Piedra del Peñol
About a two hour bus from Medellin is the picturesque town of Guatape on the banks of the manmade Peñol-Guatapé Reservoir. Just south west of the town rising up from one of the many green islands is a large granite rock called Piedra del Peñol. We asked our bus driver to drop us off at a fork in the road just outside of town where you can walk up to the base of a ugly zigzagging staircase like a wound sewn up by a backstreet doctor.
Fifteen minutes and 740 steps later we reached the top of the rock (literally) and celebrated by cracking open our warm slightly shaken summit beers.
The view was incredible over the little islands and farmland in the distance as little boats zipped about in the vivid green water. The whole area used to be just a collection of farming communities set in small rolling hills until someone had the bright idea to dam the nearby river for an hydro electric plant back in the early seventies flooding the entire valley. This instantly created a perfect tourist destination and business opportunity for villagers with property up in the hillsides and a wet carpet for anyone living in the lowlands.
The town is described as the most colourful place in the world and you can see why. Bright relief work called Zocalos cover the lower panels on every building depicting all kinds of things from animals, fruit, veg, goods and daily life to a man in a hat day-dreaming about a sheep. This was one of my personal favourite, Helen on the other hand was taken with the smiling padlocks depicted outside the locksmith. We couldn't find much information about why this town is plastered with this creative plaster but it makes for a nice stroll and some good photos.
As we wandered the little streets we passed a bar full of hat wearing old men playing an intense game of dominos, all supported fantastic facial hair. Round the corner in the main square tourists guzzled dinner on lopsided plastic tables on the cobbles, local families played round the LED lit fountain in the centre and a general holiday atmosphere filled the air as did the smell of back-firing tuk tuks and deep fried street food.
We noticed a couple living in a Mitsubishi Express, most likely one of Vanwell's South American cousins. We had to say hello. The couple had kitted out their Vanwell themselves and have been living in it for about a year as they've worked their way up here from Argentina. After swapping our favourite Vanwell stories we left them too it.
There's not too much to do in this town, generally walking around soaking up the buildings, going to look at the lakes, and drinking coffee or beer. We did all of these things and once we had finished we did it again. Like I said there is not much to do, however this is a nice place to do nothing. If you're feeling adventurous you could head to the lake for a spot of water skiing or windsurfing. We were feeling thirsty and headed back to the bar full of old boys for a beer and a game of cards.