One of the fabled locations of El Dorado Laguna de Guatavita was once filled with with Gold and Emeralds by the indigenous peoples who lived in the area as offerings to their Gods. As soon as the Spanish found out they started removing it and over a 400 year period people from various places tried to take what was deposited. Including the British who successfully managed to drain the lake but the sediment ended up drying in the sun and it became impossible to dig more gold out. Most of the treasure is split between Spain, the bottom of the Atlantic and the Museo de Oro here on Bogotá which boasts one of the largest collections of gold in the world-I’ll be going here in due course.
Of course this blog is not about history, it’s all about me, so if you want to read some accurate facts check out Wikipedia. I’ll jump into how to get there soon but first I need to fill in the time I’ve skipped. So, yeah, I’m back in Colombia as promised in my last post. I spent 4 months in London hanging out with my friends, working at BAFTA and playing Tomb Raider and now I’m back for a new adventure. I’m still working at BAFTA for now and working on getting that new job, but hey, why rush things?
In my first week here I put together a list of all the places I wanted to visit and Angela and I have been slowly working through them joined occasionally by Lorenzo, 4, who can not only spot a cow from a mile away but most importantly he tells you too. Every time. Just in case you missed it. It’s really a treat for cow fans and people who can’t identify cows a like. Actually joking aside the kid has an amazing hiking ability and outpaces a lot of adults.
Our first hike was up to Monserrate in the pouring rain and sadly I don’t have any photos so show for it, hence the lack of blog post, but I’ll go back. Two days later I realised it was a vacation day in Colombia so I suggested we take a day trip out the city and as the Laguna is close we decided to go.
To arrive you can get busses from the north of the city in the Portal de Norte, it’s connected by the Transmelinio, the huge busses with their own lanes, so you just need to reach that stop. Download Moovit which seems to have all the bus routes in the city as that will help you. When there find a bus headed to the town of Guatavita, which should be around $8000 each way, and tell them you want to go to the Laguna. Don’t go all the way to the town. Just outside of Sesquilé there is a turning off the main road (see map below). If you ask the bus to drop you here it will as there a mini-busses to take you up to the lake for around $2000 each way or you can walk the 7km as we decided to do. Its not the nicest walk as its all along a small road which is frequented by cars but the views are stunning
There is plenty of wildlife on the journey, well when i say wildlife I mean farm animals but there was a lot for Lorenzo to look at and play with which in a way was a shame as we had to keep him safe on the road. Actually I was impressed that he was so happy to walk 7km as it’s far for a 4 year old but Angela said after that he had never seen a pack of pappas de pollo (chicken crisps) as big as I had brought and that kept him going.
Its a steady up hill trek from around 2400 metres ending up at around 3000 metres but as its over 7km is there is nothing too challenging. Just enjoy the lush green valleys, although sadly for us it was another grey day and kept trying to rain but never quite made it. There are also huge sings pointing you in the right direction and telling you the distance. Do follow them as when you get to the lake its a one way system and my map would have taken us to the exit which would have been a little annoying.
When we reached the lake we were met with an entrance to a CAR facility – this is the Colombian agency that extorts money form you at every national park. I generally don’t mind paying a fee but CAR seem to suck the fun and the adventure of anywhere they set up and really is just a money making operation. If you are a national expect pay $12500 and for foreigners $17500, its more than the bus fair.
Once inside there are bathrooms and you can buy some basic food and snacks. We ate our lunch while watching a couple of the tours leave. The 2 hour tours go every 20 minutes and being on a tour is mandatory. You are not allowed to explore the are on your own. I was disappointed because i had been let to believe the lake would be a little remote and that no one else would be there Instead I found myself on a large group tour. It was a bank holiday so maybe if you go during the week it will be much quieter.
The guide does give you a lot of information, all in Spanish, and there are some interesting stories but not when you have a tired 4 year old who just wants to play with bugs. We did our best to entertain him, to be fair my attention span is around the same, before slowly making our way up to the lake. To be fair the views are stunning and the sun came out of the clouds for a little time to play.
And then after being on the tour for what must have been more than an hour we finally made our way up to the lake which formed in a crater in the ground. The water level is much lower than it used to be due to various attempts to drain it and it is beautiful. Sadly the sun was behind and the grey in front of my camera.
After you walk around the lake there is a short walk to the exit where you can look across the valleys.
The exit is in a different place to the car park so you have to get a bus back to your car, if you drove or of course you can walk. There are a load of stalls selling food and souvenirs but I couldn’t get away from the fact thsi just seemed like a tourist spot. It was nice to get out of the city and to be fair I was grumpy because of the weather – although I think that the photos came out okay in the end.
While waiting for the bus I decided to pap this chicken who was cleaning up any dropped food. As chicken models go she was good.
The busses have different colour tickets and the one to the road was filled with gringos and was $2000. We would have walked but Lorenzo was asleep at this point and he had done well. After waiting at the main road we flagged down a bus headed to Bogota, which was $8000 for the return journey and took us directly back to Portal de Norte and form there we took a bus home. It was a nice little excursion out of the city and a good test of Lorenzo’s hiking skills. Maybe not the first place to go as a tourist but the lake has some nice stories and its a good way to get used to the altitude.