April 17th, 2019
Guatapé & Pierda Del Peñol
Part of our Remote Year program includes a weekend track event each month. While in Medellín, Colombia, we took a day trip to Guatapé and Pierda Del Peñol which was a two-hour drive outside of the Poblado commune (neighborhood) where we resided. Our event was called "Do it On a Van" because part of it included riding on top of a van through Colombia's countryside and that would be just one of the many surprises we would have on this fun-filled day!
Surprise 1: Get Ready to Party
We set off in our van with some of us feeling a little sleepy and wanting to take a nap, but, our driver, Rafa, had other plans. Super perky and full of energy, he quickly had the music bumping, disco lights flashing and put us into full party mode, all before 10 am.
Our first stop was at a countryside home where we ate a homemade breakfast which included a cheesy tomato omelette, Colombian hot chocolate, and papaya amongst other delicious treats.
Surprise 2: Do it ON a Van
Based off the name of the track, we knew we would be getting on top of the van. We didn't realize we would be taking such an extensive (and bumpy) ride through the countryside. A little scary at times, but mostly enjoyable, especially the views which just wouldn't have been the same from inside the van.
Surprise 3: Let's Pick up a Hitchhiker
Back inside the van, we stopped to pick up a hitchhiker. At least that's what we thought was happening when Rafa asked us to make room for another passenger. A young man sat in front and started playing music with a Dulzania instrument which resembles a large harmonica. He played and sang joyful Colombian folk music and the acoustics in the van created an extraordinary musical experience.
Surprise 4: Where's Guatapé...it's Under Water
We stopped at the old part of Guatapé where we learned about the interesting history of this city. This area is considered the old part because much of the city had to be relocated in order to create the Punchiná Dam which generates hydroelectricity. The majority of the old city now exists under water and an emerging cross serves as a reminder of where a church once stood.
Surprise 5: Get Ready to Jump
Next stop was Lake Guatapé. There is a large bridge there where people come to take a leap of faith and jump into the water 40 feet below. A few brave souls took the plunge and James, having been a former diver, decided to do a backflip. Even if you don't do the jump, you can still enjoy the water and sunshine.
Surprise 6: Stairmagedon
Then it was off to Piedra del Peñol, a giant granite rock where we had 740 steps to climb to get to the top.
It was not as bad as it looked and only took about 15 minutes to climb. Just kidding, it was tough, but take your time, you'll be alright. Stop to take pictures, cheer each other on, recreate a Titanic scene, whatever keeps you going.
Along the way, there are markers counting what step you are on so as to give you a little glimpse of hope that you're going to make it.
The views from the top are worth every step.
Surprise 7: Welcome to Paradise
Famished from our rigorous climb, we stopped at another beautiful home where we were greeted with an impressive spread of veggies, beans, rice dishes, potatoes, salads and more. We ate as if we hadn't eaten in days and even managed to make room in our bellies for some warm cornbread too (hey, we climbed all those stairs, we deserved it). Afterward, we lounged in hammocks and let the food coma set in as we overlooked the mirror-like pool and lush vegetation.
Surprise 8: Color Me Happy
Our last stop was the new part of Guatapé which is known as the most colorful town in Colombia. Homes are brightly painted and have decorated sockets, the lower parts of the facades on the houses. Sockets were formerly decorated with the family seal, but now, they usually illustrate the family's line of work or are used for decorative purposes. There are shops, churros, cafes, and lots of color everywhere you look.
The "Do it ON a Van" day trip is available for purchase and costs around $130,000 COP ($45 USD) per person. Totally worth it and a must do trip if you are visiting Medellín!