As we wrapped up our visit to Medellin we began chatting with overlanding friends who were house-sitting at Lake Guatepe. We were excited to see Michelle and David of La Tortuga Overlanders again and spend some time relaxing at the Lake Hotel they are managing. This turned out to be a beautiful location and the time with these two awesome people was very special!
The Lake Hotel is in a gorgeous setting. Beautiful flowers, rolling green hills and lakefront beauty surrounds it. This is a small, traditional Colombian home which has been converted to a three room hotel. The property also has a parking area that offers two spaces for campers. However, we could not fit through the gate so we camped at the end of the driveway, just a short walk from the house. If you peek closely at this photo, you can see the camper. In addition to managing the little hotel, they are also watching two dogs and a cat. The big, female, Great Dane is named Frida. She manages the property quite effectively. Here she is taking a nap in the driveway. Little Minnie the Moocher just hangs around looking for love and attention.
The property has gorgeous gardens that are filled with a wide range of ferns, fruit trees, flowers and even huge poinsettia trees (yes, trees). Watching the birds in the garden can be a full day activity. And some of the flowers are surreal looking.
But in addition to watching birds and looking at flowers, trees and the lake views, we had even more overlanders to visit with. Our great friends Sabina and Mike of Kid and Gypsy stopped by for a few nights. While we were enjoying the company and the views and the relaxation, we prepped a few incredibly delicious meals together!
And one night we walked about a mile up the dirt road to a little local place where we shared a wide variety of local foods. We didn’t really know what was in any of it, and we didn’t learn the names. But it was tasty, cheap and prepared quickly by the ladies at the back of the tarp! In addition to eating, and eating and eating…… we aired up the stand up paddle board and spent some time on the calm waters of Lake Guatepe. It was a great opportunity to work with Nica and help her learn to enjoy time on the SUP.
Mike is always full of smiles when he has chance to play on the SUP instead of work on the camper. While we were there, it rained nearly every night. And we had issues with water entering at the air conditioning mount. So Mike spent a sunny day removing, resealing and reinforcing the roof in that area of the camper. No leaks since then!
Nica was a steady source of entertainment for us as she explored the property and learned new things. She learned to drink from the fountain like the other dogs. She also inspected the work of the gardener after he cut new steps into the earth on the side of a hill. Here she is pointing out that they are not equidistant and extremely steep. And one very important thing we did while we were there is to VOTE!!! We pulled our little printer out of the camper and set it up with our computer so we could print and then scan our primary ballots and send them to the Yavapai County Elections Officials. This may be the most beautiful voting booth ever. There are a couple of interesting tourist spots in this area. We took some time to check each of them out while we were there.
El Peñon is the name of a strange rock formation that juts out of the lake area in a startling manner. It has zipper-like steps up the side of the rock, which lead to a flat top. So of course we had to climb all 650 steps!
The views from the top were amazing. We could see for miles and miles across the lake in all directions. But with our wobbly legs we still had to climb back down…… oh the knees
After the physical work-out was completed, we drove to the nearby town of Guatepè to have a look around. This town is known for their bright colors, decorated buildings and lakeside beauty. But we found it to be very touristic, so we checked out the church in the center of town and drove back to the lake house.
While we were parked for a while, we found a great veterinarian in nearby Rio Negro. She really made Nica feel comfortable as she conducted an exam and ran some tests. Nica left with a fancy new bandana and a new vet friend! The other town we explored a little bit is El Peñol. This is actually two towns, the old and the new. The old town of El Peñol is now underwater. When the lake was created in the 1970’s the town had to be relocated. All the buildings were destroyed with explosives. All of them except the steeple of the church, which refused to fall! So now the original city of El Peñol is under the waters of Lake Guatepé and the church steeple stands just above the surface of the water.
When the new city of El Peñol was constructed, they began with a replica of the original church. It sits high above the water level of the lake. From the churchyard in the El Peñol you can see the steeple of the old church jutting out of the water. And from a boat at the underwater church, you can see the replica up on the hillside. The new city is centered around a huge sculpture of a Phoenix, rising from a fountain of water (instead of ashes). In this photo you can see the beautiful artwork, and our beautiful camper parked on the block behind it! This small city has some of the loudest (music) widest and most beautiful buses we have seen yet in Colombia! Very impressive city bus! And the final tourist stop in the area was the lake front home of the famous or infamous Pablo Escobar. This property includes several huge homes, a soccer field, tennis courts, a bar and restaurant and hundreds of trees imported from all around the world. We arrived to the little dock by boat and were greeted by a tour guide. He led us around the extensive property, narrating in Spanish. The home and outbuildings were destroyed by bombs and anything that remained standing has been pillaged and wrecked as folks came looking for hidden money. It had been reported that he hid money in the construction of this home. So now there are holes in the walls, floors, concrete benches, etc. As interesting as it was, the place is really a mess and is beginning to deteriorate.
The property is now privately owned. The guide was unclear what the plans are for the place. It can be rented for parties and for paintball events. A few movies and television shows have been filmed here. But it is likely that the Colombiano’s would like to see this entire chapter of their history be forgotten. Pablo Escobar brings a bit of tourism through the fascination with his legacy, but they are not proud of his name being associated with Colombia. It is a mixed blessing and it remains to be seen where it will go!
We all really enjoyed our time at the lake house. We had a great time with friends, in the sunshine, on the lake and playing in the beautiful, grassy gardens. This is one place in Colombia that we may return to while we are here. Perhaps you will see the Lake Hotel again in our stories!