Taking the Scenic Route

May 13, 2010

Medellin is a city of a thousand views. The second largest metropolis in Colombia once fit in a valley, but has spread dramatically up the surrounding hillsides. The vantage from any of these ascents is magnificent. But it's unnecessary to put on climbing boots to appreciate Medellin's grandeur. All you need is a metro ticket.

In order to save space on ground level, most metro systems have underground stations in the densely populated center. But this is not so in Medellin. The entire network exists above ground, with most platforms perched over four stories high. The ultramodern trains run efficiently and quietly above the city, offering passengers captivating views of the urban jungle that has grown over a beautiful green backdrop.

I've always found metro systems fascinating. I enjoy the feeling of anticipation when a train is just arriving, the smooth motion once on board, and the sense of discovery when exiting a station in an unexplored area. The metro of Medellin heightens the sense of adventure because the passenger can watch the city go by, both above and below. And when you take the metrocable, Medellin literally passes below your feet.

Metrocable is a marvel of engineering and a visionary achievement. Medellin is the only city in the world with cable service integrated directly into the normal tram system. For the price of one ride (about 80 cents), a passenger can hop on a train anywhere in the city, hop off, switch to a cable car, take in panoramic views of the city, and depart at their destination. The experience of taking metrocable is positively exhilarating; this beats anything that Disney has to offer!

 In addition to providing a bird's-eye perspective of the city, metrocable has proved a powerful tool for social integration. Hillside residents, most working-class, have seen their commute time to the center cut down from well over an hour to mere minutes. Hundreds of thousands who were effectively left to the fringes, have now become connected to the pulse of the city in a tangible way. For the tourist, it also provides an opportunity to see poorer areas of the city which were never visited before the cable lines existed.

Remarkably, metrocable operates 20 hours a day, 355 days a year, with over a 99% availability rate. After dark, the cars offer mesmerizing vistas of a city of lights. While taking a nightime descent into the center, I couldn't help but suspect that the dream of some science-fiction writer is now reality.

Metrocable has been so successful that there are plans to expand beyond the current two lines and open additional branches in the near future. More residents will be integrated into the city's impressive web of public transport, and more unforgettable views of the city will be unveiled. And for adventurous souls in search of unique experiences, there will be all the more reason to visit Medellin.


1 comment :

  1. I just stumbled across your blog. What a cool adventure. Great photos. Have fun!