Caño Cristales

Katha woke me up early by swinging the hammock to see how I reacted. I awoke with a start and found that everyone else was already awake. I hurriedly got ready and having packed most of my things the night before grabbed my bag. I had a few things hanging up and would later realise that I forgot to grab my hat and solar panels, partly because a load of other people had moved in and placed all of their things around mine.

We are pineapple while we waited for the tuctucs to arrive and were on the road by 7am. We had picked up a Belgium girl who had shared a room with the German guy from the previous day, but alas he was staying behind. After the tuctuc journey we swapped into a collectivo at Villavieja and after another hour we were in Neiva buying bus tickets for Bogata. Diana was a great help as being from Bogata she new the best and most cost effective way to get there. It was still around 7 hours to Bogata from Neiva and we arrived in the bus station around 3pm. The 5 of us were going separate ways and Katha and I needed to get to Villavicencio to meet with our Italian friends.

Katha and I found a bus heading there and got supplies in Dunkin Donuts and Subway, it was the first western food I’d seen in over a week and I was desperate for a sandwich. And you know when you start seeing Subway as decent bread then you’ve really been deprived. As soon as we got on the bus we were told that it would be 4-5 hours and not the 2 hours promised. As it was a bank holiday one of the tunnels was reversed allowing all traffic to move in one direction. Which meant that we had to wait for it to be set back again in a massive traffic queue. I was tired and a little grumpy to say the least. At one point I got off the bus and had a little walk. Just after I got back on it started moving and I was thankful that happened when I got back on.

Katha got us off the bus at the right spot and into a taxi which took us to the hostel and waiting in the garden was Roberto, Nick and Debbie. We had to be at the airport for 7am and after travelling for an entire day I just wanted to sleep. It was still hot so I had a cold shower and headed to bed.

We awoke the next day and took as much money out of the cash machines as we could, because there is a chance that the cash machines in El Macarena would not work. To get there you either need to fly or take a 24 hour journey by road. You can take the flight as part of the tour or you can charter the flight. As there were 5 of us we opted to charter and the reason we didn’t fly all the way from Bogata is because it’s much more expensive. However if you are on a tight budget I’d not recommend taking this trip as it’s not cheap. I did it for four reasons, I was still saying yes, I wanted to get on a small plane, I wanted to hang with some really fun people and it was something that not many others did.

So we arrived at the airport, weighed in and then paid. Otherwise it was fairly similar to taking a normal flight but everything was much quicker and soon we were on the tarmac in the hear where I realised I didn’t have a hat or any sun lotion so I covered up in my own unique way.

Soon we were on the plane, which felt completely normal again and on the runway taking off. Being on a small plane is different to a jet, no food or entertainment for starters, but it’s essentially the same. Just you have better views and the plane is blown around more by the wind. That and you fly much lower. The flight was only around an hour and o can’t remember the cost, I’d guess around 300000 pesos, and we only had to give them a few hours notice for when we wanted to return. But the views were stunning as you can see.

We soon landed safely and upon exiting the plane i realised I was back in the jungle heat. This end there wasn’t really much security but we had to pay a tax for entering the town which was around 40000 pesos. With that paid we collected our bags and walked a couple of blocks to the hostel. There was a little lizard hanging about so we did a photo shoot.

That day we decided to take bikes out for a day trip and sort out our trips for the next few days. I brought a sunhat and got some supplies. The town was different again and there was a big military presence as this is one area where there is still a risk of terrorism.

With the supplies sorted and tours booked, we just asked people and ended up choosing one in a local shop, I’ll detail the tours a little later, we headed off on the bikes. We were told that we could cycle to a restaurant with a pool where we decided to have lunch. Upon arriving it turned out that they didn’t do food on the site but they could order in and it would take 40mins. We did this and jumped into the Pool to cool off. Over an hour later the food still hadn’t arrived and we were not given a time so we decided to pay for our drinks and leave. The others were fed up with being messed around and it wasn’t so far form the town. Instead we found a panadería and had a snack.

We all wanted to head out to see more on the bikes and with the evening sun pressing we decided to head out on a beautiful cycle.

On the way we met a lot of Colombians who were on various tours. Yet again it seemed to only be the griegos who were cycling, although this was good as we needed to ask for directions several times.

