A few weeks ago I spent the weekend in Jardín, a small town that is about a four-hour drive from Medellín. The road through the verdant mountains of rural Antioquia was lovely, winding past forests, farms, and tiny towns. One really remarkable sight along the way was Cerro Tusa, a tall peak with a strangely perfect shape, the largest natural pyramid in the world. It’s possible to climb to the top, but we didn’t have time for that adventure on this trip.
We arrived in Jardín a couple of hours before sunset, and the main square was full of people enjoying an afternoon of perfect weather. The square is graced by lively rose gardens and a fountain, all surrounded by the brightly painted tables and chairs that serve the restaurants that line three sides. The fourth side is home to an elegant, Gothic-style Catholic church that towers over the scene. The narrow streets of the town are full of colorful houses, a few with full-on solid bright walls, but more frequently white-washed and adorned with multicolored railings, shutters, and panels.
We found smoothies and wandered the streets for a few minutes before heading to our accommodations, a small, family-owned trout farm just outside of town. There is a covered platform next to the trout pools where guests can camp for the night, and in front of the house there is a large open-air kitchen where the family runs a small restaurant during lunch on Sunday. The climate was perfect for camping, and we were enchanted for the evening by the sound of the water and the company of the most adorable kitten I have ever met in my life.
The next morning we set out for La Cueva del Esplendor, a beautiful cave in the mountains where a waterfall drops through a hole in the roof. We wanted to take the long trail that started near the trout farm, but the mother of the family insisted that without a guide we would get lost because the trail was not very well marked, and her son wasn’t available to go with us that day. Instead we took a shorter, more frequently traveled path that began a few miles outside of town. Most of the trail was through mountainous cow pastures, and we shared the path with some horses taking people to the cave. Without the cover of the forest, the sun was bright and hot, but the views were incredible.
The splendor of the cave was everything I had anticipated and more. The way the sun shines through the waterfall against the backdrop of the dark cave is simply magical. All around the cave is luscious vegetation, much denser than the rest of the landscape farther from the creek, that attracts an array of birds and butterflies. The water was absolutely frigid, and I plucked up the courage to venture in up to my waist, but I bailed within about thirty seconds and needed a solid half hour to regain the feeling in my fingers and toes. Some other crazy people were rappelling through the hole in the roof of the cave and dropping into the freezing pool…to each his own, I suppose.
The hike there and back with a nice long break at the cave took about four hours, perfect for a half day excursion. But next time, I would love to take the longer route through the forest and make it a full day adventure.