Camping in Guatavita

First off, I’d like to mention that due to a very heavy backpack, I opted to only take with a disposable camera on the weekend camping trip. I’ve including a mix of those and some pictures that I took on Pablo’s camera and some from Camilo’s camera.


On Saturday we met up early in the morning, our backpacks brimming with snacks, sleeping bags, blankets, layers and a variety of other just-in-case knick knacks. When we all had arrived—Camilo, Francisco, Pablo, Juanita, Mayra and myself—there was still a discrepancy concerning where we were going. We looked at the signs at the front of a line of buses to see what our options were. After several sequences of ‘Roca, Papel, Tijeras’ (Rock, Paper, Scissors), we agreed on Guatavita, a town in the mountains about two hours northwest of Bogotá, with lots of lagoons. As it turned out, Camilo has a friend, Diego, who lives up in the mountain.

Upon arriving, we met up with Diego, who collected our bags and drove them up into the mountains so we wouldn’t have to hike up with all the weight. We drank coffee, ate a Picada of about three cows and pig and a variety of other animals, I’m sure: I refrained from asking. The hike was about 45 minutes to an hour, the majority of which was at a 30 degree incline. Not exaggerating. We huffed and puffed as the sounds of the town slowly faded away and were replaced by mooing and country dogs barking.


When we finally arrived to Diego’s house, he showed us where we would be camping. Down the road, on a plot of dusty land, sat a geodesic dome; composed of metal bars in the shape of triangles. It sat in front of rocky sediment. Directly across from it was a fire pit; a little hut made of sticks, scrap metal and tarps; and a city bus where Felipe lived, the man who rented out the land. He had converted the bus into an apartment to escape from the city on weekends and brainstorm his latest sculptures. He put on Bob Marley and welcomed us, amicably.




photo: Pablo Lopez Aldana


Beside the “hut,” or little storage shed, is the bathroom: also made of sticks and tarp. The following day, Diego and Felipe would build a door out of a few long sticks, nails and some pieces of plastic. The toilet is a deep hole: if you are…. “releasing” liquids, you don’t have to do anything; for solids, there is a bucket of dirt and a shovel next to the hole for you to cover the scent.


The men quickly got to work preparing the campsite. They raked the land beneath the dome for rocks, to set up the two tents that would fit inside. After, Camilo set up our tent outside the dome. Mayra and Juanita began taking out the food and putting it on a picnic table which sat directly beside the dome. We spent the rest of the day setting up the tents, sitting by the fire, listening to music, drinking Aguardientes and watching the sky flash with lightning.


Photo: Pablo Lopez Aldana

When the sun set, it was COLD and WINDY. I was not prepared. Always the first to go to sleep, I ended up conking out at about 8 PM; shivering in the tent, which protected from the rain but shook in the turbulent wind.

I woke up at about 6:30 the next morning. Dragon flies the size of handguns shot through the morning-in-Guatavita sky: it is a diagram of the different kinds of clouds. Behind the bus, giant plumes of clouds like scorched-earth smoke slide across the hills in the wind. I look back at the dome. Yesterday, the guys found a giant tarp on one of the rocky planes to cover the dome. When they opened it up, it turned out to be a GIANT, plastic advertisement for the last Harry Potter movie. I existed the tent that morning to see the mountain fog rising over the zealous face of Daniel Radcliff with the words: TODO TERMINA JULIO 15 (IT ALL ENDS). Fortunately, this was not a prophetic sign. In the morning, it was still toe-chillingly cold. The night before, Felipe lent me a pair of his coral jeans to go over my leggings. While I waited for the sun to come up, I ran up and down the road to stay warm, holding up the jeans by the belt looks as I did so. As I shuffled along, the sun filtered through a thin patch of clouds, spraying dusty light over a field of grain.

Photo: Camilo Rios (me being super cold)

That day was comprised of a trip to the lagoon, lunch in the town (Ajiaco, avocado, rice and chicken: yum!), playing with wild dogs, eating lots of sweets, playing dominoes and more relaxing.



(the bus pictured above is a “Chiva,” a traditional form of transport in rural areas of Colombia, always painted colorfully, as shown.)


That night, I passed out on one of the sofas in the bus house, so I can officially cross “sleeping the night in a city bus on top of a mountain” off my list of life goals.

On Monday (another Colombian holiday), we collapsed the tents, finished off the food and headed back into town before heading back to Bogotá.


In the future I may go back to the area to do some work with Felipe: he wants to build an Eco-Hostel with more buses on the land, but needs some help with English. Until then, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of my bed and running water.



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