I had heard mention of Guatape, a town just two hours outside of Medellin, in reference to a giant rock that you could climb for a stunning view of the countryside and a smattering of man-made lakes below. Sounded cool enough for a little day trip and I had been assured that getting to Guatape was a piece of cake. I like cake — so I was in.
Now, I tend to have this silly anxiety with buses in foreign countries. I’m just sure I’ll end up taking the wrong one and after a brief bus nap, I’ll wake up in the middle of the Amazon jungle, or a coca field, or Panama — who knows. My Spanish is terrible and I usually resort to the desperate eyes and pitiful hand gestures aimed at those who look like they know something, hoping they’ll pity me and make sure I board the right one.
“Guatape? Guatape? Guatape?” I asked down the row of 30 something booths, all in charge of different bus lines going to different places.
Finally, a portly man, standing tall at about my chin leve lsaid, “Aye, you need GuataPE! No, GUAtape!” with a boisterous laugh at my expense to follow. Apparently I had been emphasizing the wrong syllable… which APPARENTLY makes it impossible to understand me. (I should have learned after that “BoGOta episode when I first arrived. Its BogoTA. Duh.)
So the portly man gestured for me to follow him and brought me right up to the booth for GuataPE.
“Uno a Guatape, por favor,” I asked, quietly — afraid to further humiliate myself. It was too early to be laughed at, especially without coffee.
I boarded the bus and braced myself in the very back seat as we bopped and bounded over 2 hours of narrow, bumpy roads. At about an hour and a half in, that nagging feeling that I’d screw this up returned.
A last minute peak at my Lonely Planet informed me that if you want to see,”La Piedra” (the rock) you must get off before the town of Guatape.
But how would I know where that was? I had assumed it would be the last and only option. Surely, I was going to miss it!
I started asking those around me with all of the vocab I could come up with. “La Piedra? La Piedra? Donde es La Piedra?”
Just before driving them all crazy enough to kick me off on the side of the road, the bus driver announced, “La Piedra!”
Of course he announced the stop. It was the biggest tourist attraction in town. Laughing at myself and thanking my bus mates profusely, I stepped off the bus to a commanding view of what was indeed a giant rock.
The bus ride — definitely a piece of cake. The climb to the top? A tiny bit more exhausting…
The view was absolutely spectacular. And the very best part? After climbing all those steps, you can indulge yourself in Colombia snack time without any guilt at all!
Don’t fill up on chips though… and DON’T skip making your way to the town of Guatape, just ten minutes down the road. There you’ll find an adorably colorful village and some amazing local food options. At the base of La Piedra, you’ll find plenty of taxis and tuk-tuks willing to bring you over. More on the town of Guatape, coming soon!