New at Piedras Blancas

A few observation on new recreational opportunities at Piedras Blancas. If you are unfamiliar with this area it is a must visit when you are in Medellin. It is easily accessed via the Metro to the Acevedo Station, there you take the Metro Cable to Santa Domingo and transfer to the Cable Arvi which rises above the Medellin Valley and crosses several kilometers of the highland forests,  including some very nice patches of native high elevation woods.

At the Arvi Station you can get guided tours along some very nice trails. There is currently no charge for this service. These give you a chance to see the native vegetation at close hand. When you arrive be sure to take a look at the folios in the shelter just in front of the station exit. They provide photos and information (in Spanish) on the local flora and fauna.

If you chose to walk down to el Tambo (less than a kilometer) there is a very well designed sidewalk with kiosks where the locals sell all manner of snacks  and some fairly nice folk art. This is all monitired by the development agency and I think the food is quite safe. Near the station there is a restaurant called el Punto de Rojas. It is very typical and the food is good. The Rojas family have been in the area for a long time and form a colony not far from el Tambo.

Down the hill in el Tambo will find a very good restaurant and store run by Mariano. He is a local fixture and his meals are excellent, quite large and reasonably priced.

Recently I have see a horse and carriage taking people on rides along the road from el Tambo to Chorro Clarin. I talked with the driver this morning and he offers the service at 6,000 pesos (about $US 3.33) for a half hour and 10,000 pesos ($US 5.55) per hour. I am pretty sure that he will take you where you wish to go and this would be a great way to see the sights if you don’t wish to walk. The local roads a lined with beautiful forests and are well worth seeing.

If you decide to go to Chorro Clarin you will find very nice picnic facilities with roofed kiosks which have fireplaces for barbecues and such. There are vendors who also are monitored by the the development group. They sell typical snacks like empanadas, and tortas de chocolo (corn fritters) that are delicious. These people are our neighbors and are very attentive to tourists. The area is named for a water fall that is very popular with people for wading. It spills in to Piedras Blancas Creek near the vendors kiosks.

Further down the road you will find the new Comfama facility. It features picnicking, and various recreational opportunities including a suspended exercise “trial” up into the the trees. I have not tried it yet but it looks like fun.

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Cable Arvi Gets Heavy Use

  

The Cable Arvi system between Medellin and Piedras Blancas is getting heavy use during its first two weeks of commercial service. This photo was taken about 1700 on Saturday afternoon (20/02/2010). The system says it is transporting 5000 to 6000 people per day on weekends. 

Folks in this photo look less than enthused but this is due to a wait of about an hour to board the cable. Comments are all positive and people take a lot of pride in Medellin´s very modern transportation components. 

People love this system!

Cable Arvi to Piedras Blancas

I took my first ride up to the Piedras Blancas area on the Cable Arvi this morning. I am used to traveling there on the Santa Elena buses you catch on Ayacucho. They provide good service but the cable line is much smoother and the view is spectacular.

To access this new service take the Metro to the Acevedo Station and the old cable line to the the Santa Domingo Station. There is no charge for the transfer here. When you arrive at the end of this line (Santa Domingo) go upstairs and catch the K Line to el Tambo. This will cost you COL$2,5000 or about US$ 1.30 at todays exchange rate.

´The ride up first takes you over upper Santa Domingo which is one of the less well off areas in Medellin. The housing quickly gives way to an agricultural area much of which has been invaded by bracken fern. Once you reach the ridge line the vegetation rapidly changes to a mosaic of native and plantation pine and cypress forest. Some of the patches of native forest look like they are of primary and if not are advanced secondary status. Nice diversity and an obvious epiphytic community in which bromeliads stand out.

In about 14 minutes you arrive at the el Tambo Station. Outside there are vendors selling snacks including a very good salpicon. Salpicon is a fruit cocktail with plenty of natural juices. It makes a great quick breakfast. The actual El Tambo area with its famous restaurant is about a 10 minute down hill walk. I understand there is bus service from the station down to el Tambo and on to Santa Elena but I did not wait.

The climate in the Piedras Blancas areas is much cooler than Medellin as it is locate at around 2400 meters. The mornings are fresh and the clean air is noticeable after coming up out of Medellin. Even the afternoons are relatively cool with temps in the low 70´s F being typical.

From el Tambo you can go to the nearby Piedras Blancas Ecological Park, to Guarne or to Santa Elena and the towns in between. These include Mazo, Piedra Gorda, Barro Blanco, el Placer and el Silletero. This is an important historic area and el Silletero has been declared part of Colombia´s National Patrimony.

If you wish you can make a circuit and return to Medellin via the buses or return on the Cable Arvi. Either way this is a great trip out into the countryside around Medellin. BTW the area is considered very safe and in 6 or 7 years of frequent visits we have never had a problem. There have been reports of problems towards the fringes of the area but these have been low intensity and infrequent. In addition a mounted police force which patrols the park area has recently been established and I suspect that this will eliminate any residual issues. I never feel nervous and am generally up there every weekend.