After a memorable night in Guatapé, we walk the short cut to the place we called home for three weeks for the last time. It leads us from the bridge in town, through swampy, but passable meadows. And although the stars lighten our path slightly and the hostel dogs, that accompanied us lead the way, I grab on to Jan’s hand firmly, telling him I’m not seeing much, knowing that that’s just an excuse. I squeeze his fingers gently, waiting for him to squeeze back, just that little bit stronger, as he always does, and tell him, it’s the last time we walk back home. ‘It’s been nice, eh’, he replies. ‘Si, very nice.’
We arrived mid November after a two hour bus drive from Medellin. A motochiva brought us safely over a very bumpy road to the eco-hostel de Medellin where we would learn Spanish during two weeks. Paola, former movie maker, current Spanish teacher and eco-farmer, welcomed us and asked how much we had payed for the ride from Guatapé. 8000 COP, as she had said in an e-mail.
We took off our shoes and entered her very cozy house where we met Oli, from Australia. As Paola put a big kettle on the fire for tea, Hugo and Karolina arrived. We had the usual “travelers-get-to-know-eachother talk” and picked some fresh peas from the garden, so our host could start making dinner.
In the eco-hostel, only vegetarian meals are served. You cook dinner in turns and have dishes duty once a day. A great way to live together and to get to know new recipes. There is no wifi available, so you have to make time to get to know one another and the hot water is only on two times a day, to save energy. It is no place to stay up late and party, but one where you learn to go to bed after some guitar strumming, board game playing or reading, and wake up early in the morning at 7 to be on time for the delicious smelling breakfast. If you want to join Paola for her morning yoga, you’ll have to be a bit braver and rise with the sun. At six that is.
And though it might sound a bit strict, the lifestyle at the hostel is really easy on your body and mind and makes you appreciate or realize some simple things, you might oversee in your busy daily life. I, for instance, discovered that I love slow mornings: getting up in my pj’s; saying hi to the early birds and the sweet dogs, Salma, Alma and Tony greeting you as soon as you walk the patio; hanging in the hammock for a few minutes; drinking hot chocolate or coffee and enjoying breakfast. And the best of all was, after I had done all of that, it was only 8 am and I had the whole day ahead of me.
Class started at 8:30 am and went on till 10:30. From Monday to Thursday we had one hour of grammar and one hour for reading. Pao is a strict but friendly teacher, which is good to motivate the traveling students to learn conjugating verbs and practice the new skills in their free time. It’s more than worth its money and you really make progress. After three weeks of class, we evolved from sometimes understanding people talking to us and smiling back politely at them with an apology that we don’t speak Spanish, to understanding them -that is if they don’t speak too fast- and being able to make a little joke and friendly conversation, if they have time to let us search our vocabulary and conjugation knowledge.
After lunch, we had the day of to explore the environment. We walked to Guatapé, using the short cut, hoping the dogs wouldn’t chase the horses in the meadows or the ones simply walking the streets. We enjoyed town and its guilty pleasures like exquisite coffee or canelazo, and met lovely people on the colorful square at bar Baroja, managed by Boris, the red bearded Belgian from Mortsel (of all places).
We also made a trip to the waterfalls near the hostel and walked the three hour anillo towards La Piedra. Oli, studying geology, explained how this massive granite rock arose and gave us all a little piece of it as a souvenir.
The one thing we didn’t calculate was that Salma (one of the dogs) joined us, but didn’t dare to get in a car. After a 15 km walk and climbing and descending la Piedra, we were tired and wanted to get a ride back to Guatapé. Alas. And as we couldn’t get it over our hearts to leave her behind, we walked yet another 5 kilometer back home. Luckily we made it right in time for dinner.
We also made a boat-trip on the lake and learned about the history of Peñol, the village that was flooded to create a dam for hydroelectric power.
After the second week, Paola asked Jan to work on her new website, in exchange for an extra week at the ecohostel. He accepted the deal and as such, we extended our stay.
The last week I particularly enjoyed to hang out with Tanja, to make some music with Hugo, to hammock talk with Megan, to cook with Jan, to catch escaped goats with bare feet, to drink coffee with Valentin, to celebrate Amanda’s birthday, to make empanada’s for the first time, etc.
When Tanja waved us farewell as we took the bus to Medellin, to catch a nightbus to Bogotá, I felt very happy and relaxed and fell asleep as we left the beautiful colored houses of Guatapé behind us.