How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque

One of the things I like about living in Colombia is that it’s a country full of waterfalls. Many cities are located close to the mountains, so there are plenty of opportunities for hiking. The TEFL in Colombia blog isn’t primarily a travel website, but I like sharing tips for places that are a little bit off the beaten path. I’m not a big fan of overpriced tours, so I prefer to recommend locations that are accessible by public transport. If you are looking for some lesser-known places to visit in Antioquia, you may find this article relevant.

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque from Barbosa

Medellín is a prime tourist destination with a lot of activities to do. If you want to do something else and escape the busy city, you can hike to Chorro de las Campanas, which I have written about before. Many visitors also travel to towns such as Guatapé, Jardín, or Santa Fe de Antioquia. You can find a lot of information about those places online, so I’d like to focus on a town that doesn’t receive many foreign tourists.

Barbosa, which is located approximately 40 kilometres north-east of Medellín, doesn’t feature on many people’s travel lists. There is nothing wrong with the town, but it isn’t as colourful as Guatapé, so it’s visited mainly by locals from Medellín. Barbosa sits in a valley, and that’s usually a sign of potential good locations for hiking in the nearby mountains. The retro-looking Places of interest section of the town’s official website suggests that it’s true, so I decided to give it a visit.

Getting to Barbosa is relatively easy. You just need to take the metro to Niquía and take a bus from there. The station is quite small and finding the right spot is easy. However, the bus to Barbosa stops at Parque de las Aguas, which is a popular weekend spot, so if you want to avoid long queues, it’s better to travel early in the morning or go on a weekday. You can also use your Cívica card on the bus.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to waterfalls near Barbosa. I chose Ipachanaque because getting there isn’t that straightforward, which means fewer visitors. In fact, I believe that it is necessary to use this expertly-labelled map to demonstrate what I mean:

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque from Barbosa

The bus left me near the main square (green star); the starting point of the hike is on the road called Vereda Buga (blue star). The most logical route would be to take Calle 13 and cross the bridge. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to reach the bridge because the road was completely blocked off due to construction work. It looks like the same thing happened to the person who uploaded this Wikiloc trail in June 2020, so it’s not clear if taking Calle 13 will even be possible in the future. If you encounter this obstacle, there are two main options available to you:

  1. Get a taxi to the starting point of the hike.
  2. Take Carrera 22 and then walk on the hard shoulder of the motorway until you reach the starting point of the hike.

Long-time readers of this blog will probably find it easy to guess which option I chose. Let’s just say that cars driving on that stretch of Ruta Nacional 62 reach very impressive speeds.

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque

Vereda Buga is a one-lane road that looks fine at the beginning, but the higher you go, the worse it gets. Taxi drivers will most likely refuse you to drive you up this road because a four-wheel drive is needed to avoid damaging the car. Many people use mototaxis to get to the fincas over there, so if you do this hike, you shouldn’t use headphones to listen to music because you’ll need to let the fast-moving motorcycles pass. You’ll eventually reach a stream and it may be necessary to use a footbridge to cross it if the water level is high.

If you walk fast, the hike to the waterfall can be done in an hour. The elevation gain is 500 metres, which isn’t that bad, but it may get a bit tiring on a hot day, so make sure to drink a lot of water. Along the way you will probably see a lot of cows and horses, and there are also some impressive rocks, including one with ancient petroglyphs that are sadly not really visible anymore. You can simply follow Google Maps or the Wikiloc trail linked above; I suggest going through this gate to get to the waterfall from below because it’s faster that way:

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque

The path is used by horses and gets very muddy when it rains, so wearing proper hiking boots helps a lot in the final stage of the hike. Ipachanaque doesn’t rank among the most impressive waterfalls in Colombia, but I think it’s definitely worth visiting. You can jump into the pool below it and enjoy the refreshingly cold water. Thanks to the fact that the waterfall isn’t exactly easy to reach, you may not even meet anyone else there, so this is a pretty cool opportunity to get away from the crowds.

How to hike to Cascada Ipachanaque

The hike itself isn’t that long and you can return to Barbosa relatively quickly with some spare time to explore the town. Just remember that it’s a good idea to call a taxi to pick you up where Vereda Buga meets the motorway. Buses to Medellín leave from the corner of Calle 11 and Carrera 20; some of them will leave you in Niquía and others go to the centre, so ask the driver and choose the most convenient bus for you. There are also a few hotels in the town in case you wish to stay a bit longer and visit other places in or around the town.

Would I recommend Barbosa to tourists planning to spend just a couple of weeks in Colombia? Probably not. I think this trip is a pretty good option mainly for those who have already been to most of the popular places in Antioquia and would like to visit a new location with some really nice hiking opportunities.

All roads lead to Medellín

My very first blog post on TEFL in Colombia is called Everybody wants to live in Medellín. Its main aim was to motivate teachers, especially newly-qualified ones, to look beyond this amazing city and consider working in other parts of Colombia. In addition, I mentioned some disadvantages of working as an English teacher in the capital of Antioquia. And now I’m sure you can guess where this is heading: A year and a half after writing the blog post, I moved to Medellín.

All roads lead to Medellín

To be precise, I decided to move to Envigado, which means that technically I live outside the city of Medellín. It’s just two metro stops away from Aguacatala, though, so it feels very close. I chose this location because I wanted to avoid the noise of the city centre and the high prices of El Poblado. My experience in Envigado has been very positive so far.

Does this mean that the original blog post was just a load of nonsense? I don’t think so. I still recommend exploring the country and looking for opportunities away from major cities. After deciding to leave Medellín in 2017, my work took me to three different regions of Colombia, so I had a chance to visit some really cool places. I’ll never forget living in a town in Boyacá during my first teaching role, which was a brilliant experience. My two years in Manizales allowed me to explore the beautiful coffee region. The stint in Bucaramanga was affected by the pandemic, but there were still some positives.

The main reason for moving back to Antioquia is that I feel ready for it. While I was away, I managed to get a Delta and became a Colombian resident, which makes language institutes see me in a completely different light than four and a half years ago. Back then I was just a random tourist with no teaching experience. I’m sure that I can avoid the pitfalls of working in ELT in the second biggest city in Colombia.

Moving to a new place also gave me an impetus to make changes in my professional life, and I’m not an employee anymore. The process of registering as a freelancer caused me a bit of a headache in terms of dealing with local institutions, but I believe that I’m going to benefit from it in the long term. In addition to being more flexible when it comes to my work schedule, I hope that this will give me an opportunity to gain experience in a variety of areas related to ELT.

Since I moved to Envigado, I’ve done some interesting work as an independent contractor with International House, which has offices in Bogotá and Medellín. One of my main reasons for collaborating with this institute is that it takes professional development seriously. In fact, I did my Delta Module Two with IH Mexico and took the Train the Trainer course with IH Lima, and I hope to get a chance to develop professionally here in Colombia. I’ve already received Delta-style feedback on a lesson, which is exactly what I need in order to improve as a teacher.

It seems my 2022 is going be about learning useful skills and using them in new teaching contexts. For example, I currently teach one-to-one classes, which is something I’d had very little experience with. Creating personalised lessons from scratch and designing my own materials is a lot of fun! Even though it could mean that I won’t have much time for updating this blog in the next few months, I feel that I need to focus on making the most of this new opportunity. Leaving the comfort of employment is a little risky, but the only way to find out if this is the right step for me is to give it a go and see what happens.