• Adam

Guatapé weekend, and a cycling misadventure

While I was staying in Medellin, I wanted to visit a different town for the weekend and decided on Guatapé. About 40 miles east of Medellin, this charming and colorful tourist town sat on an artificial lake adjacent to the massive Peñón de Guatapé - a giant rock protruding nearly a thousand feet above the surrounding countryside. Stairs have been built into the rock so it is possible to climb to the top.

To get to Guatapé, I had originally planned to rent a motorbike but decided on a bicycle after a coworker left behind after he bought a cheap one for a cycling trip he ended in Medellin a few months beforehand. Unfortunately, this bicycle was old and cheap and not ideal given that any ride out of Medellin required a 3,000-ft climb out of the valley! Between the altitude, the rickety bike, the relentless climb, and my less-than-stellar endurance after months of not cycling, the initial uphill took hours and sucked all my energy.

(Left) Bike lane on a bridge in Medellin crossing the Medellin River

(Center) Climbing ever higher to get out of the Aburrá Valley (which contains Medellin)

(Right) When it starts to rain, you see motorbike riders slip on full-length ponchos!

Farm near Cascarillo. It could be a coffee plantation, as this is a big coffee-growing region

The rest of the ride was exhausting enough that by the time the bike broke about 7 miles short of my destination, I was happy to leave the bike in a field next to the road and hitch a ride on the back of the next transport truck that passed by! (Standing on the back bumper with my hands on the roof rack was quite exhilarating, I have to say!)

Guatapé itself is a small town and very touristy, but still special in its own right. Buildings are painted in bright colors and feature "zocalos" - not public squares as in Mexico, but murals that take up the lower half of the outside of buildings.

Bright colors of Guatapé

Some examples of the zocalos that adorn the lower half of many buildings here

Then there was the Rock - about 2.5 miles west of town, if traveling by foot you walk up around back at the Zeuss gas station. The top offers incredible views of the beautiful lake that was created by a dam, with islands and peninsulas. Beware tuk-tuk drivers charging 8,000-10,000 COP to take you to/from town. You can hop into a colectivo truck (you shouldn't have to wait more than 5 minutes for one) for about 2,500 COP.

Approaching the Rock. From here it is possible to see the staircase to climb it and the observation tower at the top.

Views from atop the Rock of Guatapé

Back in Guatapé, there is a "malecón" waterfront with boats that give rides. Curiously, a couple were marked as "Disney cruises" - copyright law must surely not extend to this part of the world!

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