How many stairs would you climb for a view like this? How about 740?
Since we’d just arrived in Medellin and did not yet know the ways of the metro, we took a taxi to the Caribe bus terminal for ~10,000 COP ~ $3.50. The bus to Guatapé takes a little over two hours, making frequent stops along the way. At one point, my friend got into quite the conversation with a precious 3-year old seated on her grandma’s lap. She knew her colors in Spanish AND English and could even tell you which ones were primary. Her cousin, not present, was well-versed in country capitals, according to grandma. There must be something in the arepas.
La Piedra comes before Guatapé, so don’t bother buying a bus ticket to Guatapé. Buy it instead to El Peñon and walk (45 minutes) or [rickshaw] taxi to the town after enjoying the views. When off the bus, kindly say no, gracias to all individuals offering to take you to the rock by rickshaw or worse, horse! Five minutes up the road lies a contraption preventing any horse from passing, because their legs would simply fall through. So no, don’t take a horse, or a taxi, because the walk to the base of the rock is only about 15 minutes. I saw the upset in one woman’s face when she realized how pointless her horse ride had been.
You will take photos of the view even before getting to the rock, and you will take photos on the stairs of the rock, before getting to the top. And this is alright. Just remember that you will make it to the top, and views there will be. It costs 15,000 COP ~ $5 to climb. We should not have been surprised.
Twenty minutes and burning lungs later, we arrived at the almost-top. Countless people lined the perimeter, cameras, cell phones, and go-pros in hand. A little shack in the center offered cold drinks, popsicles, snacks, etc. We’d later return to the shack, but only after climbing the final, cramped stairs through gift shops (in a tower) to the top.
Back on the ground, we dished out more of that no, gracias from earlier and opted to walk to Guatapé. A few times along the walk, to either side of us, I’d catch a glimpse of the waterways skirting around the land or of the rock in the distance, dwarfed by nothing, because it’s so big! Outstanding, strange, interesting – pick your adjective(s).
When finally we reached civilization, it welcomed us with colorful houses complete with reliefs, accented by the terraces above and cobbled roads below. Guatapé is charming – small and vibrant. Its buildings reminded me of primary schools . We settled on a seemingly reasonable restaurant and ordered the ejecutivo, a delicious meal for 12,000 COP ~ $4.
The plan was to purchase our return bus tickets and walk around for a bit, but on this day, the 3:45 PM bus would be the last. If it weren’t for the transit strike shaking things up a bit, we would have been able to take a later bus. In the end, though, we saw what we’d come to see, and thank goodness we made it to the bus terminal in time. We even bumped into a boy from our hostel in Medellin who we’d also seen at our hostel in Salento, days prior. Funny how these travel circuits work. Anyhoo. This boy, Yelle, would introduce us to the metro and lead us home. Thank you, Yelle.