Saturday, February 20, 2016

Dora the Explora

My motorcycle parts issues (mostly) taken care of, I finally had free reign of Medellin. Unlike the coastal towns I'd lazed around in, the activities in Medellin weren't overshadowed by the "go to the beach" mentality, so there was plenty to do.

First stop was something that I'd seen in my research and which Albert had also said I should check out, Parque Explora. It's an interactive science museum, which are the kind of thing I loved when I was a kid and still enjoy the heck out of, so I walked 15 minutes down the hill to the metro and rode it up to the stop that gets off right at the museum.

I stopped to take a picture of the police KLR650 - same bike as me.
Seriously, this museum was exactly the kind of place I like. While I'll go to museums now and then, I always find myself breezing through without getting drawn into very much stuff. I'll read a few informational signs here and there, but I never end up staying too long. Interactive museums, on the other hand, can keep my attention much better. And this place had my attention immediately when I walked in.

Giant T-Rex head? Yes please.
The outside area was full of little physics demonstrations, like a giant beam that was short on one side with six seats, and much longer on the other with one seat that could slide back and forth so you could try to balance your weight against six others. Or a giant slinky hanging between two poles, and you could manipulate one end to create waves in the slinky. After spending about an hour playing with all the exhibits outside, I finally headed inside. I happened to stumble into a demonstration they were doing with bubbles, and when it ended we were allowed to play with the equipment.

I was able to pull this halfway across the room, but the guy I gave my phone to wasn't too good of a photographer.
I continued to an exhibit about "body physics" which had exhibits about balance, strength, flexibility, and the like. One of the exhibits had a pair of glasses that swapped what your left and right eyes saw, and then the guy running the exhibit would kick a soccerball slowly at you. I tried five times and only just barely made contact the last one.

I was pretty good at the balance beam though. The infinity mirror below it was a nice touch.
One of my favorite parts of the museum was the exhibit on food. They had all kinds of herbs and plants growing inside, and little games where you could guess where a food originally came from, or what the typical food of certain countries were (I nailed France and Mexico, didn't do so well on the three other countries they had). The museum wasn't too busy that day, so I ended up getting a personal guide through the exhibit from one of the employees, and she had all kinds of useful info, not the least of which included helping me learn vocab words for a lot of foods and herbs.

But the highlight of the food exhibit for me was a big wall which had a family along with their weekly food intake laid out. It was really jarring to see the differences between places, from the ten 2-liter bottles of coke for Mexico, to Nepal with a bunch of vegetables and not much else, and of course the United States.

There were pictures like this for about twenty countries.

The description for the US starts: "Like the majority of US families, the Revis from Raleigh, North Carlina love to eat, and the US companies love that they love it."
The highlight of the museum according to Albert was the aquarium - and it lived up to his hype. Huge tanks full of big fish and well constructed habitats, along with a wealth of information about each type of fish or habitat made for a super interesting walk. I probably spent an hour or two in the aquarium alone.

There's a cool section of tank that curves over the area you walk through, and some of the fish like to hang out right there.

The largest of the tanks. This pictures shows about a quarter of it.

Just keep swimming.

For being a clown fish, he's not that funny.
I planned on going over to the botanical gardens across the way after the museum, but it was still overcast, so instead I headed to the Planetarium. There weren't may people there either, but I was really looking to just wander around rather than get bothered by the employees every five seconds. Though it was funny when one tried to talk to me and I couldn't understand, and her coworker repeated the same words and I understood. Of course, the one I couldn't understand turned out to be from Cartagena, the land of Spanish-I-can-never-understand.

I stuck around to watch the IMAX movie they had called "We are Aliens!" which was cute but... kind of irritating, to someone who has studied that stuff some. Probably would have been less so if I'd been lucky enough to get the English version that's narrated by Rupert Grint.

That occupied the entire day for me, so I hopped the metro back to my neighborhood and walked back up the hill (catching a chalk artist in the middle of a drawing) for some dinner and beers - once again at Medellin Beer Factory. (Hey, I took one night off before going back at least.)

The next few days when I walked by here it was already starting to fade from people walking on it. 
This is the kind of stuff I love doing when I'm traveling - something that's unique to the city that it's in, is super interesting and captivates me, and doesn't cost a lot or require a lot to get there. Another awesome day in Medellin... maybe I'll stick around longer than I planned.

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