This is one big rock!
Staying in Guatape wouldn’t be complete without climbing to the top pf La Piedra del Penol. It would be like having chips without sauce. These two great places just belong together. Not long back there were two towns fighting over who was going to have the sauce on their chips, Guatape or El Penol. The fighting got so bad that the locals in Guatape scaled the rock and started to paint the name of Guatape on the side, but they were stopped after painting the letter G and the first stroke of the letter U. Hence the huge “GI” on the side of the rock.
La Piedra del Penol stands over 200m high with an altitude of over 2000m above sea level. It was first climbed in 1954 and has the most incredible views from the top. the climb to the top of the rock is 659 steps, but if you climb the viewing tower your total step count is 740!
We decided that we’d walk to La Piedra del Penol from town. It’s an easy 4.5km walk along the main road towards El Penol. You turn left at the pertol station and follow the road up, unlike us who saw a set of stair and assumed that his was the way. What we found was the now set of stairs to the right of the petrol station that where still under construction and made for a hard climb up the excavated muddy track.
With our legs now tired from this climb we were now at the base of the rock. the cost to climb La Piedr del Penol was a mere 15000 Colombian Peso’s ($7.50AUD) and there is no elevator, however the stairs have been upgraded from old wooden to new concrete with barriers on both sides. One of the great things they’ve done is to paint the number of steps you’ve climbed as a psychological milestone. All the way up we could hear the children yelling out the numbers.
Elena struggled to get to the top, but get there we did. once atop the rock you forget the struggle to get here, the views are incredible. The lake spreads out in all directions. there are so many inlets and houses dotted around the shoreline.
In the distance the wooded forest flanks the lake and we’re told that on this lake the infamous drug lord Pablo Emilio Escobar landed his sea planes and moved his drugs in and out of the area. At the height of his career, Escobar supplied about 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States. His mansion here on one of the lakes islands in Guatape is now used for a paintball business, however you can take a tour without getting shot at.
In celebration of Elena’s effort in climbing the rock, somebody goes a little souvenir crazy and spends what little money we’ve bought with us. now we have nothing to by coffee and cake with. Nor do we have enough to get back to town, so it’s a slow climb down the stairs and and even slower walk back to town. My knee just makes it home as we stagger up the stairs into our hotel room.
But it can be done, you can walk to the rock and back…. Another box ticked.