There ended up being 17 people from our hostel on the Guatapé tour, so in addition to a 10 seated van they also had a 4WD and a crappy old corolla. We were in the crappy old corolla. Before we even got out of the city we and the other couple in the car had to get out so the driver could get it to the top of a steep hill.
After stopping at a lookout point over the city on the way, we drove for quite a while to a small town, called Santa Elena, where we stopped at someone's house with a nice view, and were served an amazing breakfast of fruit, omelettes, bread, guacamole and nutella.
We drove (and walked up hills) from there to another small town, called El Nuevo Peñol. This was the new town, built in 1978 when the old town was flooded when the Embalse Hidroélectrico El Peñol - Guatapé dam was built. It wasn't a very interesting place other than a bizarre church built into a fake rock.
The next stop was a little replica town of the original old town, built on a hill beside the dam with a nice view over the water.
From there we went to a bridge that spanned a section of the dam, 10 metres above it. The bridge itself was completely sketchy, with broken or missing wooden panels and part of the suspension structure also questionable or missing. But that didn't stop anyone crossing over the other side to the small beach spot for swimming. The locals crossed on motorbikes so surely on foot would be fine!
Part of the tour was the opportunity to jump off the bridge, 10 metres into the lake below. Divers at the Olympics do that head first after several somersaults, what could go wrong? A couple of others in the group jumped first, then it was our turn.
In order to jump, we had to step up onto a very small ledge of 3 cables at a point where there was a gap in the fence. This in itself was very daunting, and really hard to get up onto when your legs are like jelly! Lindsay went first, mostly so Fergus was still there for some hand holding! Without leaving any time for second thoughts, she dropped off the wires and fell for what seemed like forever into the water.
Next was Fergus' turn. He stepped up on the railing, took a deep breath and then took a huge leap off the bridge. Several seconds later he complete a 9.6 point landing with only minimal stinging in his feet from hitting the water.
So we made it! The only problem being the incredibly sore back, chest and butt that Lindsay suffered afterwards, perhaps from not landing completely straight. But, we had to keep moving. So we were back in the car, and on our way to the main attraction, La Piedra del Peñol.
La Piedra is a giant rock. The huge granite monolith towers 200m over the surrounding area. Built into a crack in the side is a zigzagging staircase, making its way up 740 steps from the bottom to the top of the rock and then up to the top of a tower viewing platform. It was a reasonable climb, but the view at the top was beautiful.
We could see small towns and some huge houses below us, built throughout lush green hills intersected with the lake from the dam. The topography of the area was so varied, the lake created quite an intricate pattern, appearing like scattered puddles after heavy rains. It was a view worth the climb.
When we returned to the bottom, a well deserved late lunch awaited us, a picnic of chicken, rice, lentils and some veggies and salad (though we didn't get much salad having been served last despite being first back).
Finally we made our way to the final destination, Guatapé. A quaint little town, where the houses and shops are all nicely painted in bright colours, and decorated with 3 dimensional murals. Sometimes just a recurring pattern, sometimes really cite little scenes such as drunks playing pool on the outside of a bar.
We had half an hour to wander around, which was enough time to criss-cross a few of the streets before night started to fall and we started the return journey to Medellin. We made one last stop on the way back, at another lookout point over the city. The view by night was perhaps even more spectacular than by day, and it was accompanied by some tasty treats!
There were several vendors selling chorizo, which we shared one of, plus the delightful local delicacy of hot chocolate, with cheese. The chorizo was really nice, but the hot chocolate with cheese we probably could have lived without!
We arrived back to the hostel quite late, tied (and sore) after a big day. Next stop, San Gil, the adventure sports capital of Colombia!