Colombia - Guatape

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South America » Colombia » Antioquia » Guatape
February 19th 2017
Published: February 24th 2017
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David here...

We jumped off the bus in Medellin just as it was beginning to get dark. We ignored the people 'organising' taxis for everyone and approached a taxi driver and showed him the address to our £16 hotel room. He said 'Si' and we were on our way. He dropped us off one road too early, but apart from that we arrived safely. The Hotel Casa Jardin was up some stairs and through a metal gate, controlled by reception. Our room was small, hot and cheap. It was only for one night and we weren't expecting to stay in much.

We dumped our bags, chose a restaurant and headed out. We hit Restaurante el DF, a Mexican cantina, and enjoyed a Burro and Chimichanga, before moving onto the Custom Rock Bar a short walk away. The pictures online were very bright and it didn't mention Metal but as it was nearby and had come up on searches we gave it a go. In fact the place was darker and decorated with pictures of Metal bands and motorbikes. As soon as we walked in to the tiny bar we were approached by a young man and he spoke a little English. We ordered a couple of beers and he brought over some crisps and a pen and paper for requests. The music when we arrived was soft, pop rock from the 70's. By the end of the night they were playing Iced Earth, Judas Priest and lots of 80's hair metal. We had only put in a few requests (Finntroll, HEAT, Hardcore Superstar, Iron Maiden etc) and the couple running the bar just carried on. We were the only customers after all and we're sure they were tailoring the music for us, but the woman was definitely singing along to the Iced Earth track she put on.

After 5 beers each we decided to call it a night and bid our farewells, though we do think we'll be back. That was 3 nights in Colombia and 3 Metal bars. This place is going to kill us at this rate. We got back to the room and attempted to sleep. First off, the room was next to reception and it was noisy. Secondly, the room was really hot for some reason and stayed that way all night despite the fan. We both only got a couple of hours sleep at most.

The next day was a lazy start and after showers we used the Tappsi app to book a taxi from our hotel to the North bus terminal where we could get transport to nearby Guatape. The taxi turned up and there was some confusion. First the taxi driver didn't appear to understand 'Terminal del Norte'. Then he wanted us to do something but we had no clue what he was saying. He finally showed us that he wanted to cancel the ride on the app, in some way ripping off the app maybe? Though it did then give us the option of a reason for cancellation, one of which was the driver requested cancellation, which we selected. We eventually got to the bus station, found the ticket desks and got tickets. We were on a bus to Guatape within minutes.

The journey was around 2 hours. When we could keep our eyes open, the scenery was stunning. We arrived in the lakeside town and checked into our hotel, which we could see from where we got dropped off. We were staying in the Hotel Benjamar on the lake front. A little more than we should be spending, though we resisted paying for a suite. We dumped our bags after checking in and wandered the town. The lake is man-made and you can get a boat out to see the church spire still sticking up out of the lake from the submerged town below the surface, although we didn't as we 've done a lot of boat trips so far. The town is also famous for the stuccos on the bottom half of peoples houses. Historically the lamb of God but now pictures of things that interest the people living there or that reflect their business. It makes for a very colourful town indeed.

After wandering round the town we stopped at a local mini market and bought beers, settled at the tables and chairs outside and just people watched. I say people watched, mainly we stared at all the inconsiderate, oblivious and idiotic travellers around and moaned about them. Taking pictures of children without consent, not being aware of things around them and getting in the way and just the loud voices. We really are far too old for this. After 3 beers (Aguila is our beer of choice, tasty and cheap) we headed back to the hotel to relax before heading out for some food. We'd read that Pizza de Luigi was worth going to, the best pizza in the world according to a New Yorker online. We were worried about getting a table on a Friday night so got there just as they opened at 18:30. We needn't have worried as we got a table easily and within an hour had polished off 2 bottles of beer each, a Pepperoni pizza and a Ham and Mushroom pizza. The different hot sauces, pepper and garlic oil really brought the pizza alive. Our opinion, a really good, well cooked pizza but just short of Pizza Regina on Gili Trewangan. High praise from us actually as we are very fussy ahout pizza.

