Trip to Guatavita and the Legend of El Dorado in Colombia

We arrived at the El Dorado airport in Bogota at 10.30 in the morning from Buenos Aires. The airport is quite modern and we did not have major delays. We had hired in advance the transfer to the hotel in the neighborhood of La Candelaria.

We travel in a fairly large Van and we take the opportunity to talk with the driver about Bogota, safety, and things to do in Bogota. We arrived at the hotel and we were offered a red coloured drink, which is not wine but coffee without milk or any other addition. The room was old, well-kept and clean with no heating and the hot water came out at a good temperature but little quantity. Both things could be improved for a city like Bogota where it's cold at times.

We had lunch in a restaurant on the way back from the hotel and it was highly recommended on TripAdvisor to eat typical dishes. We ate one tamale and ajiaco, soda and chocolate bar. After that we walked around the Bolivar Square and the streets of La Candelaria, the historic center of Bogota.

We found the tourist tram and decided to go around in a guided tour of something more than an hour. It's fine to have a glimpse of the historic part of the city. From there in La Candelaria we take a taxi to the hill of Monserrate.

Monserrate is a hill that at the top has a temple, restaurants and a Cross to travel. To see the breathtaking views of the city it can be climbed by cable car or by a train that goes along some tracks on the hillside. Before going down, we took a few pictures and we had a coffee at the restaurant and sweet desserts.

When we went down we realized that almost no taxis pass through that place (unless they are free). The area is somewhat remote and in the hotel we were recommended not to walk, especially at night. The locals informed us that there is a shuttle to a station in Transmilenio (bus) very close to La Candelaria. The strange thing is that they almost do not advertise it anywhere. There was also the option to take a white taxi, special taxis are more expensive and they are ordered at a counter. We took the shuttle and then we walked to the hotel.

To close the day we ate at another La Candelaria restaurant recommended by TripAdvisor. We ate a pork sandwich and an omelette, with drinks and a spicy water of red fruits and Jamaica flower (something like a tea). There are several bars and rumbas to drink and dance around the area, but it will be another time. It is better to sleep as the day was very long.

El Dorado images

Day 2

We arrive at Laguna de Guatavita a bit too early. Unable to get parking, we fall back to the parking lot of the restaurant, a little below, where a charming lady offers us to taste the delicacies of the region. We visit with a guide to the lake which is according to the legend of the Spanish conquistadors the place of El Dorado. But after the 13 tons of gold found at the beginning, the other explorations did not give sufficiently convincing results in spite of the means employed.

The lagoon is the origin of the legend of El Dorado, which spread among the European conquerors and aroused greed in them. This happened because during the Conquest, in the sixteenth century, wonderful stories circulated that gave account of a ceremony that took place frequently in this place, before dawn broke.

It was an act attended by all the people and whose protagonist was the cacique. Our guide explains that this man covered his body with a dense layer of gold dust, honey and resin of espeletia before getting on his royal barge to throw emeralds and gold pieces in the water as a tribute to gods. After making the offerings, the sovereign immersed himself in the lagoon, which was rubbed with herbs in order to get rid of the gold that covered it.

Unlike the miniature that is exhibited in the Gold Museum, in Bogota, the raft that transported the cacique was not made of gold but of chusque, a kind of bamboo. In the midst of the calm that dominates the mountains, the green fields and the crops of potatoes and flowers, I imagine the avarice that led many to try to vacate the lagoon in order to seize the offerings that had been deposited there.

As proof of the excessive desire to accumulate wealth that many exhibited, there is still a scar on the eastern side of this species of Andean sea. It is a vertical cut, the product of several attempts to drain Guatavita. During the walk from the entrance of the park to the lagoon we can see how the native shrubs that grow on both sides of the path lean towards the center and in some sections form tunnels of leaves in which the light is hard to sneak.

The tour allows us to explore part of the ecosystem of high Andean forest, where they grow, among other plant species, orchids, bromeliads, ferns and mosses. The songs of the birds, the yellow trumpet-shaped flowers and other fuchsia-colored flowers join in a natural symphony to the nervous movements of the lizards, which seem to fly over the cobblestones that we walk through.

We reach the fourth and last viewpoint of the lagoon to the highest point that can be reached by the stone path that embraces it. We can see how the clouds filter the sun at will. The rays take turns to illuminate parts of this body of water, sacred to the Muisca Indians, and also the hillsides that adjoin it as if they were grandstands of a football stadium.

The first thing that remains engraved in the mind is an unmistakable aroma that opens the appetite of that of corn cobs, yellow as gold. That are roasted in charcoal on a grill around which people gather. After a break at Sesquile, we continue our journey by the northern highway! We pass by the site of the battle of Boyaca, historical site of the fighting that allowed the liberation of Great Colombia from Spanish oppression.

But as it is late, we decide not to stop there. We arrive at Villa de Leyva. A Swiss-Colombian met at the entrance of the city, who guides us to a campsite. We settle there. It is a little expensive but it is a luxury. We are the only guests, and the showers are clean and warm.

We are about 30 minutes from the city center and on foot we go down to town for some shopping. We walk down the cobblestone streets of the city with white houses and colonial style. We like the atmosphere a lot that remained typical of the ancient colonial villages. The main square is huge and is the largest in Colombia.

We then go to the site of Pozos azules (blue wells) which is a little outside the city. Here the color of the water laden with minerals contrasts with the red earth and the green surroundings of vegetation. I return downtown in a taxi! We leave Villa de Leyva by the chaotic road that goes through Santa Sofia and ends in Moniquira.

As we leave the small restaurant where we had lunch, a group of schoolchildren invades us and asks us about our trip. We arrive at San Gil. We park the car in a car park to visit the city and its El Gallineral park. In the latter, we see many trees with lichens like hair, squirrels and parrots. Leaving the park, we buy local specialties of ants with big bellies grilled.

We continue our journey to Paramo for a walk to the magnificent Juan Curi waterfall on this path. Too bad we did not make this road yesterday, we could have bivouacked in this green setting last night. We return a little on our wheels until SAN GIL before going to Barichara where we find a bivouac on the central square in front of the church.

This colonial village is very peaceful and its paved streets, lined with white houses, we like a lot. We then have a great evening and look at the pictures from the beginning of our trip.

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