 

Second photo: San Javier station, the end of the 'B' line west of Medellin.

Third photo: San Javier station with bronze sculptures by Colombian master Rodrigo Arenas Betancourt

Fourth photo: The MetroCable from San Javier station. 

 

We boarded the Metro at Estacion Aguacatala near our apartment, rode to Estacion San Javier, then hopped aboard the MetroCable for the 20 minute ride across a very steep gorge uphill toward San Cristóbal. Last stop: Estacion Aurora. We left the MetroCable there, found a local bus into San Cristóbal about three miles away, and met Fabiola. 

 

 Nuestra Amiga Fabiola

 

The buses and Metro system in Medellin are integral to peoples' lives. Cars are too expensive, taxis often likewise for folks with an average monthly income of $850,000 COP, (about $285.00 USD). Our bus trip three miles into San Cristóbal cost $4,200 COP, about $1.25 for two of us. We were in a different world.

 

 Riding the MetroCable

 

The Medellin Metro isn't just the cities light rail system. It's only the central part of this modern, amazing transportation grid that's the only one of its kind in Colombia. Indeed, the city of Medellin has organized, designed, and built a system of transport that addresses the needs of all working class people. As pictured above, the MetroCable gives people access to their homes & jobs with minimal cost and difficulty; there are foot bridges where needed; a solar panel array contributes needed electric power to simple homes; and the infrastructure is built with people in mind. 

 Amigas Climbing the Streets of San Cristóbal

 

We arrived in San Cristóbal and met Fabiola. She's a 'Campesina,' a woman who makes her living from the land. We met her at her weekly farm market more than a year ago, and we've come to admire her greatly. Like all Colombianas, Fabiola works hard every day. And she wears a lot of hats: She works on the finca tending vegetable fields; she makes chorrizo in her home for sale to local people; and she raises her 12 year old daughter, Camila. When we first arrived in Medellin, we marveled at the number of holidays Colombianos give themselves, eighteen per year. But they work so much that they earn every one of them. Typical adults work 12, 14, 16 hour days here, often six days a week. We were reluctant to impose on Fabiola on a rare day off for her, but Colombians are also extremely generous people. She insisted that we come visit. So we did. And the day was wonderful.

 

 Hiking in the Andes, and visiting fincas

 

From San Cristóbal we hiked nearly four miles uphill and down, to arrive at the finca. The farm belongs to Beatriz, another amiga, and by the time we arrived at the place we were two gringos muy cansados! But the views, and the farms, and the surroundings are beautiful beyond belief. At nearly 7,000 feet (2,130 meters) above sea level, the ground is rich, fertile, rain-swept, and highly conducive to growing all manner of good things: Lettuce, beets, basil, potatoes, tomatoes, kale, onions, garlic, corn, red cabbage, leeks, carrots, zucchini, and much more. One thing we noticed right away when we moved to Medellin was that filling the fridge with veggies was not a good idea. Why? Because campesinos here use no chemical pesticides and/or preservatives. After two or three days, even inside the refrigerator, any produce withers and spoils.  Yes, this is a good thing.

 Aahhhh, inhale that mountain air!

 

Something else we noticed on Beatriz' finca: The air is fresh and clean. As you can tell in the picture, the Andean sky is clear of particulates, smog, haze, exhaust, and other noxious stuff that invades your lungs. As much as we love life in Medellin, there is an air quality issue there. A day trip up the nearby mountains shows the difference, and it's pretty stark. The air above San Cristóbal almost tastes cleaner. 

 

 Yours truly, Fabiola, and daughter Camila halfway to the finca.

 The finca, finally!

 

From the left, Mariah, Beatriz, her son Andres, me, Fabiola, & Camila. The two dogs are named Mas Y Menos (More & Less). In this picture we're at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level. The air was clean, and the temp was 63 degrees fahrenheit, (17 Celsius) a delightful day. 

 

 San Cristóbal is west, and high above Medellin by about two thousand feet.

 

Here are a few items of interest about San Cristóbal: The little town is the center of one of five 'corregimientos' or rural municipalities surrounding Medellin. Founded in 1752, San Cristóbal grew rapidly following the establishment of the Departamento de Antioquia. It is now home to 38,000 souls. The town has two hospitals, a series of parks, a well stocked library, (with a decorative sculpture by world renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero, and a public water park/internet site funded by utility giant EPM

 

 Public Library, San Cristóbal, with 'Gato' by Fernando Botero

 

 San Cristóbal's 'Honest Bar'

 

The 'Honest Bar' is in beautiful, downtown San Cristóbal. We feel that every town, regardless of size or circumstance, ought to have at least one honest bar. 

 

The Contrast is more than just elevation

 

This picture was taken from the MetroCable, just as we reached Estacion Aurora, the final stop before San Cristóbal. Looking south and east, adjacent to the flat spot that is Olaya Herrera, Medellin's local airport, is the Frontera section of Medellin. Our apartment sits somewhere in the right upper center of this picture, about twenty kilometers away. In fact, it's a world away from the little pueblo we visited. Not only is our home much more luxurious, and filled with creature comforts like hot water, a shower, and lots of unused space, but our place is in an Estrato 6 section of Medellin. Most of San Cristóbal's habitations are deemed Estrato 1 & 2. Because of the different Estrato levels, we pay more for various things such as utilities, vehicle registration & licensure, and taxes. The system makes perfect sense to us: we have more; we need to give more. A day of hiking in the mountains gave us more than a stronger bond with Fabiola; it showed us how wealthy we are in terms of mere money, and how little actual wealth has to do with money. It's a lesson well worth a long day's hike in the stunning beauty of the Andes. Thanks for reading!

 

 

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