Feeling satisfied we headed out into the rain and made our way to the main square, found a bar with umbrellas and watched the evening go by over a few beers. It was raining hard but the bar was still serving outside and many people were under cover enjoying the same experience as us, food stalls across from us were still serving food despite the rain, it was very relaxed. The church on the main square, which is painted white and red was now lit up with rotating colours and looked wonderful. Gutape is really a wonderful little town. We finished the evening with a couple of beers at our hotel before bed.

The next morning, after a decent nights sleep, we headed out for breakfast, which was at a restaurant along the lake shore. It consisted of scrambled eggs, a thick bread tortilla, called an Arepa, and coffee. It was alright, livened up with hot sauce but nothing amazing. We decided to walk the 45 minutes to the local sightseeing spot, the huge rock called El Penon de Guatape, which can be climbed for views of the surrounding scenery. Suzanne mentioned that they sold beer at the top, so I was in.

The walk to the start point was along the main roads but had, surprisingly, many pavements and bridges so you were away from the traffic most of the time. Also, the views along the route were amazing. We got to the start point of the walk up to the rock and had to climb stairs and steep hills. This was all before the 650 steps up the actual rock. There was also lots of building work going on, looking like a new road being built up to the main stairs area to us, a bit of a waste as there is already a road up, but the area was buzzing with lots of people so maybe it is required due to the numbers of people?

Anyway, we paid the COP 16,000 each to go up to the top and started up the 650 steps to the top. It was tough going, especially after walking there in the first place but we did make it to the very top, where there were many sellers and stalls with food, ice creams and, of course, beer. We stayed up there for about an hour, enjoyed 2 beers and revelled in the view, which was spectacular no matter where you looked. It was well worth the effort, cost and time, a truly amazing place. Hopefully the photos will do it justice (though the panorama app I've been using is now not working).

We walked back into town despite the protestations of the tuk-tuk drivers who insisted we rest our legs and go with them, yes, they have tuk-tuk's in Guatape. We got back into town and managed to buy bus tickets for the next day using a combination of Google Translate and my remembering the word for midday. Feeling like we'd achieved stuff, we went into the main square and settled down with an Empanada de Pollo and a beer each and watched the world go by. A big wedding was taking place at the church that everyone was watching. A stretch limo was parked outside and a drone was flying overhead to capture the bride and groom coming out of the church. After a while we headed back to the hotel to shower and relax before the evening began.

We'd decided that we'd eaten far too few vegetables so far on this trip so were going to eat Veggie. We got out of the hotel quite early so decided to go for a drink first. We went into the main square intending to go to a bar but ended up buying beers at a supermarket and sitting in the square drinking them. We had 2 each and it was brilliant sitting in the square, with the church lit up in colour again, lots more people out and about, music playing and families in the square. It felt very special and local and we loved it. We eventually did go for Veggie food at Namaste restaurant, pretty good, cheap and obviously healthy, before ending up back in the square where we stayed for another 1.5 hours drinking beer before heading back to the hotel and bed. Sitting in that square with all the hustle and bustle is why we are travelling. A little town in Colombia (freakin' Colombia!) we've never heard of before and we just soaked up the atmosphere, enjoyed the moment and fell in love with the place. We already knew that we'd made a mistake in only staying 2 nights.

After a noisy nights sleep (Spanish is such a noisy language, especially in a tiled hotel) we had breakfast at the restauarant again (included in our hotel booking) which was the same as yesterday, except we opted for chocolate instead of coffee, which was much better. We didn't need to check out until 12.10, when we sauntered to the bus terminal a few minutes away, jumped onto our bus that was already waiting and at 12:30 we were on our way back to Medellin. To be honest, Guatape was a little filler stop as we had 2 nights to kill and it was nearby to Medellin. What a mistake-a-to-make-a! We could've stayed in beautiful, relaxed, friendly Guatape for much longer. It is a wonderful little place which we loved. It felt so relaxed with so many options for food and drink but was just so good to stop and look about you. We loved the place, absolutely loved it and we were so sad to be moving on, but needs must, onward we went to our next adventure.

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