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We touched briefly on Pablo Escobar, and a lot on Medellin the city. Hector was an enthusiastic guide, and his pride in his city was evident from the first minute I got in the car. We visited the amazing escalator and rode it all the way up, giving me a peek into private lives, homes, and those remarkable murals and letting me see in a visceral way just how much the escalator transformed the community. Then we went on the cable line a cable car just like at a ski lift, but a significant part of the public transportation system in this mountainous valley home to millions.
I took this same tour with my husband and two sons in January of this year, 2017. Our guide, unfortunately I do not know her name, was absolutely phenomenal. We learned books of information and she kept us on the edge of our seat sharing historical facts, stories and knowledgeable insight. That is why I chose to take this same tour with my three college age daughters. Unfortunately our guide was less than adequate. His english skills were lacking and he had a hard time understanding our questions. Although he spoke the entire 5 hours, he said little. He left out 99 percent of the details or information of what should have been given. His narration was scattered. No chronology. Gave bits and pieces here and there. My girls were hungry for facts and were left still feeling hungry. They were confused as if someone was reading a book to them only covering a sentence here or there for every full chapter. For example when asked how did Pablo Escobar die, our guide said It depends on who you ask. Period. In comparison to the guide I had in January who gave riveting details surrounding his death. I had to talk the whole time that he was talking filling in gaps, providing information and supplying details that were left missing. Because I knew the history, I would ask questions hoping our guide Nicolas Zapata would provide the answers for the girls but his answers were short, brief, if he even knew the information at all. The tour lasted 5 hours and we made only 3 stops...the gravesite, Pablo's house, and Comuna 13. Three minutes at the grave and we were done, compared to 30 minutes of historical narration by our guide in January. At the grave of the Black Widow AKA, Griselda, we were told she was notorious for helping Pablo. How unfortunate for us. Her story is as fascinating as that of Pablo's and lucky for us we got all that on our previous tour, but on this there was nothing. Again I had to recount the entire fascinating story to my daughters so that they could understand why we would even be looking at her gravesite. At sector 13 we took on a local guide. I speak fluent spanish and so was fortunately able to translate for my daughters since our original guide left out most of the details of what the spanish speaking comuna 13 guide was trying to provide. It was translation nightmare. In addition, the comuna 13 guide who joined us and was responsible for providing the information to this famous place, seemed more interested in his cell phone and the hour of the day as he glanced at his watch every 2 or three minutes and entertained his cell. Again his information was desperately lacking. He said nothing about the why and how of the electric stairs only mentioning when they were installed. He never talked about why the area was dangerous only stating that it was controlled by various groups because of it's easy access for import and export. He did not talk about what it was like for the people there to live during that time...rules, curfews, lack of food, people killed etc..mentioning very little of what life was like before the transformation, he never spoke of the community center where we make the bathroom stop and why it was put in, who put it in and what they use it for, he could have gone into detail about the famous standoff and why people came out wearing white and waving white flags but unfortunately only mentioned that it happened with nothing about the why, the how, and what actually took place. Basically we were shown the grafitti, rode the slide made as a hommage to the murdered boy, and taken to all the little stops where they want you to buy hats, food, stay at the new hostel, and have artwork made into shirts etc...All this we could have done without. Sadly if it weren't for Wikipedia and my prior knowledge my girls would still not understand why any of this or any of these people were a big deal. As soon as the tour ended we googled PABLO, GRISELDA, AND COMUNA 13. Together we read all that should have been divulged during the tour and my girls finally got it, because having finished the tour left them with confusion and unanswered questions. We had to put the pieces of the puzzle together. What a terrible waste of money and five hours. I wished that we would have pulled up the information on the internet and gone to the sites ourselves. Had it not been for the need to catch a flight we would have tried to remedy the situation and demand a refund. I sensed 10 minutes into the tour that it was going to be disappointing and should have gone with my gut and cancelled. I learned my lesson. Such a terrible terrible waste of a large sum of money.
the 4 stars I gave go for the Comuna 13 part which was the interesting part of the tour. we toured with a young local guide who was very passionate about his neighborhood. it was fascinating to hear from him about the social changes that occurred after the environmental project that was done there. the Pablo Escobar part was lacking. visiting from outside the house his family was shot and his grave - you don't need a tour for that. good thing our guide had lots of stories to tell about those days but still...
our fuide was O.K , his english was very good and he knew a lot about the city.
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