September 22nd 2014
Skipping ahead to 6 days into my stay in Medellin, and Phil and I had decided to go to Guatape. Guatape is a cute little town about 2hrs bus ride away from Medellin. Everyone has been telling me its amazing and not to miss it. I’m not sure how Phil has caught up to me; he stayed 2.5 weeks extra in Bogota to study Spanish and I am yet to stop to take classes so it seems I am just making my way through Colombia incredibly slowly. Anyway, its nice to hang out with someone and not have to do the regular introductions: What’s your name? Where are you from? How long are you travelling for? Where are you going next? Where have you been? Etc It’s starting to get repetitive.
We made our way to the metro station and took the train in the direction of the North Bus Terminal. Not sure how, but we managed to miss the station by about 4 stops. It wasn’t until I saw the sign that said the next station was the end of the line, that I realised we had missed it! Oops. The bus terminal is well set out and it was fairly straightforward to buy the tickets and line up at the correct gate for the bus to turn up. The trip to Guatape takes 2hrs and you pass by the main attraction – the massive rock (El Peñol), before getting to the town. We got off the bus at what to me seemed like, a random spot by the side of the road at the beginning of the main street of town, but was actually the town bus terminal. The only sign to let you know was that the café was called ‘Terminal Café’.
The town is super pretty. All the buildings are painted in bright colours and have cool 3D designs on the outside walls – it’s like being in a children’s colouring book. Had lunch on the main eat street along the river. Trout is popular here so I went with a grilled trout with lemon sauce, it was so delicious; I’m drooling just thinking about it now. There was a group of nuns sitting at the table behind us and suddenly I was overwhelmed with all these questions about nuns. What exactly do they do all day? Do they get holidays? Why did they become nuns in the first place? What’s the purpose of them venturing into town and having a nice lunch? Is it just a girly gossip catch up session? Who designs their nun outfits? Why do some wear dark blue and others are in white? Do the lengths of their skirts mean anything? So many unanswered questions!
After lunch we walked 15mins up the hill to the hostel. Instantly loved the place when I saw they had a hammock with an amazing view of the rock and the surrounding lakes. You can’t go wrong with a hammock. Honestly, if a hostel doesn’t have a hammock, you have to question how good it’s really going to be. Eventually I was convinced to get out of the hammock and we ventured back into town to catch a bus back to the rock. In what seems to be a worrying trend, we missed the stop and had to ask the driver to let us down a little later when I realised that that nothingness by the side of the road was probably where we needed to be. No sign, nothing. And no, you can’t see the massive rock from the road cos there’s a hill in the way. It’s like the want us to get lost and confused.
If we had read the guide books before going we would have realised there is a 1km walk up the step hill just to get to the base of the rock. Of course we hadn’t and I was already puffed before we had even started the climb up the rock. At the base of the rock there is a large graffiti image of the Medellin football team’s logo. I can’t even imagine what would happen if some sport team’s logo was painted on the side of Uluru! I’m not sure what I was expecting the climb to be like but I was pleasantly surprised at how stable and well built the stairs up were. Every 25 steps the step number was written on the step. Actually I prefer if I don’t know exactly how much further it is to the top, I much prefer to lie to myself the whole way up. 740 steps to get to the top of the tower on the rock. The view from there is stunning. It’s crazy to think just a few years ago this whole town was so dangerous it was off limits to outsiders.
When we were walking through the car park on our way out, we were stopped by a family who, I assumed, wanted us to take a photo of them. Nope. They wanted photos with us. They were also visiting Guatape from Medellin and they were SUPER excited to see us. I kid you not, no one has ever been this enthusiastic to see me before. Ever. It was a young couple with their 3 little kids and the grandmother. They were just so excited, thankful and happy that we were visiting their country. The grandmother was especially cute. More about this later when I write about the Medellin walking tour, but it’s really amazing to see first hand how grateful and happy people are that their country is now safe enough that they get to meet tourists. We ended up posing for 5 or 6 photos with them.