THE WEEKLY #102: GUATAPE AND THE ‘BIG ROCK’ OF EL PENON
Guatape was the base for the main days of this week’s adventure. An hour and a half bus ride from Medellin had us into the mountainous land of Guatape, a truly astonishing place that looked more like Europe than Colombia. Like many tourists before us, we had come to see the big rock, La Piedra in El Penon. However, it was our downhill bike ride that was the highlight of the week.
La Piedra is a gigantic natural rock formation in the middle of El Penol. It’s surrounded by lakes, which aren’t so natural. 40 years ago the Old Penol was flooded by an electric dam project that now supplies 30% of the electricity for Colombia and is also a stunning landscape in itself. The most unique feature about the rock is the staircase that is wedged, in the crack of the rock. It almost seems like stitching that is holding the rock together.
660 steps to the top and we were finally at the summit of a place I had been eyeing off for a while. I flew my drone out away from the rock and after a short flight realized I’d left my spare batteries in my luggage. It wouldn’t matter, as I shot the rock from ground-level on our last day in Guatape.
We were invited by Lake View Hostel to stay for a few nights and it turned out to be a great adventure base. They ran a ton of cool tours, which we made the most of. There was a really laidback vibe at the hostel and we met quite a few cool characters. Speaking of cool characters, we had actually traveled up from Medellin with Steve Yalo, who we had met on the Hostelworld campaign. You can check out his Youtube here as he makes awesome vlogs throughout his travels in the same way I make blogs.
The first activity we had a crack at was mountain biking. We decided to venture out on our own after renting the bikes from the hostel. The girls at the hostel told us it will be a 27-kilometer ride to San Rafael and it’s mostly downhill so you will catch the bus back. Being stubborn as we are, Josh and I laughed at them and told them we’d ride back. They laughed at us and said no you won’t enjoy the bus ride back. They were wrong. We did ride back. They were also right because it was one of the hardest things I’ve done all year!
On the way to San Rafael, we went down some epic descents on the side of the mountain. It was super fun but we already knew we were screwed on the way back up. In San Rafael, we visited some cool water holes such as Las Tangas, where we hit the diving board and the rope swing before getting a Spanish lesson from some local kids. Josh was puzzled throughout the encounter and is still coming to terms with muy bien.
The ride back was shit. It was great but shit. It was one of those hills that never ended. Every meter we had whizzed down on the journey into San Rafael was now taking us a lifetime to power back up, or crawl back up may be a more accurate term. Josh and I love a challenge and we knew we could make it. The final as we cruised back into Guatape in the dark was pretty awesome and we were absolutely wrecked.
On our last day in Guatape, I headed out on a little solo mission and found a little-hidden viewpoint of El Penon. I shot with the drone and the 70-200 while chilling by myself on the river bank. It was really peaceful and fun to fully concentrate on my shots and the moving weather conditions. I really like the challenge in these type of places to look on Google, Internet, Social Media and try and finish my trip with what I consider the best photo ever of a rock, the waterfall, the beach. Of course, it doesn’t always come off but this is the kind of challenge that excites me to go and take a million photos of a big rock, to push myself to create the best image I can.
With just a few hours before we had to go and catch a flight, I headed off on another tour booked by the Lake View Hostel. This time I was on a little speed boat and we cruised around the lake. We headed to Pablo Escobar’s old private island and we were able to walk around and look at all the buildings, swimming pools, and even his soccer field. It was a great tour and one I’m stoked I got the opportunity to take part in.
I rushed off back to meet Josh and we boarded a flight to Cartagena after a few bus rides. A couple of chill days in Cartagena followed and now I’m writing this from Necocli. It’s a small town we will use as a base for one night before our sailing adventure to Panama begins in 24 hours!