Guatepe and the large rock thing.

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, March 3, 2012

I'm woken by a noise I don't recognise.  It takes me a few seconds to dawn on me that it's my alarm clock I set last night!  I set it for 7am!  I'm awake!  And what's this?  I'm getting out of bed!  I'm moving towards the bathroom to shower!  It's a miracle.

Actually I was dreaming.  I'm still in bed at 10am, but manage to heave myself up, out and at em, and in an unprecedented twist of events, by 10.30 I'm on a metro train bound for the bus station.  The only thing I'm carrying is my camera wrapped in a plastic carrier bag and my sun block lip salve.  I'm a professional.

I'm always a little daunted traveling alone.  Numerous times on this trip I feel outside the comfort zone when I don't have a Spanish speaker as a companion.  So much so I may have written this exact sentence previously.  For that I apologise.  Yet there is almost always an overwhelming sense of success when things go right, I negotiate the metro and bus journey with little difficulty, and before I know it, I'm standing exactly where I want to be, two hours from Medellin, in the picturesque town of Guatepe.  The only dodgy thing to happen was the two excuses for fried burgers I ate at a bus terminal food stand.  I bring it on myself.

I step off the bus into hot sunshine and a brightly painted quaint little town set in beautiful countryside.  Guatape is a focal point for local farming, and is rapidly becoming a booming tourist destination.  Get here before it's ruined.  The town itself sits on the banks of a large reservoir, which is already starting to show the signs of entrepreneurial Colombians setting up shop.  Zip lines cross the water, and a number of floating restaurants and discos hug the banks.  It's quiet for a Saturday, but walking around you definitely get the impression this place is going to kick off.

The streets are beautiful.  Something new and exciting waits around every corner.  The houses and shops are painted in vibrant colours, and the motifs and designs are charming.  Tuk Tuks trundle along cobbled streets and flower boxes add to the comfort and safety.  I don't know about you, but when I see a window box filled with Magnolias, I let my hair down.  The old gas powered style street lamps throw back the years too.  Apart from stepping back in time, you've stepped slightly sideways into another world. 

At some point I realise I've not used any sunscreen.  For a second I contemplate applying the chap stick, then I realise just how stupid that idea really is.  Since I don't want to spend any money, or carry a bottle of factor 50 around, I negotiate the town scuttling from shade to shade.  A dodgy little character snaking his way out of the sunlight.  By the end of the day I've still managed to obtain a face like a smacked arse.

After I've had my fill of brightly painted buildings, I board a Tuk Tuk and spur the driver to Peñón de Guatapé, the Guatape rock.  It's a rather large...errrr...rock.  Formed here around 70 million years ago, you know the type; it's one of those rock things.  That form.  Way back.  Anyway a few crazies decided to scale it back in the 50's, then someone had the bright idea to build a staircase up it.  659 steps to be precise.  With two thirds of it underground,  It's still well over 200 metres high, and by god I nearly killed myself climbing it. 

For all the effort it took to get to the top, every heaved breath, every bead of sweat, every promise to give up smoking and drinking, it was well worth it.  Not that I will give up smoking and drinking, it was just a turn of phrase.  The view from the top is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  I spent a long time up there, staring out at the little toy villages below, taking in the vast distance, a panoramic view of green and blue and different weather fronts.  Hearing and seeing the thunderstorm in one area, and only a slight head turn away was beautiful sunshine.  The world at work, powerful, jaw dropping, and totally breathtaking.  Which is a problem since I needed to climb back down and I couldn't feel my legs.

I made it back to the main road and booked my ticket to Medellin.  Sitting eating a horrible ice cream in front of a flea bitten horse, by a smelly petrol station, I still felt elated that I'd managed to tear myself away to see something.  It's given me a new lease of life, a kick up the arse to actually spend my money getting to and experiencing the wonderful things the world has to offer.  I didn't even know this place existed.  How many more amazing sights must there be that you've never even heard of?  Sights that play second fiddle to the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, the Glasgow underground, Anfield and my bum in tight jeans?  I just can't fathom it, but it's out there somewhere and it's time to see it all.

So why I end up on a 24 hour sleepless bender when I get back to Medellin is beyond me.

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