On the drive down from the mountains of Cocuy our brakes really squeaked a lot and we decided to go to Bogotá, have the brakes fixed, get an oil change and have ” Dodgie ” looked over. During that time we could check out Bogotá and try to go to Cano Cristales. We had watched a BBC documentary a while ago about the “blooming” rivers Cano Cristales near Macarena, Colombia. The “Lonely Planet” made short mention of it so we started to research a little more. Macarena is a small hamlet of around 500 people, it lies in an area that is part of the FARC territory. Some of the rivers in that area are home to an unusual plant called Macarenia clavígera. Where it is exposed to the sun it turns bright red in the summer months, in shady spots it is green or grey. A fascinating sight, we read that August is one of the best months to view this phenomena. The military does not allow you to drive to this part of the country, access by boat on the Guayabero river is off-limits as well. It is too dangerous and even the town of Macarena is protected by 5000 Soldiers, you can fly in, get a room and a guide, hike the rivers and after a few days fly out again. Laura from Caminantes del Retorno in Bogotá made all the arrangements for us. Fly in with a small propeller charter plane (we are used to that from Alaska) and fly out with a military owned plane.
On the way to Bogotá we relaxed at Villa de Leyva for a few days, spent a night in a field near Suesca lake where the farmer Eusebio came down from the hill and told us all about his farm. He took us for a walk on his property and brought us fresh milk in the morning. The fence posts in that area are made of rocks chipped of large boulders. He told us this is the way the Muiscas did it and he is part Muisca.
Then we toured the salt mine in Nemocon, camped at the shores of the lake near the town of Guatavita, ate the best Bavarian Cream dessert ever in Iza and finally made it to Bogotá. All the time the scenery was absolutely beautiful, you drive on windy roads up passes, down valleys, along lakes.
You pass people walking, on horses, watch the onion harvest along lake……… and people hanging out in the little towns.
Finally we dropped the camper off at Iguana 4×4 the best repair shop in Colombia, spent two days in Bogotá and then flew to Macarena.
There our luggage was picked up by a mule cart and soon we were in our room at a small hotel. Juliana, a local young lady, was our guide. She was great, together with our new friends Diego and Ricardo and “Senor Dulce” aka Robin the speedy Belgian, we took the long-boat (hewn out of one huge tree) upriver where we got dropped off and picked up by a small truck that took us into the hills on a crazy rough road.
Then we started hiking, through the hills, down to creeks, past waterfalls, we waded through streams, and there it was: A flood of red fronds that reminded us of the red skeins of salmon roe. A psychedelic swirl of red, grey and green, aquamarines push up against eddies of red and fingers of yellow cut through pockets of bright green. Hard to put into words.
We hiked all day for two days, it was hot, but we had plenty of water, both days Juliana brought along a delicious lunch wrapped in banana leaves. This is a popular tourist destination for Colombianos and we had fun driving into the hills with them one evening in – so we could watch the sunset. The ladies screamed every time we drove through a mud hole and at one point I though we would roll over, haha, in the end we all screamed.
In the morning of the third day, Juliana did a quick hike to a view-point on top of a hill and then we went to the airport where the mule cart took out packs back to the plane and we headed back to Bogotá.