A poster on the wall of Calle 10 hostel shows a rock protruding from nowhere with no other massive monoliths around. Surrounding the rock is a lake as blue as the sky. The poster was an advertisement for Lake View Hostel in Guatape, Colombia, a 1.5 hour bus trip from Medellin. The poster listed opportunities to kayak, bike, fish, hike to waterfalls, booze-cruise on a boat around the massive lake. All things that would sound enticing to three nomadic voyageurs on a quest to get out of the metropolis, out of the fast food, the "look we have McDonalds too" cities of Bogota and Medellin. But the last line on the poster read "Volunteer and stay for free!" DONE.
I sent a quick email to the owner, Greg, an American from Santa Barbara, California, about the three of us interested in volunteering for one to two weeks. We got a quick reply telling us the previous volunteer had just left and they could use two of us. He said most volunteers come for a week and stay a month. We would soon believe. So we planned on all volunteering and then just splitting the cost of one person 20.000 pesos or $10 a night three ways. $3.34 a night is not a bad deal for this town. The main streets are painted bright colors with beautiful "zocales" depicting everything from orchids to la Piedra to men with dump trucks mixing concrete. These zocales, designed along the base of the walls, uplift your mood even when you are already on cloud nine at the majestic beauty of the surround environment. The people are as nice and friendly as anyone I have ever met. "La Piedra" (The Rock) sits as a magnificent backdrop resembling a meteor that crashed into the Andes and has remained ever since. The hostel, true to its name, sits fifty yards from the lake shore overlooking a finger of the body of water to the west with the rock always looming.
Our first two nights in the hostel we relaxed with Greg and Nick the co-owners. Nick, from London, has been living in Colombia for two years. He and Greg met in a bar one night, talked about how wonderful this country is, how beautiful the women are, and how because of years of violence and drug cartels tourism is only on the incline with the current stability. So they decided drunkenly to create a hostel. And this is where they´ve been since. Our third day we learned the ropes of the difficult volunteering schedule, not. One of us needs to get up around 8:30 in the morning, open up the hostel, mop the floors, throw some clean laundry out on the line, and make breakfast for the other two sleeping beauties. That wasn´t required but that became our system. If a traveler shows up, we give them a key, show them to the dorm or private room, explain the odds and ends of the hostel (free instant coffee, free tea, wifi code, activities book, yada yada yada). When someone checks-out, change the sheets, clean the bathrooms, mop the floors. All in all, each day I´d say we work about 2 hours tops. During the day, either Greg or Nick is around, so we have the ability to climb the rock, kayak, take a day trip down to the tropical Rio Biscotcho or Las Tangas. Everything about this town is remarkable. Every other phrase out of all of our mouths is "I could live here." Our one week quickly turned into three before we finally decided to head out on a full day´s travel to Salento, coffee capital of Colombia, where I sit now trying to catch up on this blog. One of these days I will really sit and collect my thoughts and bring everyone up to even on what´s going on. As I´m finishing writing I can hear the downpour of rain outside (Welcome to the rainy season). This should be a moist 30 minute walk back to our eco-hostel. Where´s my raincoat?