As beautiful as Cartagena was, I was all too happy to leave the heat and head into the cloud forest. As a born and bred mountain girl, heat has always been my demise; I get slow and loopy and eat nothing but ice cream!
We landed in the Medellin airport, which is not actually near Medellin by the way, and hailed a taxi to head into the city; but not before I almost mis-directed Becky to exchange all her US dollars for Pesos at the lottery instead of the money exchange (whoops!).
We only spent a brief time in Medellin, but it was a great experience that included dancing in the street with older Colombian men, eating Argentine parrilla in the street from a makeshift 55 galleon drum BBQ outside a butcher shop, and drinking many Aguilas from street side bars in La Setenta (hum, I guess all of our time in Medellin was spent in the street, go figure!).
However great hanging out in the streets of Medellin was, all three of us were itching to get out of the city and head into the mountains. We hopped a 2-hour bus to Guatapé—the route of which actually passes the airport again, so if you are planning this on your own, consider landing at Medellin airport and heading towards Rio Negro instead—and were greeted with a lovely cloud forest climate. Guatapé is a neat little town on the edge of a giant reservoir (which makes it sound weird, and I guess it is) but it is stunningly beautiful. Guatapé is known for its colorful frescoed buildings, and for being as beautiful as it is, it is not overrun by tourism as I thought it might be. Nearby Peñol doesn’t have the same charm as Guatapé. Peñol got the short end of the stick when they decided to flood the valley to make the reservoir. The original town was low in the valley and was flooded after being relocated to higher slopes. You can still see the original church steeple sticking out of the water.
The reservoir is best seen from the top of Piedra del Peñol, the giant rock sticking out of the earth. There are many boating activities you can do in Guatapé, but we were most interested in touring the region via motos. Antioquia is a verdant department scattered with coffee fincas nestled into mountain sides, quaint colonial villages, and thick tropical forests. We viewed the countryside by moto from winding mountain roads; putting rain jackets on when it poured, drinking coffee when we stopped in villages, taking backroads to discover hidden swimming holes, and saw every kind of transport imaginable on the roads. Becky and I rented scooters at first, but after she left, I rode on the back of Isaac’s moto. The unimaginable beauty of this region, the kindness of the people living here, and the temperate tropical climate has us wanting to come back. It is my resolution to learn how to ride a dirt bike and return for a self-supported moto trip. With that in mind, consider this blog merely part 1 to Antioquia overland by moto.