Km 16 911
After our two weeks in Bogotá, we start again gently. We have only 50 km to the city of Zipaquirá where we visit the salt cathedral. A small path leads us through this old salt mine, passing through the 14 stations of the cross. We discover large underground spaces and walls that are partly covered with salt. Then, we arrive in a magnificent dome, the stone in the dome, all smooth, represents the sky while the walls, left in their raw state, represent the earth. A few steps further on, we come to the balcony of the cathedral. Installed in former mine chambers, the cathedral has 3 naves and the main nave is decorated with a large cross behind the altar. We walk around the 3 naves to admire the sculptures and images, and then there is an audio-visual show projected on the walls behind the altar. It is impressive. To finish the visit, we take a tour in the other galleries of the mine open to the public, which are mainly filled with craft stands. Just the cinema that we have all to ourselves while watching a short film about the history of the mine and a small lake, the espejo del agua, which perfectly reflects the mine ceiling are still interesting. Back on the surface, we have just enough time to do some shopping and look for a camping spot a bit outside the city. It’s great to be back on the road and in the tent!
The next few days are marked by the descent of the eastern mountain range, but in the end we have to go back up many times and we hardly notice the descent. Fortunately, we have a day with mostly flat roads to rest a bit before visiting the Río Claro natural park. We follow the small path in the canyon along the clear water, passing caves and the Playa de Marmol, a marble slab that extends into the river. But the highlight of the visit is undoubtedly the swim in the river, in front of us a small waterfall gushes out of the rock wall opposite. A dream setting for a refreshing swim!
After this more peaceful day, we start the ascent of the western mountain range. It’s hard and long, especially as the dirt road is not in good condition. When the sun starts to set and we can’t find a place to camp, a trio in a pick-up truck takes pity on us and brings us to a coffee finca 10 km away. Maria and Juan, the tenants, and Andrés, the owner, welcome us with pleasure. They let us try the coffee they have picked and roasted themselves on their land (very good!), then Andrés goes home and we spend a pleasant evening with Maria and Juan, a young couple from Medellín. Maria prepares us arepas antioqueñas with cheese, a delight! We also visit the marihuana plants in the toilets (but no tasting this time 😉 ), then we settle in our tent on the terrace.
The view in the morning is beautiful and Maria and Juan explain us their project to build a zip line to the other side of the valley. Unfortunately we can’t stay any longer, we want to reach the famous Piedra del Peñon today. Fortunately, the road is partly paved and we make good progress. At 1pm, we arrive in the village of Guatapé to eat. After having seen the huge amount of tourists on the famous rock, we decide to rest in the afternoon to make our visit early in the morning the next day. And we did well! We managed to go up and down at a good pace, without the inclined staircase being too blocked by people. The view from the top over the whole lake of Peñón was worth the climb. Then, we head towards Medellin. 90km to the west. Camilo, our host, welcomes us very well. We can rest a bit before starting the visits the next day. We pass by the Plaza Botero (a square with many sculptures signed by Botero, one of the most famous painters/sculptors of Colombia), the museum of memory about the period of the armed groups and the narcotraficantes in Colombia and the Cerro Nutibara with its Pueblo Paisa, a reconstruction of a typical village of the Antioquia region. The next morning, we take a trip to Comuna 13, a neighbourhood that was in the hands of armed groups and drug traffickers until recently. In the last few years, the area has been transformed and we can now visit the neighbourhood with its colourful graffiti in a nice setting and with a beautiful view of the city. Then it’s already time to take the last stretch of road to the Caribbean coast.
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From Bogotá to Medellín