It’s my third day in Colombia and its time to explore a bit. I rented a car yesterday and headed to the mountains. Since Medellin is in a valley, you pretty much have to head to the mountains in any direction to get out of the city. Saturday afternoon traffic made for an extra long drive. I’m in Santa Fe de Antioquia now, a small former mining town founded in 1541 that was once the capital of Antioquia. I kinda want to sleep in this Sunday morning. I’m staying at small hotel in the middle of the main square and it’s absolutely perfect. I rest on a hammock before finding the motivation to go out and explore. This is one of the few free mornings that I have – I’m heading back to the City later for a dinner meeting. After walking around in the hot sun, I notice a sign for the Puente de Occidente (Western Bridge) so I figure why not check out another bridge…it’s the planning nerd in me. My mini-taxi driver turns out to be a historian of sorts and tells me the entire history of the bridge we are about to see. Built in the 1800s by a crazy mathematician / engineer / drunk. After delays this beautiful mind (Jose Maria Villa) was fired and he drowned the plans in the river below…only to be reinstated on the project after other teams failed. The next several years he completed the project by memory, literally directing construction workers and other engineers as he fell deeper into the bottle. When it was complete the Puente de Occidente was the longest suspension bridge in South America. Jose Maria Villa eventually died broke and as an alcoholic. His body was found on a vista where he could see his finest creation.
Ok….so the taxi driver told the story a lot better….but it was an amazing infrastructure project that is still used today… I walked across the bridge making sure my steps were carefully chosen. The bridge is wooden….and in definite need of some upgrades.