And here we are on our bikes.

And this little dude we met and had a chat with on the way.

After around an hour we were hot and sweaty and tired but we arrived at our destination only to find everyone else there already. So not really knowing what to find I took some photos and then jumped into the Pool to cool off.

We had about 40 minutes of light to get back so we cycled off at speed to try and get back with the light. I had nothing but my phone to use as a torch. We managed to get back most of the way before the darkness kicked in. At the hostel the Italians whisked up a decent meal and then this happened. I can’t remember why now but it was fun.

For the Caño Crystals tour we had to watch an instructional video at 7am and then leave for the park. The park closes at 4pm so you have to do everything before that time. We watched the video and met with our tour agent before going back to the hostel. We paid 240000 for the day which included all the fees and guide. There is a short boat trip and they are really protecting this area so you are not even allowed to wear suncream, hence my new look.

After the boat there was a small check point where we had to sign in and then we were taken off road to the place we would start walking from. There were a number of sites and soon we reached the first point of the colourful river.

I’ve never seen water thus color before and it was honestly really impressive. There are plants that grow in the crystal clear water which make it look as if the water is coloured. I believe this is the only place in be world that they grow.

We saw a number of different sites and it was hard going with the heat and having to cover up.

After following the river we stopped by these waterfalls for lunch. We took some photos and then everyone seemed to fall asleep. I was tempted to explore but I didn’t want to get into trouble.

Gringos at the waterfall.

Soon after lunch the sky suddenly became very grey. And then the storm started. There was nothing really to do other than protect my camera and get wet. I’ve been pretty lucky on this trip and I think this was the biggest downpour I’d been in since Santa Cruz in Bolivia. The rain was stupidly heavy so we decided to jump in the river by the waterfalls. We were soon told to move on as the water started rising. It was crazy to note how high the water rose in a short time. There were puddles everywhere and one point we were standing near the river and could see the level rising as we stood there. By the time we reached the main part of the trip the water had risen so high that it was impossible to see the colours. Our guide told us that she had never seen the water this high before which wasn’t heat as it meant we missed the main part. But still we had seen a lot of beautiful things today and I was excited to have been in the storm.

And I took some flower closeups.

We went back the same way and pretty much headed back to the hostel exhausted for an early night ahead of our 4am rise the next day. We needed to get the flight back that day and the others wanted to go to Bogotá to get the night bus to a new place. I was still undecided and I hadn’t really been keen on doing the second tour. The early rise, and seeing animals on the river didn’t really appeal to me along with the 200000 price tag. The city of stones hadn’t been something I really wanted to see and this people is a lesson in listening to your gut. In this case I didn’t. The others actually said to me I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want, they knew about the yes, but didn’t want to tell me to go but I decided to say yes, but reluctantly.

We ended up on the boat and straight away it was evident the weather was not going tonne our friend. We took the trip up the river and saw some wildlife but not much and noting I hadn’t seen before.

We got out the boat and started hiking to the city of stones and saw a butterfly on the way.

And there were some pretty sites, but noting to rival yesterday and the grey sky didn’t help.

We posed on the rocks and then headed back to the village arriving at 11am immediately questioning why we needed to wake up so early. Lunch was included but we didn’t understand the huge price tag. Yesterday was more expensive but included the huge park entrance fees and was a full day. Today was a half day and we all felt ripped off. Lunch however was pretty decent so it was something to take away.

We headed back to the hostel and got te plane back. By this point I was exhausted and didn’t feel great. I decided I was going to stay in Villavicencio for the night. The hostel had decent WiFi and I could make a decision as to where to go tomorrow. The others were going to take a bus to Bogata and then probably a night bus to Medellin and I couldn’t handle another night without decent sleep. Also I wanted to head to El Cocuy and it made more sense to go now not to Medellin. So I listened to my gut which would end up having good consequences although when I found out this was a bank holiday weekend and I’d be in the country again and not Medellin I kicked myself. But always trust your gut. You’ll find out why.

I was so happy to be in the hostel and sort my pictures too tired to do anything. I got laundry done, visited the supermarket and relaxed. I was on my own again for the first time in over two weeks and it was good to take my destiny back for a short time.

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