You ever have one of those moments when you’re in the middle of a cluster, and it’s suddenly like an out of body experience? It’s like you can look around and see yourself and all the
white nonsense that is happening, but you’re not exactly sure how or why. And you feel like you don’t know how to put the brakes on this runaway train. That’s pretty much the best way to describe this evening I spent in Medellín.
It started innocently enough. I was keeping to myself at my hostel in Medellín, sitting in the lobby to use the Wi-Fi. Whilst I’m minding my own business, I hear a loud ass voice say “Hey!” It was really obvious that this “hey” was directed at me, since I was the only person in the lobby. I looked up to find someone sitting himself down at my table. Uh, o-k.
We went through the general niceties. He’s from Australia, blah, blah, blah. My Australian stranger, we’ll call him Rick, asked if I wanted to join he and his friend for dinner. Since I rolled solo in Colombia, I said, “why not.” A few minutes later his friend showed up. His friend, let’s call him James, was from New York.
There’s a bunch of options in Parque Lleras district so we tried to get some recommendations. Two gringos on the street suggested a place that sells sandwich wraps…wraps? For real? Who travels around the world to eat some generic sandwich wraps? Nah. I’m bougie about my meals, especially on vacation.
This was one of my last meals in Colombia so it needed to be bomb. Enter: El Cielo.
Dinner at El Cielo
El Cielo is this amazing concept restaurant that combines traditional local dishes with molecular gastronomy and theatrical presentation. It’s supposed to be everything. That felt like the note to end this trip on!
We really weren’t dressed appropriately for such a fancy affair (especially Rick, he had shorts and flip flops on). Plus we didn’t have a reservation. So the host gave us a bit of side eye when we asked for a table, but they had an opening. Cheers!
This restaurant is one of those highfalutin places that doesn’t just have courses, it has “moments.” And they don’t give you a menu when you arrive. They bring you multiple dishes “to prime your palate,” and then ask you which tasting menu and wine you would like.
I’m not really a wine drinker, but of course this James, a New Yorker-ass fool, starts ordering wine for the table like he speaks for us. If you not paying for me, don’t speak for me!
But more to the point. The food. The food was incredible. Half the things they brought to the table didn’t even look edible. There were literally sound effects, lights and theatrical fog. Man, I can’t even go into detail about all the courses, but there were 15 delicious “moments” served with such care and full consideration for all the senses. Music for your ears, scents of flowers and herbs for your nose, stunning, unexpected presentation for your eyes, interactive eating for your touch and of course rich flavors for your taste buds. It was amazing.
So in the midst of getting my life eating this fantastic meal James started to tell us about his quest to find Colombian cocaine. Sccrrrrrrrrrrrrrt! Full stop.
Okay, I’m not stupid, I know people do cocaine in Colombia, but whoa. I was not expecting that as casual dinner conversation. James told us that he was asking the friends he visited in Bogotá where to find it, and his friends looked at him like he was crazy.
Here’s a little public service announcement for you. Demand for cocaine and the drug trade ravaged Colombian society for DECADES and are a problem to this day. Obviously, they were pissed that this dumb American was being so cavalier about asking for drugs. They were ready to excommunicate him and his tom foolery. And really, I can’t blame them.
So in a nutshell, James is a stereotype and on a mission to find Colombian cocaine while he’s in Medellín. Sigh. I try so hard to not be the arrogant, insensitive American when I travel. It’s always a struggle when I realize I’m swimming against the current. You know what I mean?
Anyways…We’re back to eating our food and knocking back pop rocks and coffee. Then the table next to us asks if we’re Americans as well. We didn’t even realize they were American because they had been speaking Spanish the whole time, but turns out they were originally from Colombia and now live in Miami.
Things Just Keep Getting Weirder…
We’re sharing stories about Colombia and getting recommendations from them on how to spend our last few nights, when James slips in that he’d love to spend some of his time getting high. And to my surprise their immediate response was: “We have a bunch of left over coke at our hotel that we were just going to flush down the toilet because we go home to Miami tomorrow, do you want it?” I laughed out loud. Seriously. Only in Colombia.
Suddenly our Colombian friends start telling us how they bought coke from their cab driver. Then he invited them back to his house for an after party on his ranch. They slept in tents inside his barn and then woke up and had pancakes. WTF??
So obviously James decides to follow these complete strangers back to their hotel to pick up their leftover cocaine. I thought that was the end of my story y’all, but alas it was not.
Back at the hostel, in between sharing bumps of coke with James, Rick starts to tell me how expensive it is to get cocaine in Australia. Duh! Everything else is expensive there. And he said he spent $400 on a bag last time and it didn’t even get him high. I don’t even do drugs, but I know that would’ve pissed me off. So for Rick (and a lot of other Australians apparently) being in Colombia is like being a kid in a candy store.
DIY Colombian Cocaine
He told me he even went down to a city in Colombia that is known for cocaine tourism. Essentially, you take a bus into town and there’s tons of guys at the station who offer to take you into the back woods somewhere and make fresh coke for you. What is this world that I am in??
He starts to tell me about the process of chopping up the leaves, and adding ingredients like lime, fertilizer, gasoline, and sulfuric acid.** He’s in the kitchen of some hut in the woods, with this guy, his girlfriend and his machete, cooking up blow. Hahaha!
After all the mixing was done he said he had a big yellow blob that the girlfriend held up to a light bulb and then pulled it down and it was a crystal white pile of powder.
A couple years ago I read the book Cocaine Nation (a truly good book), so I already knew how horrible all the things are that go into creating cocaine. But to have this person telling me that he watched someone pour diesel fuel and battery acid and whatever the hell else into this concoction and then hand it to you, and you were like, “yup, I’mma snort this.” WHY?????
And you know what he had the nerve to say after all of that? “The taste of gasoline was a little strong in the line I did, but it was pretty good.”
“That’s gonna be a no, from me dawg,” was all I could say in response.
**Side Note: By this point in his story, Rick and James are both high, bouncing off the walls and not in control of their salivary glands. You know how people get that build up of spit in the corners of their mouth, that just makes you want to scream “WHIPE YOUR DAMN MOUTH!, yeah that’s how I felt.