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Published: June 27th 2015
First Stop: La Piedra El Penol
Jeff, Susie (one of our master's diver friends) and I took a day trip to Guatape the day after the conclusion of the Pan American Master's Diving Competition. Early on Wednesday, we took the metro to Caribe station and then used an overpass to cross the highway to the Northern Bus Terminal where we secured seats on the public bus for COP12,500 each. The bus left the terminal soon after we bought our tickets and wound its way up the mountains that fringe Medellin. Before long, we were surrounded by pretty countryside. The bus ride took about two hours. I'm not sure if the bus driver deliberately played English songs because he had gringo passengers (we were the only ones) but we had a fun time rocking out to Supertramp, Midnight Oil and Men Without Hats.
The bus dropped us off at a gas station near the village of El Penol, and from there we walked up a steep-ish road to get to our first destination of the day - La Piedra ("the rock"). La Piedra is a granite monolith with a fissure in it, and a staircase was built into this fissure
The monolith seen from afar.
to aid the ascent of hordes of visitors. A signboard on the road up proudly proclaimed in caps that this was "The Best View In The World". Is it? Well, only one way to find out...
We bought our tickets for COP10,000 each, took a collective deep breath, and tackled the monster. I was determined to make it up to the summit (659 steps) without stopping, and I made it in about 15 minutes. Thank goodness I have had lots of practice on Oahu's Koko Crater (about 1,200 steps up an abandoned railway track; I climb it in 19:30). I was impacted a little by the thin air at this high altitude (7,000 feet), though.
So, was this the best view in the world? I have seen nicer views, but I have not seen such a nice view before from a rock
. The view of the artificial lake and the countryside surrounding La Piedra was indeed pretty spectacular.
There are food stalls at the summit. Susie and I both had some fruit while Jeff had ice cream and we sat and chatted for a bit - mostly about diving and deaf education - before we tackled the
Our tuk tuk driver and his dachshund.
last 81 steps which were up a spiral staircase inside a brick structure which first led you to a souvenir shop before letting you out onto the roof. So, 740 steps in all.
After hanging out on the roof for a bit, we made the journey down La Piedra on a separate staircase for descending. At the bottom, we negotiated a fare with a tuk tuk (not sure what they call them here in Colombia) driver to take us to Guatape for COP10,000. Just as we set off on the 10 minute drive, we discovered that his dachshund was tucked underneath his seat! Our driver deposited us along the main lakeside road in Guatape.
Second Stop: Guatape
Guatape is an old colonial town best known for colorful tiles on the lower half of the facades of its buildings depicting everyday scenes, natural features, agricultural produce and other natural and cultural icons. We had an enjoyable time strolling through the streets and admiring the buildings. We had a vegan lunch at Namaste Cafe and then strolled around some more before heading back to the lakeside road and hopping onto the next bus back to Medellin. The bus ride
Colorful steps topped by a fish sculpture.
back seemed faster than the ride out and I think it was because there were more downhill coming back. Once we were back at the northern bus terminal, we made our way back to the metro and we persuaded Susie to go to Parque Explora with us where we had a blast playing with the exhibits (more of that in my Medellin entry
Muchas gracias to Susie for her invaluable Spanish language skills. We would not have had such a smooth day trip if not for her.
Travel Tips Getting to El Penol and Guatape
: Public buses leave from Bay 9 at the Northern Bus Terminal. To get to the bus station, take the metro to Caribe station. We bought our outbound tickets at the counter for COP12,500 each. We paid the driver directly on our return leg and he only charged us COP12,000. The outbound buses go on to San Rafael. To get back to Medellin, just flag down the buses along the lakeside road. The buses appear to run frequently. Things To Do
: I understand there are quite a few things one can do at Guatape, including ziplining and taking cruises out onto the
Jeff and Susie chatting away.
lake. We didn't do any of these. Eating
: Namaste Cafe is highly recommended. I had breadzza (pizza bread with vegetables on top) and Jeff and Susie both had crepes. The owner also had freshly baked banana cake when we were there. English and French is spoken there.
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