When you think about Colombia, do you immediately connect the country with words like drugs, war, guerrilla or danger? Have you ever planned a holiday in a place like that? Sound bizarre or at least crazy? What is there to say about visiting an area well known as a stronghold of guerrilla control? Insane!
However, if you are the kind of person who likes to live on the brink of death; or maybe you prefer to immerse yourself in a place, leaving behind the bad name and all labels, you are on the right path to encounter one of the most beautiful places in the world, a natural rainbow of multicoloured Macarenia clavigera plants growing in crystal clear streams.
Take the risk. You must travel between July and November to start your adventure. Why? Because the weather – rainy season – is perfect. It is only an exhilarating one hour journey in a small plane from Bogota (Colombia) to La Macarena (a small town located in the province of Meta), where you will meet poor but generous, smiling and kind people living in small houses, walk on unpaved streets and listen to loud music everywhere. “What? This does not look like the brochure photos. This is fake!” you think. Do not worry; everyone has the same feeling, but…
We need to start from the beginning. So, change your clothes (wear something fresh but covers the body), bring enough water, pack your bag with sun cream, repellent, some snacks, a well-protected camera, and do not forget your sunglasses and a hat.
Ready? My adventure starts in the port, where I take a canoe to go up the Guayabero River to arrive in the La Macarena National Park. After 25 minutes of the natural scenic marvel, I start my adventure at a check point where Colombian soldiers check my ID and give me a few tips to guarantee an epic journey.
I remind myself to not lose sight of my guide, because otherwise I could get lost in the vast rainforest. Over the 9 kilometer hike, I was able to enjoy an amazing spectacle of flora and fauna, and take a refreshing plunge in two of the several waterfalls.
Finally, my guide Marcela let me know that we had arrived – the view of Caño Cristales took my breath – vibrant colors (blue, red, green, yellow and black) and crystal clear water contrasted with the dark rocks around: A heaven on earth!
Exhausted? Sweaty? I do not care about that. I am over the moon! The sound of the water, the calm atmosphere and the softness of the breeze, mixed with the plethora of animal and natural life in this corner of the world, was able to transport me to another dimension full of peace and serenity where I could feel the smallest detail of real life again, with the most definitive certainty: I am alive and I am free.
Can I stay here the rest of my life? Sadly, the answer is a big NO. The area is only open for a few months because this unique ecosystem needs some rest. La Macarena Corporation, the organization in charge of the protection of this area, closes the whole park to clean it and avoid a strong impact from intensive tourism.
On the one hand, after the signing of the peace agreement in Colombia, the rainbow is visited by more than 15 000 tourists accompanied by 130 guides. On the other hand, the residents are very concerned about the intentions of the international companies to exploit oil in this area, although the president of the country, Juan Manuel Santos, declared his commitment to protect Caño Cristales and the surrounding area. I hope that the next government has the same commitment.
But anyway, nature is wise and thanks to her this town changed its life. More than 350 families live from tourism, in activities that include customer services, guides, and canoeists. La Serrania de la Macarana is the point of encounter of three powerful ecosystems: The Amazon, The Orinoco and The Andes and to visit Caño Cristales is to become a witness of the meeting between the sun and the river accompanied by a symphony of colors that illuminate the Colombian jungle. So, it is in your hands … do you want to participate in a cathartic adventure or do you prefer to stay in your comfort zone?
Angela Lucia Riano Pinzon, IELTS Class
Macarenia clavigera is the key of this astounding place. It is responsible for creating a brightly colored spectacle each year. Macarenia clavigera is not algae or moss; It is an endemic aquatic plant which requires precise conditions, including just the right water level and just the right amount of sunlight to create a kind of bed of colour in the water.