Daily Archives: April 1, 2011

Supia: Gold in these Hills

I took a trip three hours south of Medellin, to a town called Supia, where they have been mining for gold since the days of the Spanish Conquistadors. Along with friends Mauricio and Katrin of Munich, Germany, we set out to talk to the miners. They at first were understandably apprehensive about talking to us since they did not know who we were. But once we chatted a bit, they were more open and allowed us to take pictures. Some of these miners are operating outside of any government guidelines and so we understood the concern. They dig tunnels mining for gold while others sift the river. It’s dangerous work going down into these tunnels. And certainly hard work. The rocks and boulders you see scattered about the mine were removed by hand from the dug up tunnels by the men. No machinery! Just brute strength and will. The men said this particular mine was so far not yielding much gold and they would likely abandon it and dig another elsewhere. This is but one of several such mines in these foothills. There is gold here alright. Spain sent its conquistadors here after learning that the indigenous people were themselves finding lots of gold here. And when the conquerers could no longer rely on the indigenous people to do the backbreaking work, they brought slaves from Africa. That’s why there is such a large black population here, mainly in the nearby village of Guamal. They are the direct descendants of slaves. This area is rich with history that dates back nearly 500 years when the natives called this land home and had it all to themselves.

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Medellin By MetroCable

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On Thursday took one of the cable car lines to the top of the mountain where thousands of people, middle class, rich and poor, live in Medellin. It was an incredible experience. Riding a cable car that hovers a few feet above the roofs of houses then suddenly zooms skyward gives you a sense of flying like a bird. The cable car moves slowly – or so it seems – but reaches the top quickly. There are two stations before reaching the third and final station at the top where the view of Medellin is simply spectacular. This trip is not for those who have a fear of heights. You are being whisked pretty high up but is it ever worth it.

I love this cable car ride and want to do it again, only next time I will remember to shoot video 🙂

As you ascend you will see people below going about their daily lives. You will see them sitting on their porches and balconies; in their living rooms and yards. You will see kids at play and young men playing basketball. Or messing about in the river. As you reach the first station and look back you realize how high up you are. But you are not done yet. More climbing. The cable cars door open to allow you to exit if this is where you wish to exit then close moments later to continue the journey upward to the second stop. There you sigh. And yes, nerves get to you a bit. You are on a mountain. But stay onboard and prepare to take it the ultimate view at the very top, where they have built high rise apartments that have even more dizzying views of the landscape and city. I took a walk around the neighborhood then sat for a moment just to absorb the beauty – and lives of rich and poor – before me. For this is a land of haves and have nots, like so many places around the world.

As I descended I met three Americans – one from Alabama and two from Northern California – and we spent some time having a beer in one of the neighborhoods up on the mountain that I’ve been warned to avoid. Very true that some of these neighborhoods are dangerous but we did not stray too far from the cable car, an area deemed safe during daylight. But as Cat (woman from California) suggested we go deeper into the neighborhood to explore, I asked a local man at the “tienda” where we were having our Pilsners if it was safe for us to venture further and he first hesitated then said no, that only if we went with someone who was from the neighborhood. He said it was not safe for us. So we heeded his counsel and decided to head back down to sea level to find food. It was a good day.

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