freedomtravelers

The travels of Lucky & Tegan

Month: November, 2012

10 reasons why we love Guatape

We just spent ten days in Guatape, a tiny lakeside pueblo two hours east of Medellin. We arrived in town expecting to stay for two nights but fell in love with the place could not leave. Here are ten reasons why we love Guatape.

 

1. The people

The people of Guatape and warm, hospitable and very friendly. Although only a few foreign tourists visit the tiny pueblo the locals are extremely open to outsiders. Like anywhere in Colombia people like to take their time and rarely express any desire to hurry or stress in anyway. Men wearing cowboys hats, boots and saddle bags can usually be seen filling up the small pool hall during mid afternoon while women selling empanadas gather on street corners together to talk.

2. The lake

Gutape sits on a beautiful lake surrounded by lush green mountains. The lake runs parallel to the town's main road and is lined with many boats, kids rides and even a zip line. Street vendors converge on the rivers edge especially on weekends, when the town is usually a hive of energy. We had some very relaxing afternoons kayaking and fishing on the tranquil lake.

3. Zocalos

Zocalos, or panel art has been painted on the facade of every house and business in Guatape. The colourful artwork characterises the rural lifestyles, unique cultue and some personal stories about Guatape and its people. We questioned a local about the house with giraffes painted on it. She told us that the tallest family in Guatape lives in this house.

4. El Penol

Most tourists come to town to climb El Penon, a huge rock which looms over the little town. The 220m high stone which was once worshiped by native Tahamies Indians is the second biggest rock in the world behind Ayes Rock. We rode bikes down the country road to the base of the rock and then climbed the 649-step staircase to the top. The view from the top of El Penon was amazing, we could see not only Guatape but a series of lakes and islands rolling hills surrounding the Pueblo.

5. Bike ride to San Rafael

After a couple of lazy days we decided to ride from Guatape to the neighbouring town of San Rafael. The 26km ride to San Rafael was beautiful, at first the landscape was quite flat as we past lakes and green fields. After a little while the road became extremely steep as we flew down the windy mountain road. A decade ago this area was not accessible due to FARC presence and road blocks. These days the beautiful area is peaceful and people can once again focus on enjoying their lives.

6. Tuk tuks

A ride in a tuk tuk is always a fun experience, especially when there is salsa music.

7. Bridge Jumping

Lucky celebrated his 24th birthday in Guatape. At the stroke of midnight Lucky and our friend Alex jumped from the Guatape Bridge into the lake. We were really lucky to be able to celebrate his birthday with some great new friends.

8. Lake View Hostel

Lake View is an amazing little hostel which sits right on the lake facing town. The hostel is one big happy family and we made some great friends there. While we were there we celebrated a couple of occasions including Luckys birthday, Thanksgiving, and had a delicious Arabic feast. We also learnt the art of bracelet making from fellow travellers.

9. Horse riding

Being a country town there is a strong love for horses in Gutape. We hired horses and rode up to a silent monastery in the mountains.

10. Army men let you hold their guns

 

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Colourful Cartagena Celebrates


Vibrant Cartagena is the colonial jewel of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. The cities magnificent architecture, coloured facades and vibrant people seemed so accustomed to fiestas, that after spending nearly a week in the city we decided to return for the annual Independence Day celebrations.

The 11th November marks the cities Independence Day and is celebrated exuberantly over a couple of weeks in a purely Colombian style. The celebrations include widespread dancing, drinking, and foam spraying. All this excitement eventually leads up to the crowning of the Miss Colombia competition.

The elaborate beauty contest began for us with a parade which we unexpectedly stumbled upon in the city’s main square one afternoon. We watched as one by one the beautiful pageant contestants made their way past us on their decorated floats. Each contestant was dressed in brightly coloured dresses covered in feathers, flowers and sequins. Locals followed on foot, dancing around them, dressed in traditional costumes, reminiscent of 1811 Cartagena.

Every year the Getsemani district of Cartagena throws its own Independence Day party.  Getsemani, is one of Cartagena’s oldest barrios and is now made up of backpacker hostels, bars and one very delicious fried chicken restaurant. The barrio may be a little rough around the edges but it is where the cities heart and soul truly lies. Getsemani’s history is deeply intertwined with Cartagena’s independence from the Spanish and every year the residents celebrate jubilantly. The barrio is made up of descendants of African slaves brought to Cartagena during the Spanish rule. It is told that the people of Getsemani fought the fiercely to help Cartagena overcome Spanish rule, during the War of Independence

The locals are very proud of their barrio and its heritage and this is especially apparent on Independence Day. We watched the frenzy of Getsemani locals’ parade their way down the main streets of Getsemani before stopping the main plaza for a salsa concert. Afterwards there was a huge street party and almost all the neighborhood took part, running around spraying each other with foam. A human dressed as a horse directed traffic while taxis blasted music out into the street and everyone danced until the wee hours.

The following day we heard that the winner of the contest was to be announced and we made our way to the docks of the Cartagena Harbour for a parade of a different kind. This time the pageant contestants had switched their floats for boats and could just be made out waving from their specially decorated yachts. The harbour was full of other boats carrying a very unsafe number of revelling locals. We watched from the safety of the dock as the Miss Colombia Pageant winner was announced and the party boats erupted.

There were beauty queens, drag queens, dance routines, parades and thousands of amazingly colourful costumes. The whole celebration showcased the vibrant, colourful lifestyle of the Colombian people as well as the beautiful Caribbean Coastline the city sits on. We will cherish these memories for a lifetime and recommend anyone thinking of visiting Colombia to make sure they do not miss Colombia’s most celebrated cultural festival. Cartagena’s Independence Day Celebrations take place every year during the first two weeks of November.