Sunday, February 28, 2016

Guatape and Beyond Medellin

When I was approaching Medellin, I'd originally planned on stopping in Guatape for a night first, and then making my way to Medellin in a day or two. I'd been so exhausted from the hours of dirt roads and 40 hours of riding in the past week, that when I saw that it would be longer to arrive at Guatape due to road conditions than to continue on to Medellin, I decided to save it for later. Now it was time to check it out.
The first step was to hop on the motorcycle for the ~2 hour ride out there. Of course, the one morning that I wanted to take the motorcycle in Medellin, the sky was threatening rain. It was a little chilly too, so I donned the rain gear both for warmth and just in case, and headed out. As it turned out, the rain never came and I got hot about halfway there and had to take it off - like usual, putting on the rain gear was just as effective as bringing an umbrella for scaring off the rain.

The clouds stayed overhead though, and were still there when I pulled up on El Peñón - a giant rock that seems to stick up out of nowhere in the middle of the hills.

It's big.
So step one was to head up that massive stairway. It wasn't as bad as I expected, even with the motorcycle boots and pants still on and adding a little extra weight. And once I got up to the top, the views were more than worth it.

Amazing views. A few less clouds would have been nice though.

The obligatory panorama.
After getting some ice cream and relaxing a bit, I headed back down. That ended up taking longer than going up because I was behind a line of 20 people who were all stuck behind an older woman who couldn't go very fast on the stairs. Once back down, I got back on the bike and headed for the town.

The "down" stairs were inside the rock.

Couldn't leave before a photo opportunity with Hidalgo.
I headed a few miles further into Guatape, found a parking spot, and found a cafe nearby where I had an espresso and one of the biggest helpings of Tiramisu I've ever eaten in one sitting. After stuffing myself, I wandered around and took pictures of the town - the colorful buildings make for some good photo ops.

Cute little houses and stripes.

A little square in the middle.
I stopped in a few stores and looked at some of the stuff, but the town was pretty quiet when I was there. It might have been because it was Monday, or because it was the middle of the day, but many things were closed and there weren't many people around. I went down by the waterfront, which was supposed to be cool too, but there were a bunch of empty vendor stalls and not much else. The water also seemed really low, and had even stranded some boats up on the ground.

Pretty quiet waterfront.
I'm probably going to have hundreds of pictures of various churches by the end of the trip, but this one was pretty cool.
After a bit more wandering, I got back on the bike to head back to Medellin. On the way, I checked the map and noticed I'd be going close to Parque Arvi where I'd stopped the other day but hadn't explored much, so I decided to head through on the motorcycle. I ended up going down a few curvy, fun roads for a ways until I got to a section where it turned to dirt and was pretty gnarly, and after deciding I wasn't up for that this day, I headed back the way I came and went back down into Medellin.

After another night with a few beers and the Medellin Beer Factory, I called it a night and prepared to head out in the morning. Albert had given me quite a few good places to check out on the way, so in the morning I picked the first one on the way and plotted a path for Santa Rosa. (But not until I'd had my standard breakfast and cappuccino.) Six nights in Medellin weren't enough fo me, really, but it was time to move on.

When I packed up the bike in the morning, I noticed at some point that my middle finger on my right hand hurt a little bit - it felt like I'd tweaked it at some point, but couldn't remember how. I didn't think much of it, and hopped on the bike for a day of riding.

When I first stopped a few hours later, however, I realized that the finger was in pretty poor shape. I'd spent the entire ride with it curled around either the throttle or the brake, and when I got off the bike I noticed that I couldn't straighten it out without severe pain. As I sat and ate a pastry I tried to stretch it out some, and by the time I got back on the bike I had a little bit more movement from it, but it still wasn't doing great.

The road out of Medellin was, as most Colombian roads had been for me so far, curvy and with great views. But as the day went on, I descended down into some plains which meant hot weather. I sweated it out for a bit, but finally the road headed back up into the mountains as I approached Santa Rosa.

I pulled into Santa Rosa around 3:30 and found a room at Coffee Town Hostel, and talked to the owner a bit about what Santa Rosa had to offer - the primary attraction being the hot springs. He suggested catching the 4:00 bus, so I scrambled to get the bike unpacked and get some things together to head over. The finger was, if anything, worse than before, but I didn't want to miss out on the gorgeous views of the hot springs.

I missed the bus, but someone pointed out a jeep going that way so I ran to catch up with it and hopped on while it was moving..
After a short jeep ride up the road in "El Azulejito" (Little Blue), I got dropped off (he said he'd be back in a few hours), and I headed up the hill towards the springs. On the way up, there's a "nature walk" next to a small stream with some pretty views.

It reminded me of the streams in Palenque - I wonder if it's a similar kind of sediment?

Then as I got closer, the falls that the springs are famous for came into view.

There they are in the back, pouring down the hill.

They make a good backdrop to the thermal pools.
After changing and storing my stuff in a locker, I spent the next hour or so just relaxing in the warm water, occasionally switching between the three pools just to move around a bit, and making a few trips over to the falls to dip in the cold water (not nearly as freezing as Albert had made me believe in Medellin). I got some food from the vendor there since I hadn't eaten in my rush to make the jeep on time, and enjoyed the scenery and the people-watching. It did seem to be mostly Colombians there, though I saw a group of Germans and a few other internationals.

My finger slowly got worse as I was there as well. I continued trying to stretch it out while keeping it out of the water as much as possible, but the increased bloodflow from being in the pools wasn't helping the swelling one bit. I finally decided I'd had enough, and after a shower and change of clothes I headed back down the hill to wait for the jeep with a beer in hand.

When I got back into town, I wandered around the main square a bit instead of going straight to the hostel. I ended up getting coffee at a little cart, and after inquiring on where to get the best chorizo in the city, made my way to a restaurant to get some of the famed "Santarosina chorizo" that I'd seen signs for the last few miles before coming into town. It was pretty good as far as chorizo goes, though I can't say it blew my mind or anything.

I spent quite a bit of time just talking with the woman who made the coffee while I sat and drank it.
I spent a bit of time in the hostel deciding what the plan was for the next few days, since I hadn't planned beyond Santa Rosa, but ended up going to sleep pretty early with the plan of waking up early as well. The owner of the hostel had said that he preferred the San Vicente hot springs nearby, so I decided to make a trip there in the morning as well.

The cat decided he was one of the attractions of the city that you needed to check out.
However, when I woke up, my finger was the worst it had been yet. I couldn't move it more than a centimeter without serious pain. There was a good chance I wouldn't be able to even pull the brake or roll the throttle like that either, so I might be stuck in town. After some coffee from the hostel, I tried to look for other things I might be able to do around the area, but there really wasn't much. Might just be a lost day.

But by 11:00, through some combination of coffee and exercising the finger, it was almost back to normal - well, at least as normal as it had been the day before when I was riding. Since checkout was noon, I packed up my things and checked out, and headed onward to Salento - with plans of staying one night, but those plans only lasted a very, very brief period after I arrived.

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