After a busy Saturday that included the Comuna 13 tour and the soccer game in the evening, Sunday was not going to be any less exciting. It was time to visit the town of Guatapé and la Piedra del Peñol. I had been to the big stone on the 4th of July which was a couple of weeks earlier, but the whole trip did not go as planned. Turns out the American Independence Day is also a national holiday in Colombia for other reasons. It is a religious holiday that commemorates the martyrdom of Saint Paul and Saint Peter.
To sum up that day the bus terminal was hectic and my friend and I waited 1:30 hours in line just to get our tickets. From the beginning of the bus ride there was a lot of traffic because everyone of course had great plans on this day and after about 4 or 5 hours we decided to get out of the bus and just walk the remaining kilometers because the bus at this point was not moving at all. We were not the only ones walking and we arrived at the big rock around five. Since we did not bring any food we had last eaten early in the morning and therefore were very hungry. We did not have much time to eat because the entrance to go up the rock closes around 6 which is also when the sun starts to set. For a touristy place the food was actually good so it was a pity to have to eat and drink the fresh passion fruit juice quickly. By the time we walked the 700+ steps up the rock, the pictures we took were not as pretty as they would have been earlier in the day, but nonetheless the view of the infinite number of little lakes and islands was amazing and beautiful. We had no time to go to the town of Guatapé and again we had to wait about 90 minutes to get on a bus because everyone in their mother was returning to Medellin. Overall, we probably spent about 95% of our time either waiting to get on the bus or in the bus itself, but I was hopeful that this time with my brother would be different because it was not a long holiday weekend. However, I was still a bit nervous because experiences like the previous one are not easily forgotten.
We left the apartment around 9:30 in the morning which was not as early as I would have liked to leave since last time we left around the same time and received a not so pleasant surprise at the main bus station (Terminal del Norte). At least when you have done something before you do not waste time trying to figure out where to go. After going down the stairs and making a few right turns I immediately knew that today would be a great day. I could see the ticket booth to go to Guatapé and it was a fraction of what it had been a few weeks earlier. After a short 15 minute wait we had our tickets and were heading to the bus that was leaving in five minutes.
The bus trip from Medellin to Piedra del Peñol or Guatape usually takes about 2 hours and this time it was on schedule. We first went to the town of Guatape which is one stop further then the big rock. On arrival you have a lake to the left of the main two way road and restaurants all along the right hand side as well as the town. Of course the first thing we needed to do is eat lunch to make sure my brother could survive for a few more hours. I had some breaded fish with the typical Colombian side dishes and a fresh mango juice. My brother had the same, but with chicken instead of fish. I guess not the same.
Afterwards we walked through the beautiful and colorful town and I actually spotted in the distance the Spanish couple from the Comuna 13 tour the day prior.
What makes the beauty of this town unique in comparison to other ones is that many of the houses have bas-reliefs. Each house is basically a piece of art. Each one unique from the next. One day when I have a house I will certainly incorporate some bas-relief.
The town is not that big so after the quick walk we took a short ride with the tuk-tuk to get to la Piedra del Peñol. I was not too fond of going back up because I am not a fan of heights and for my taste there is not a whole lot of protection walking up those steps. However, the view from the top is spectacular. For people like me I would suggest they build an elevator if possible and I will make sure to get my workout in a different and more comfortable way. The walk up is about 20 minutes and you climb more than 700 steps in a zig zag fashion to get to the top. Once at the top they have a souvenir store and a few places to buy things like ice cream and fruit bowls.
We took some pictures and then it was time to head back to the apartment.
I certainly recommend a visit to the town and rock, but absolutely try to avoid going on a national holiday. You will have a completely different and better experience.
In the next blog I will write about our trip to Parque Arví which requires taking the famous “metro cable” which allows you to see a great portion of the city of Medellin. Awesome views.