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Early retirement travels - week 10 Colombia & California

View from El Peñol rock, Guatapé

Towards the end of the week, Rebecca finished her vacation and headed back home and back to work. Her plan was to relax for a few days for a little calm before normal life resumes.

The relaxing would be in the town of Guatapé, so first we had to get there from Salento. That meant two buses, one taxi and a total of eleven and a half hours door to door. The surprise was that, this time, the bus wasn’t driven by a wannabe racing driver, possibly a first for a Colombian bus journey🤣

Guatapé is a popular day trip from Medellin, but we were spending three full days there. The main activities are climbing to the top of El Peñol rock for the view of the lake, wandering around the pretty town and it’s colourful buildings and perhaps take a boat or kayak trip on the lake. A day trip is probably too short and maybe three days too long unless, like us, relaxing, drinking coffee and watching the world go by is your plan.

So that’s what we did, we climbed the rock, we looked around the town and it's colourfully painted houses, we watched the day trippers as we sat in cafés and we did very little else. There isn’t much more to say about it.

And on Friday it was time to leave Colombia, Rebecca heading back to Switzerland for work and me headed to California for the final two weeks of my trip. I was a little sad as we parted to catch our different flights but felt fortunate to spend four weeks with my grown up daughter - I don’t suppose many Dad’s get that chance once our children have flown the nest.

Looking back, how were my five weeks in Colombia? I can’t think of anything I didn’t like, other than it was a bit hot and humid for me in Cartagena. The people were friendly, the value for money outstanding, the transport system worked and the accommodation was pretty good especially considering how little we paid for it. We only scratched the surface, visiting Medellin, Cartagena, the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) hike, Tayrona, Minca, Salento and Guatapé. If I had to pick highlights, they would be the Lost City hike, our Cocora Valley hike in Salento and perhaps the Communa 13 guided tour in Medellin. But then I realise I haven’t mentioned the beautiful Old Town of Cartagena or relaxing in the pretty towns of Salento and Guatape or simply enjoying my “local” coffee shop in Medellin.

I guess the summary is that Colombia is well worth visiting and as a plus, it really shouldn’t break the bank.

Next is almost two weeks in California. I’m meeting an old school friend near Sacramento and plan to drive inland from Los Angeles to Lake Tahoe and return to LA along the Pacific Coast Highway. The downside is that I’ll be doing it alone but I’m sure it will still be a good trip.

My week finished with my first full day in California and a visit to the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. As a child, I remember pictures of huge Redwood, or Sequoia, trees, and I’ve now seen them for real - the World’s third largest tree, the General Grant, and then the largest, the General Sherman. The whole of the Parks were impressive, the scenery, the huge trees and the climate don’t match my preconception of what California should be. That’s one of my biggest takeaways from travel, finding out what places are really like rather than what we imagine they are like.

What about my healthy eating and exercise targets? The less said the better. Just one run this week, without any good excuse, means 2 out of 10 for exercise. Eating was better but not great, I’d be cheating if I said any better than 5 out of 10. I'll aim for improvement next week.

Daily diary and costs

I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I find my blog is a little like keeping a journal and sometimes read back about what I did or what I was thinking six months or a year ago. I always thought that keeping a diary sounded a bit dull, but it turns out it can be kind of fun.

Week 10 - what we've done:

Monday – Travel day. Departed Salento at 7:30am and arrived in Guatapé at 7pm

Tuesday – Guatapé. Morning to explore the town. Afternoon to relax

Wednesday – Guatapé. El Penol rock in the morning. Coffee shop and little else

Thursday – Guatapé. Almost nothing…lazy breakfast, a walk, haircut, coffee shop, blog…

Friday – Flights from Medellin to San Jose, Costa Rica. Overnight in San Jose.

Saturday – Flight from San Jose to Los Angeles

Sunday – Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, California

Week 10 - I spent a total of £436 / €488 / $571 for 1 person on:

Accommodation £173 / €194 / $225 Some more costly California rooms at the end of the week

Meals/Coffee/Snacks £100 / €111 / $130

Transport £96 / €107 / $125 Colombia airport transfer plus US car hire/petrol

Toiletries/Medicine £2 / €2 / $3

Laundry £2 / €3 / $3

Tours/Attractions £32 / €36 / $43 Mostly entry to National Park

Other £31 / €35 / $42 Hair cut, phone cable, bits and bobs


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