“You  have to go to the rock!”
Me, “Huh?  Okay.”

I had no idea what a friend was talking about when she told me we had to go to the rock.  So, we went to see the rock and what resulted was a day where we learned so much about Colombian history and saw some amazing things!  Here’s a glimpse of some of what we saw (before my camera battery gave up and died.)

Let me start with the journey ~
So many parts of the roads were washed out and blocked by landslides.  I think the road crews have unlimited job security.

About an hour out of the city we finally saw El Peñol boasting from the ground.

It reminded me of Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia until I realized there was no cable car to the top, or train like in Bogotá ~ this was going to be a challenge ~ 635 steps to the top and then another 40 to the top of the observatory.  A friend with us said, “That doesn’t sound like a lot until you get to step 50 and realize how much more you have to go.”  So true.  I made several stops along the way and was huffing and puffing at the top.  I’m not ashamed to admit that.  I made it.  That’s what matters!

Daunting, to say the least.

The view at the top was a 360* view of lakes and mountains all around.

We spent a while at the top with our friends.  From left to right: Alex, Tona, Corey, Maggie, Pastor Alberto, Kelly (Pastor’s daughter), John (Kelly’s husband) and David (Kelly and John’s friend visiting from Australia).

We walked back down the stairs, which resulted in very shaky legs and knees by the time we got back down.    At the base, Jaime, a guide we had met earlier in the day, told us he had a boat and would take us out to see some things around the lake.  Jaime has a pretty fascinating story himself.  I’ll get to that in a little bit.  

On the lake we saw this house said to be owned by a famous Colombian actress.

This house below is said to be owned by a mafia boss who is currently in prison.

Then we came upon a bit of Colombian history, not their proud history, but history nonetheless.  This picture below is of a nightclub built by Pablo Escobar.  Now it stands in ruins, having been abandoned many years ago.

Just down the lake a little bit further we came upon what was once one of Pablo Escobar’s houses, La Manuela.  If you don’t know that name, Pablo Escobar, he was a drug king, specializing in trafficking cocaine. He is regarded as the richest and most successful criminal in world history.  I’ll be honest, although I don’t have respect for Pablo Escobar, walking through a piece of history was pretty incredible.  This was no museum tour.  We just wandered through the remains of what was once a haven for a criminal.

As told to us by Jaime, this house was bombed early in Pablo’s career by the Cali Cartel.  He said they dropped bombs from small aircraft.  It was then ransacked by others looking for the money and drugs left behind.  The government now owns the house, but they left it to deteriorate.

We walked around the property for a short time.  I wonder what all of this looked like before the destruction.  I believe it was probably pretty spectacular.

The pool is full of water.  Some say they think there is treasure to be found under the pool.

There was a dark and scary hallway to the basement where a lot of things were dug up.

The view as we left, the main house on the right and the pool house on the left.

A little further down the lake we saw this tunnel, the dark circle in the center of the picture.  This tunnel runs from Pablo’s house and was an escape route for him to use when he was attacked.

Moving on from Pablo’s house we learned something fascinating about the lake we were boating on.  This lake was once an entire town.  Here’s a picture from what it looked like in the 70s.

The construction of a hydroelectric dam left the entire town underwater.  They have built a replica of the town close by, and these pictures come from the museum that now is housed by the only building left standing from the town.  We went by this cross, which shoots out of the water where the church stood.  It is incredible to think that an entire town that was bustling, as a friend said, “where people got married, had kids and lived their lives,” is now totally underwater.  This dam now supplies over 30% of Colombia’s electricity.

Our last stop on our way back to the mainland was to “Fantasy Island”.  This island is a small island with several little cabins, like the one below, that you can rent for about $40 a night.  It’s a quiet, simple island, but it would be a great place to go for a quiet weekend with God.

We never found “Tattoo” saying “De Plane, De Plane” but we did come upon this little monster that Alex was brave enough to hold.  Fortunately, because the climate here is a little bit cooler than tropical, he’s very docile (the snake, that is).

I was a little freaked out when they put him on the ground and he kept staring at John like he was dinner, but he stayed in his little spot and didn’t hurt anybody.

When we got back to land we walked around the town, Guatapé.  This pueblo is so pretty.  All through the streets the houses and storefronts are painted with three dimensional decorations that portray local life and nature.  Here is where my camera began to die and I am so sad that I couldn’t get more pictures of this beautiful little town.

I managed to grab one more at night with the street lamps lit.  We walked through the streets where people were out walking and talking outside the stores and restaurants.

We ended our day, exhausted, but so full of new information, new sights and new understanding of Colombian history.  We stopped for dinner at a little restaurant along the main street (trout being the local specialty).

Jaime, the boat operator, spent the rest of the day with us and even came to dinner.  His story was fascinating.  He grew up along the coast and left home at 12.  He went place to place doing odd jobs and even for a while went door to door representing a foundation (that didn’t exist) to collect clothes so that he could go and sell them.  Kind hearted people would give him shirts and pants for needy children and he would turn around and sell them somewhere else for $1 -$3 per piece.  He did this to survive. For a while he would go to the parks in Bogotá and tell stories.  People would leave him money for his stories.  He (by requirement) joined the military and in the southern parts of Colombia ended up shot in the leg.  He was discharged after some surgeries to put plates and rods in his leg.  He said he goes wherever there is work.  His job right now, taking people out on a boat and showing them what he showed us.  Jaime’s personality is captivating.  He’s a natural salesman, not because he’s pushy but because he’s the kind of person you just meet and enjoy spending the day with.  He’s had a wild life, but you just want to see him succeed.

On Wednesday, Jaime was in Medellín and came to church.  He seemed to really enjoy it and said he’d be back.  I hope he returns.  There are some opportunities that others are working on to open doors to a stable job.  Keep him in your prayers.  I don’t believe our meeting Jaime was a chance encounter, but a divine encounter.

~Tona