To get to Guatape I first had to make my way across Medellín by metro from Ayurá (the nearest metro station to were I am staying) to the metro station named 'Caribe' which is linked to the Northern bus terminal. Upon arriving at the bus terminal I realised it wasn't going to be easy with 50+ ticket offices lining the terminals walls each representing different bus companies each travelling to destinations near and far
. I eventually found an office selling tickets to Guatape and purchased a one way ticket for $11000 pesos (£3.60) for the 1 1/2 - 2 hour trip. I boarded the bus and took my seat, this wasn't going to be comfortable, there wasn't enough room for me to sit with my knees together so I spread out on the two seats. That was until the guy sitting next to me boarded the bus, and the guy in front of me started to try to recline his seat, travelling in South America is not easy for a big guy! The bus drove up out of the valley that Medellín nestles in and into the mountains. One thing you notice on almost all the buses in Colombia is that they have a big led lit speedometer (working or not) inside the bus where all the passengers can see, I don't know if this is so you can see how fast the driver is overtaking on a mountainside hairpin bend or not but it gives me no reassurance!! Finally after what seems like an eternity the rock comes into view and exciting chatter starts on the bus, we are still along way off and as the road bends the rock changes from the left and to the right of the bus, eventually we pull up in Guatape, I must have missed the stop for 'El peñol' never mind I will catch a taxi back as it is very close to the town.
Guatape itself is a quaint colourful town, the thing you immediately notice about the buildings as you walk around is that on the bottom half they are decorated with pictured tiles often depicting something associated with the building (bread for the bakery etc)
. It really is delightful just to walk around the clean streets of this well kept place. The town with its proximity to the huge man made lakes is also a location for watersports and this is a nice place to sit down in one of the many restaurants that overlook the lake and enjoy some traditional food, thats just what I did. The activities around the lake are not just centred on the lake itself, there is also a giant zip line that sends people over the lake. It looked fun but I'd just eaten so I gave it a miss. After my walk by the lakeside I returned to the town square and had a look in the lovely chuch (I'm not sure I'll ever get bored of colonial architectre painted with bright colours often contrasting with a white background) and went in search of 'calle del recueda' or remember street (hence the title), I'm not sure I found it although I enjoyed the walk and practicing my Spanish asking the local people directions. Time was getting on and knowing the last bus left for Medellín at around 7 I decided that I would head to 'El Peñol', I did this in a small tuk tuk type vehicle, the last I thought I would have seen in Thailand.
El peñol itself is quite impressive and mystically strange how this big lump of granite came to be sitting by itself in the rolling green mountainside, however the main attraction is the great views it gives from the top. To get to the the top involves climbing a set of precarious looking stairs and all for the privelage of $8000 pesos. Once at the top the views are spectacular with a 360 degree viewing platform that lets you take in the sheer size of the man made lakes and islands. At the top there is a shop where you can buy drinks and icecreams, god knows how they got the fridges and freezes up there but in Colombia if theres money to be made theres a way. Aware of the time and not wanting to miss the last bus I made my way down to the main road to catch the bus back to Medellín. It was a great day and has really got me in the mood to get my travelling shoes on again, I can't wait till the 14th now when I'll be heading to Manizales in the heart of the coffee growing region of Colombia.
After falling into a routine of going the gym, learning Spanish and sampling the local nightlife and sensing that my chances to get out and sightsee were becoming less and less I gave myself a kick up the arse and decided that today I would get out on the road to see Guatape. Guatape is famous for its giant granite rock 'El peñol' that overlooks the man made resevoir created by the government to power a hydro-electric dam. It also happens to be quaint town centred around tourism and lake activities such as fishing and watersports.