El Peñón de Guatapé (and other stuff): Colombia Part 2

Beware the person who says “you gotta do this” while you’re here. (looking at you, Nick Durham)(he in the green shirt in Colombia, Volume 1)(the same one poured Colombian moonshine down my throat)(ok not really). Especially when “this” means climbing up over 700 uneven stone steps to the top of a 656 foot rock and the tower on top. Behold El Peñón de Guatapé. Jutting straight up out of the ground for no apparent reason, El Peñón is surrounded by a huge manmade lake. As you can see from the pic, it was yet another beautiful day (about 88 degrees but without any of ColUmbia’s humidity) in Colombia the Saturday that Angela and I hiked up El Peñón.

I take that back. Angela strolled up that thing like it was nothing. I huffed and puffed and thought I was going to die and I’d only reached step 125. I know this because every twenty-fifth step is numbered. Around step 625, the end was in sight, but it was 75 steps straight up. No landings, no nothing. Angela was at the top cheering me on. I was hanging on to a railing, panting like Janie after a puppy blitz, absolutely certain I couldn’t make my feet go up one more step. No way. Then, from behind me, comes this little grandmother who thinks she’s gonna blow past me.

Oh hellllllllll heck no! I put on my big girl pants and I motored up those last steps like I was Rocky or somebody. Whooohoooooo, I made it! So, was it worth it? You tell me…

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Pretty beautiful, yea? And honestly, even though I wasn’t sure I would make it to the top, I’m proud I did it. We could see forever.

Another thing we did that day was to visit a coffee farm within sight of El Peñón. As Neal likes to point out, my “coffee” is always cold and filled with a bunch of gunk that is something other than coffee. Our visit to the coffee farm made me appreciate what I’ve been missing.

This photo shows the progression of the coffee bean:

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Right to left is the sprout, then the plant, then the bloom, then the bean that ripens steadily into that bright red one, which is the one you want. Inside the bright red one are actually two beans.

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See? It’s the more yellow one that you want. The rest of it (the darker bean and the red husk) are put back into the soil as mulch.

If a coffee bean stays on the vine too long, it turns dark like those three on the far left, two pictures up. That’s baaaaaaad, you don’t want that.

This was no spectator sport, though. Angela and I had buckets strapped around our waists and were sent into the coffee plants to pick beans. There are no paths, you just push your way in between the plants and pick the beans.

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We picked coffee beans for maybe twenty minutes and, between us, had just enough for one cup of coffee. Then, we poured our beans into this machine that separated the good part of the bean from the rest. We saw where the beans dry in a greenhouse-like structure for a few days. Then, after sifting and roasting, voilà! Coffee! Here is the coffee produced by the farm we visited.

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Our guide, Alvaro, was the best. After the coffee farm and El Peñón, he took us to this cute, brightly painted town and stood by patiently while we plundered and shopped. The murals on the sides of the buildings signified the occupation of the people who live inside. Not sure what this one means, but it looks industrious.

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Check out this artsy photo I took. Even daughter #2, photographer extraordinaire, was impressed:

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Beautiful town, isn’t it?

After our long day, we were starving.  We’d earned some real food – as had Alvaro – so we told him to find us some steak. Did he ever. Take a look:

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Yes, friends, that is TWO bacon wrapped filet mignons, easily 8oz each. This feast cost 44 pesos, about $12. Of course, Angela and I couldn’t finish more than one of our steaks. Thank goodness for Alvaro! See, Alvaro is about 6’4″ and 250 lbs. A growing young man! He polished off both his steaks, then kindly took care of the extra ones on Angela and my plates. 32oz of steak in one sitting. Impressive.

In an unrelated aside, Alvaro introduced us to his friends, including these guys he calls his babies. Look out babies! Alvaro might be after you one day!

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Moooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!  (who says I can’t speak Spanish?)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of Medellín and its surroundings. GO to Colombia if you have the chance. It is wonderful country.

Here’s one last picture taken one night as a I dined solo on the sidewalk beside my hotel.

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