Guatapé with the Hinks

From Medellin, we headed to a small lakeside town called Guatapé. We had intended to taxi to a bus station, but the driver who picked us up offered a reasonable price to take us straight to our hotel, and we couldn’t turn down the extra comfort of a private ride. We made a couple of quick stops, first for some roadside strawberries and cream, which were fresh and delicious. And then for some fresh orange juice, to go with the bubbly we’d packed. That second errand took a few tries, surprising to us after the ubiquitous juice stands on Medellins’ and Santa Marta’s corners, and the tasteful advertisements along the road. But we eventually succeeded, under the shadow of El Peñón, the town’s other claim to fame.

We checked into our hotel, located so far down a side road that our driver seemed sure we were in the wrong place. It turned out to be a much bigger facility than the ad had seemed, with dozens of seemingly identical little cottages looking out over identical little balconies. We were pretty happy with our view, down to the (deserted in this season) swimming area and restaurant. So was Captain, who just barely fit under the rail but was fortunately unwilling to brave the 20-foot jump to the ground.

Fortified with mimosas, we took a brightly painted tuk-tuk ride into town, to explore and find dinner.

We loved the brightly painted buildings. We were not so much in love with dinner, especially the accompanying blue margaritas, which repeatedly showed up full of sickly-sweet blue syrup despite our several very clear requests to the contrary.

By the time we were done eating, dark had fallen, and we got to explore the town all over again, this time decorated in bright Christmas lights.

We came home, built a fire, and hung out on the balcony watching Arthur Christmas on the laptop, before retreating to join the waiting cat in bed.

The next morning’s walk to breakfast brought us some different views of the cabins.

Captain enjoyed the walk there, except when a tuk-tuk drove past. But he was restless at the restaurant, so we took him home again, which seemed to suit him much better.

After getting him settled and ourselves prepared for a walk, we called a tuk-tuk to take us to El Peñón.

Despite feeling pretty out of shape, we passed a surprising number of people on our way up the 740 stairs. The view from the top was worth the effort, sweeping out across the many fingers of this semi-artificial lake.

The way down was much less crowded.

At the bottom, we stopped for a snack and a vile local beer at the slowest bar-restaurant in… actually, no, slow is pretty much the norm in Colombia as far as we can tell. We had plenty of time to watch the tour helicopters take off every six minutes or so, and understood better the signs posted all around town about how the helicopters are an unreasonable imposition on local residents.

Another tuk-tuk ride took us back downtown, for a little more exploring of the streets and of the tail end of a Christmas market along the waterfront. Andrew, maniacally focused at this point, took off on a fruitless mission to find an empanda among the stands of candy vendors.

We also continued the streak of poor beer luck: several places offered the illusion of choice, but the choices were either bad or damaged.

We decided to have dinner at the hotel, and drank exactly the right amount of too much wine.

We had intended a morning walk the next day, but the front desk warned us that traffic was very bad, and that our taxi would be two hours early. So we did walk, but only as far as breakfast, and then a little ways up the hill to a small viewpoint.

The promised traffic never appeared, however. Instead, we had an uneventful and direct ride, mostly marked by Captain climbing all over everyone.

We sailed through airport security as well, and ended up having several hours to kill in the Medellin airport. We passed them at a small restaurant with some tasty local soups and snacks. Not as healthy as the hike we’d planned, but at least we made our flight to Bogota.