Medellin Part 1: Guatape, Penol Rock and Airport Adventures Vida La Vic #10

It was going to be a different Thanksgiving than normal. Instead of eating turkey (and a lot of stuffing), I decided to use the time off to make a trip to Colombia for a couple days. After much research and deliberation, I decided to focus on one city and spend my three days in Medellin. The other close choices were Bogota and Cartagena.  I was told that Bogota was great, but as the capital city it was comparable to Quito in many ways. Cartagena is near the coast, and since my last trip had a beachy vibe I decided to diversify with Medellin. I will definitely go back to Colombia in the future.

The game plan was simple. I wasn’t working on Thursday or Friday, so I could fly out Thursday morning. Well if you have read this blog before, you know I haven’t had much luck with airlines. This time was no exception.  I was informed my early Thursday morning flight was delayed four hours as soon as I stepped in the airport. Considering my luck and South American airlines general attitude toward timeliness, I probably should have seen this coming. Thankfully, I had plenty of podcasts and reading to catch up on. It was after the four hours …then five….then six when people started to really lose their cool.

I’ve seen angry people at an airline gate before, but this was something else. My Spanish isn’t great, but you didn’t need to know much to see how angry my fellow passengers had become.  I would not want to be on the other end of a gate desk dealing with a large group of angry Ecuadorians and Colombians.  People were yelling, filming the commotion, and even starting a couple chants. If I was not so pissed off about the crazy delay and lack of help/compensation (a bad sandwich won’t cut it), I might have even felt bad for the airline. So here’s me taking a shot at Avianca Airlines as an especially unhelpful airline. I don’t know if they are familiar with the 2016 court case of Miltiades vs. City of Boston Parking Services, where an Allston man took a stand against the city unfair parking tickets practices in neighborhood and won (Script Currently in Development), but this is one guy who doesn’t stay quiet in the face of petty injustices.


I arrived in the city late that night and hopped in a cab to my hostel. The airport is around half an hour outside the city, but it’s located in an elevated and tree-dense area. It felt similar to movies I had seen that are based in Colombia, like Medellin starring Vincent Chase. As we broke the tree line, we got to see a full view of the city and drove past a lookout point that was often frequented by Pablo Escobar himself. His impact on the city is notable, and he is a polarizing figure for many of the locals. More on him to come in the next blog.

My hostel was located in El Poblado, a popular part of the town for backpackers. My hostel felt like one of the first places I’ve been in a while where most people spoke English. I didn’t have too much time there when I checked in, as I was ready to get to bed for a full day tour to Guatape the next day. Thankfully, the bus pick-up was a short walk. I got there in time to take a quick nap before we stopped for breakfast near our first stop, the city of Marinilla. The bus dropped us off outside the city center, as the roads in the city were originally built before large cars. The city was colorful, and had a beautiful church and other religious figures around its center. I can probably assume that was the work of Spanish settlers who “discovered” South America.


We then hopped back on the bus to see what I was looking forward to the most of the trip: Penol rock. The large rock gives an amazing 360 viewpoint of the surrounding scenery. You can see in the pictures that it is a steep staircase, with over 700 steps (740 to be precise). The water and trees go on for miles, and Medellin has a different feel than the hikes in Ecuador. There seemed to be more trees and green throughout the sites, likely because the altitude isn’t as high. After making it up, I decided to reward myself with some ice cream. I ordered what I thought was blackberry cheesecake flavored, but instead it was blackberry and cheese. As in, a frozen ice cream pop with shredded cheese in it. I can’t lie — it was odd at first. Still, I eventually I got used to it. Can there even be bad ice cream?

Steep walk up there


Whole new definition of Cheesecake

After a big lunch, we made it to the city of Guatape. While small, it is one the most unique cities I’ve ever seen. The bright colors on every building immediately stand out. Upon further inspection, I noticed a colorful emblem in the front of each one. These are called Zócalos, and every building is actually required by law to have them on display. There are varying designs with meanings depending on the history, store or just whatever the owner enjoys.


Our tour ended with a boat ride on the lake around the city. It was a nice way to unwind after the day. They had a bar on the boat, and it’s tough to beat a couple beers while out on the water. I enjoyed the fresh air and drinks with a friend I’d made on the tour, Peter. He has recently gotten to Colombia as well, and was working remotely there for a month. He had no plans for Saturday, so we figured out some ideas for the next full day in Medellin. This included a Pablo Escobar Tour, exploring the city center’s artwork, riding the metrocable and some food of course. More Colombia coming up on the next #VidaLaVic.

Penol from afar

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