September 23rd 2014
A few days before we went to Guatape, I had met up with a guy from CouchSurfing called Andres for coffee and had invited Phil to join us. When I mentioned that we were going to Guatape that week, Andres immediately invited us to stay with his parents the night after, as his family home was half way between Guatape and Medellin. He didn’t even check with his parent first but we agreed and the day after staying in Guatape we set about trying to meet up with Andres.
The instructions I had been given were “get off the bus at number 12 on the road near La Playa”. Firstly, we were nowhere near the beach so I had my doubts about asking the bus driver to let us off near “La Playa”. Secondly, what on earth was number 12?? I asked the receptionist of the hostel to write a note that I could pass to the bus driver telling him to let us off at the place that matched the instructions, though even he was confused where we would be going. I was really nervous because once we left the hostel I wouldn’t have wifi and wouldn’t be able to contact Anders if we got lost in the middle of some highway.
Not surprisingly the bus driver was a bit perplexed about exactly where we wanted to get off. Knowing that it was approximately half way back to town, around 1hr into the trip I went to sit beside the driver and stare out the front window hoping to see something that made sense. All of a sudden I saw it! The roundabouts that are scattered along the highway are numbered and called ‘returnos’ – so that you can turn off into towns on the other side of the road. And as it happened, roundabout #12 was right near a sign that said ‘La Playa’. Score! We jumped off the bus then without anything else to do, started walking along the road. A few moments later we saw Andres walking towards us – how amazing that we actually found him!
He drove us up to his parents’ house which was situated on top a hill with the most spectacular view of the area. You can really see why they left the city to come live out in the countryside. The house had a large garden full of fruit trees, vegetables, chickens and a pot plant area – when swapping some corn for fresh milk with the neighbours they could more or less be self sufficient on this property. Andres let us try a bunch of strange fruit that I had never seen nor tasted before that are common in Colombia; some small pumkin looking thing, mangosteens, grandilla and some orange colour berry that is the seed of a small flower – all really good. His mother made us some home made lunch that we all sat on the tables outside and ate together.
After lunch Andres drove us to Santa Elena (The area at the top of Arvi Park, where the cable car goes). We took a short walk through the forest before chilling at a cute little café for some coffee then on to Guane (the town next to La Playa) for a dinner of arepas. Arepas are super popular in the state of Antioquia (of which Medellin is the capital). They are round pancake sized things made from ground up corn and water. Paisas (people from Antioquia) eat arepas with everything and all the time.
The next morning, I awoke to the sounds of breakfast being cooked. Andres’ mother had made us a full proper Colombian breakfast; complete with scrabbld eggs from their own chickens, home made arepas using corn they had grown, sausage and toast. I wasn’t expecting so much food and didn’t even come close to finishing it. She was still making the arepas as we were eating so I asked if I could have a go trying to make one…it turned out ok. All I had to do was grab some dough, and flatten it into a suitable flat round shape – kind of like making a pizza base. I’d love to have learnt how to make the dough; there’s only 2 ingredients so I imagine the ratios between corn and water must play quite a big part in how well they turn out. They taste far better than any gluten free bread I’ve ever tried.
Around 11 we said our thanks and farewells to the family and walked down to the highway to get back to Medellin. Rather than just take one normal bus all the way back, we got on a Chiva bus (generally used as a party bus but is basically a large truck with a cabin full of wooden seats in the back, decorated in pretty paintings and designs), then onto another bus and then on a train.
I went back to the Black Sheep Hostel just to grab my things and took a taxi to Happy Buddha Hostel, just for a change of scenery since I had already been there a week and it starts to get a little depressing when you keep seeing people come and go and you’re still there. That evening I had a initial meeting with Camilo (a Spanish teach recommended by the hostel) and agreed to take 2hr private Spanish classed with him for the next week, starting tomorrow. I also asked if he could help me find an apartment to live in for a month while I’m learning Spanish. Fingers crossed.