I had to take a buseta and a shared taxi from Rionegro to reach El Peñol, the small town in the Antioquia district. Once there, I waited at the busy bus stand, watching men and boys play games and listening to the shouting men desperately trying to find passengers for their buses. Soon, I could get into the back of a jeep and was on my way to that big stone. All the while, I was trying to get my first glimpse of the rock, and once I did, I could not take my eyes off it. In the middle of a friendly landscape with rolling hills, curving roads and small bodies of water, El Peñón as it is correctly called, seems like an alien addition to the environment it stands in. It reminded me of the Sugar Loaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro, although El Peñón is smaller.
I decided to get off before I actually reached the entrance to the climb of El Peñón, and walked up a muddy hill on the northern side. At first, I wanted to find a way around the base of the rock directly towards the entrance, but all the paths I tried seemed to lead nowhere. Instead, I decided to walk around the base of the enormous rock formation counter-clockwise. This had the added advantage that I got a glimpse of the surrounding landscape: houses on the lake, farmers working their land, unpaved country roads leading to the hills in the distance. On my left, I always saw that gigantic block of granite, and as I walked, the shape changed, from an elongated shape towards an oval one. When I reached the road leading up to the entrance of El Peñón, it was elongated again.
Once I reached the parking lot right under the Peñón, I realized how popular this place must be. Many tourist stalls were selling the usual stuff, but I walked straight to the entrance, paid the fee, and started climbing the 649 steps to the top. After a local, Luís Eduardo Villegas López, first climbed the rock in 1954, stairs were made in a crack in this otherwise perfect granite boulder, and in parts they are even one-way stairs. Inevitably, there are several religious statues on the rock. Sooner than I expected, in less than seven minutes, I reached the top, and climbed the last stairs to the roof of the building. Here, I spent some time enjoying the sun and the marvellous views over the surrounding landscape, defined in large part by the artificial Embalse de Guatapé, which came into existence after a dam was completed near Guatapé in the 1970s. Apart from the annoying insects, the top is great, and I stayed longer than anticipated, and totally undisturbed. Observing the surrounding landscape, I still wondered how it could be that this single granite rock was here, while the rest of the landscape consisted of green, rolling hills. A whim of nature?
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from El Peñón de Guatapé (Colombia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to El Peñón de Guatapé. Read more about this site.