Katie: I love that smell
Annalie: what smell??
Katie: the air; it smells healthy
This weekend we fell in love. Guatapé is quite possibly the cutest town I have ever seen – a peaceful haven of colour and nature and the friendliest people in the world.
But let’s rewind.
On Friday we got up early to get a bus to Guatapé – a small town around 2 hours to the east of Medellin based on a man made lake. We’d heard good things about it, so thought we’d make a day trip of it and stay the night. Apparently it gets crowded at weekends as its a popular spot to escape the cities. To my delight, as I was fast asleep last night, Katie had booked us into a fancy hotel for the night as a treat so we were all the more looking forward to it.
Breakfast was a fruit experiment (Katie got a little excited in the supermarket), which didn’t go so well…
So we get on the bus from Medellin’s bus terminal and, in true Colombian style, more people got on than could sit so it was a bit of musical chairs. A huge family with about 5 kids sat right behind us, and as I was just drifting off a child from behind squirted his bottle of juice alllll over us, good start. 20 minutes later the bus stops and a police dog gets on for what we can only imagine was a drug sweep, however the dog was more interested in a kid’s football and literally wouldn’t give it back so the police man stormed on and dragged the poor dog off. Maybe he needs a little bit more training.
The bus ride other than that was beautiful, it took us through rolling hills, lakes, colourful little farms. And then came into view La Piedra el Peñol, what we had come here to see. It’s a huge, HUGE, rock, probably left over from volcanic activity, that you can climb to get the most incredible views. So at the base of the mountain we got off our bus, ate our lunch (which was leftover dinner carried in our own creation of Tupperware – a plastic bottle. Who said traveling wasn’t glamorous…)
We started our hike from the bus stop to the base of the mountain (they make you walk 1km uphill to even get to the rock) so treated ourselves to a local ice cream before starting the 740 steps vertically up the huge rock. We also bumped into our Australian friends again so headed up together. The steps were steep and the sun strong but the views more than made up for it. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. It’s all one big man made lake with lagoons, islands and peninsulas, and there is a dam that we’ve heard creates 30% of Colombia’s electricity!
An hour or so later we made our way back down, and our question as to whether or not people have to walk up all the goodies at the top (beers, souvenirs etc) was answered – a guy carrying around 48 cans of beer came up the steps
We grabbed a MotoTaxi / Colombian tuk tuk to take us the few kms to the town of Guatape and we made our way to our lovely hotel with views over the damn.
We wandered aimlessly around the small village, grabbed a coffee, a corn on the cob, saw some cows roaming the streets, and sussed out what we could do tomorrow morning. What’s striking about Guatapean houses is the decorations outside, called zocalos, which originally were to keep chickens from pecking at the wall and stopping children chipping the wall with their ball games. Each one describes the history of the house – totally charming.
Untraditionally, the ‘best restaurant in town’ according to trip advisor is a pizza place so gave that a shot to get away from ‘menu of the day’ for an evening – brilliant shout as the restaurant was so cute, candle lit with an Italian pizza chef, Luigi. Very happy travellers.
We had heard that the next morning there was a free walk with a hundred people to a town where we would get free lunch so at 8am we set off for the meeting point. It turned out to be more like 20 people, but the most varied group. We had a few 70+ men, kids, tourists, families and even the town minister who came in what looked like a suit. The walk we were told was around 10km so we all followed the leader who sprayed talcum powder on the floor so we could follow him. Amazingly, several of the town’s stray dogs came on the walk too – they are so sweet here, really friendly and curious.
The first bit of the walk was along road, but soon enough we cut into the most beautiful jungle and walked quite a steady and easy walk through winding paths intertwined with creeks. After around 2 hours we go to a little house, where a local woman gave us homemade juice called agua de panela – basically lemon and sugar cane which was delicious. She was so warm and welcoming and showed us around her blossoming garden and trout farm (trout is a speciality of this Antiquoia region). The minister also picked some fresh guavas for us to eat – literal heaven.
We then walked the final 10 minutes to the school where we would be fed. Hands down I don’t think I’ve ever had such a humbling and amazing experience with people. There was a small gathering of about 30-40 countrymen and women at this school in the middle of the valleys where we believe they were celebrating family day. They welcomed us (the four tourists) so so warmly, really curious about where we were from and so proud to tell us about their community.
They fed us a free and hearty meal of local speciality sancocho, a soup with rice, potatoes, yucca and loads of meat. They also had us try some treats of bean sausage and liver…!
Sadly we had to leave a little earlier as we had a bus booked back to Medellin, so they all gathered round to discuss the best way for us to get back, which turned out to be a Taxi Yegua, i.e. a female horse taxi. So off Katie and I went, on two gorgeous horses as their owner walked next to us, up the hill for just over an hour till we hit the road where we caught the public bus. Of course I got the slightly dodgy horse who kept stopping every 5 minutes to rest but I don’t blame him in this heat and with a well fed girl on his back.The farmer led us through the most unbelievable scenery, passed his house of a lifetime which he showed us proudly, through his field of horses and cows, past a baby cow that had been born yesterday, and to the bus stop where we caught a ride back to Guatapé. There are no words for the generosity these people have shown us, and we have definitely left a part of our hearts in the community.
Now back in Medellin to experience the famous night life. I hope we stay awake.
Bye for now! X