Due to some of the best creepy facebook messaging I have ever done, for the last few months I’ve been working for See Colombia Travel, the premier English blog about Colombia. The internship is unpaid but a lot of fun & great experience for me. As well as being incredible experience I also got the opportunity this week, through the blog, to accompany my editor on a blog trip to the beautiful town of Guatape in Antioquia.
Blog trip sounds incredibly glamorous. Just the idea of a free trip to anywhere when it was nearing the end of the month when I would usually be eating nothing but dry arepas and instant soup was pretty fabulous.
See Colombia Travel were invited to beautiful Guatape to take part in the annual walking festival that they were holding. A post about which will be forthcoming. As part of the trip we were invited to stay at the beautiful Los Recuerdos hotel, visit El Penol and climb its 740 steps for the best view of the area as well as visiting the astoundingly colourful Guatape town.
Day 1 in Guatape
We started early with a 4:30am taxi to the airport. The flight was with LAN airline, it must have been comfortable because I have recollection of around fifteen minutes on the plane. I slept as soon as I hit my seat. I wish I could do the same on all flghts!
We were met at the airport by the lovely people from the Medellin board of tourism, who took us for a hearty breakfast and we started on our way to Guatape. We would be spending a night in Los Recuerdos hotel, a serious step up from my usual ten in a hostel room travelling experience! The main focus of the trip would be to take part in the annual hiking festival that the town was holding the next day. Today though we had time to visit some famous sights, take a speedboat tour and spend some time enjoying this luxurious hotel. Something I was very much looking forward to.
Visiting El Peñol, a big ‘ol rock with a hella lotta steps.
Our first point of interest was El Peñol, the millions of years old, 66 million tonne rock which has become the most famous sight in the Antioquia department.
740 steps later, at the top of the humongous rock, I was cursing my lifestyle of late nights, tequila and many cheese covered arepas. It was all worth it though, when, with jittery legs, I stood at the top and took in the incredible view of the flooded valleys surrounding the rock. Guatape has a unique landscape of rolling hills and valleys that were flooded in the 1960’s to create reservoir for a hydro electric damn which provides power to 30% of Colombia. Although its artificial the landscape is absolutely stunning, stretching out as far as the eye can see with lush greenery and glittering blue water.
My favourite rock fact (because I have just so many rock facts) is about the weird lettering on the side of the rock. The ownership of the rock had been long disputed with disagreements springing up between residents of Guatape and El Peñol. Guatape tried to end this dispute in the most mature and traditional of manners. It belongs to me, I have my name on it. When the residents of El Peñol saw that the Guatapeans were trying to claim ownership with the help of white paint and what I can only imagine to be a humongous paintbrush, they formed a mob and stopped them in their tracks. So now the rock has what looks like GI painted on its northern side. Amazing.
Its impossible not to be cheery as you wander through this little technicolour town. Guatape is definitely not dull. Decorated primarily for the tourism that its flashy decoration pulls in, this doesn’t detract from the atmosphere of this charming town. Shops, restaurants, cafes and the occasional old fashioned billiard hall all exist within this riot of colour where no surface is left unpainted and bright, lively murals decorate the walls, telling stories of the town and its residents.
We wandered around the lollypop land like streets, dodging the tuk tuk style motos with a Colombian twist and taking in the sights, sounds and smells of this friendly place. I’d already love to revisit Guatape. the relaxed feel of the town begs for a few days or a week to really wander the streets and kick back with a beer in the many cafes that surround the main square.
After a wonderful day exploring the area we headed back for an early night. The next day we would would join in with the hiking festival and as the steps of El Peñol had made my breathing laboured and my knees tremble I was more than a little concerned what a day of hiking would bring. . . .