After camping beside the river overnight we awoke to a sodden campground and a river which had been turned brown by the strong overnight rain (and quite frightening lighting strikes which woke both of us up in the middle of the night). Our normal breakfast of cold porridge and coffee fortified us for the drive to Gutape, the first section of which was on the main Bogota to Medellin highway this involved some hair raising overtaking of lorries which were struggling their way up the mountains. We went up about 1500 meters in about an hour so lots of second and third gear grunt needed from Nelson. As we went along we could see groups of Venezuelan refugees walking the road, it was sad to see whole families trudging along the highway. Occasionally they got quite enterprising as in the case of these three young men who had hitched a ride with an unaware lorry !
We did not much like driving the highway with the trucks so we spotted a road that looked pretty decent on the map with an official road number and one step up from the minor white roads… Once again we learnt that the roads can be quite surprising here in the Colombian mountains as to get across some of the high passes we had to use our low ratio gearbox and after the rains some parts of the road were pretty well washed out and rough.
Never the less our progress across the red clay tracks past the small farms did yield pretty view after pretty view and it turned out to be a great day to be in a well equipped Land Rover!
As we drove into the town of Gutape we came across this famous landmark which is a granite rock sticking out of the surrounding lakeland, some enterprising locals have built a 700 step staircase in a crack on the side of the rock and so we got a good workout in our challenge to keep going all the way to the top without stopping.
The view from the top was worth the climb, this area was flooded by a hydroeletric scheme which provides power and water for the nearby city of Medellin and has created a lovely little lake district as a nice by product. I suppose if your village was flooded in the process it would not be so nice!
The town of Gutape is a pretty but touristy place, so we fitted in well and enjoyed the decent food, coffee and doughnuts – its not all camp pasta and roughing it after all ! We stayed in the grounds of a nice french run hostel and walked the 20min into town, for a look around, remembering our torches for the trip back over the rough roads with oncoming motorbikes and cars.
The main square was very pretty with the by now familiar church and in this case both a police station and a tourist information place, the lakeside restaurants boasted good views as the sun set and the whole place had a nice vibe.
The sun setting over the lake made for a nice view
As night fell we took a walk along the new beachfront promenade which included this light and mist show which attracted a crowd of folks. So a good off roading day and some light tourist relief at the end (plus some well deserved hot showers!)
Tomorrow off to Medellin the infamous centre of much of the violent history of this country.