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Thursday, 25 October 2018

Colombia’s Rio Claro and our lengthy road there

On this cold autumn day, here in Europe, I can’t even recall how I got hooked on Rio Claro.
I can just picture us there, out-of-the-oven pan de queso in our hands, waiting for our bus to leave and have a last look at colourful and enchanting Guatapé and Peñón, of course!
They didn’t disappoint.
Neither did the driver, who left us precisely where the other bus (to Rio Claro) should have stopped to pick us up. We had a few minutes to buy the tickets and some drinks... and /honks/. The ride was beautiful. We climbed and held our breath whenever crossing over crazy whitewater or an opening within the trees. The clouds looked so fluffy! ’Yes, there are always surprises in Colombia. I can’t wait to get out of bed. Every single day.’ I told myself.
And then we stopped – our eyes on the GPS; I think we had 10 km or so left to our destination.
’No creo que podemos irnos antes de las siete.’  
What?! It was a quarter to five and there had been an accident. Nobody knew more, but there were already pictures on the Internet.

I sat down on the side of the road, trying to translate a text my Dad had sent to me. It felt like a sketch. Not to mention the minutes that passed, turning into hours. I was grateful that we had bought that SIM card on the Caribbean coast and that I loved the Colombian people. I couldn’t have made it otherwise. People ate. A lot. We watched football together. I forgot to tell you that we were lucky enough to get stuck in that queue of cars right in front of a restaurant. I don’t think they ever made so much money. There were people coming from nearby cars to buy soup, leaving with plates in their hands. Others were stretching their pets’ legs. That’s what we did, discovering a great moon above our heads and a truck full of pigs that seemed restless. I pitied them, the same way as I pitied all the people having no choice but to spend their night there.

Our funny driver, always feeling the need to keep his bus super-clean and shiny, had now another preoccupation – a young lady from our bus. They had made out on our very seats. :) All the while, he kept me informed on the accident’s status. Nobody seemed to be able to pass, even though people tried, and some even went back, to Medellín.
We did fall asleep, in the end, and woke up shortly after sunrise. Marcel returned with some gum and children’s juice; the restaurant had even sold out on water!
A plan was needed. So, we walked past the trucks and buses and cars to the next restaurant to buy water. And then, as we returned, we heard bikers honking, screaming with joy, and passing from the other side onwards Medellín. The route to Bogotá had been opened and we quickly followed, listening to some cheerful songs together with our travel companions who now felt like family.
As we passed the cistern that had turned over, endangering and disrupting the traffic, I knew that I’d fulfil my dream and really get to Rio Claro. After 18 hours.

~
The morning was already hot and humid, but we walked to the Activity Centre ‘Square’, being immediately checked-in and welcomed by the kind and knowledgeable David, and by the naughty squirrel – more like a pet of Rio Claro Reserva Natural.

We had breakfast…
and then went to our room, which was stunning. I had chosen cabañas el Refugio – and what an experience it was practically sleeping surrounded by all elements, yet in pure luxury!
The accident had made it impossible for many people to arrive to Rio Claro and be able to share activities, so the rafting was postponed for the following day. I was quite curious on its development, as Marcel was a bit dizzy and hurt, his left middle finger swollen and bandaged.  
However, after a healthy 2-hour nap and lunch, we completed one of the nicest activities of our Colombian trip: ziplining over Rio Claro. It was fast, intense, and extremely beautiful. Simply imagine yourself 25 metres (to start with) in the air, above a greenish river flowing freely beneath you. It’s wow! And we had great company.
We then decided to check out the sights along the river. Playa de Mármol was close to our accommodation. Walking on got us to El Templo del Tiempo, where time seemed to stand still, indeed. We actually wanted to get to Boca Caimán, about 40 minutes away from Plazoleta Central… where we planned to find a clear pool of water on the side of the river and snorkel a bit. The different level of the water – compared to the pictures we’d previously seen – made us feel like we didn’t reach it, realising that we actually did only in the evening, while going through a photo album of the nature reserve.

We went back to Marble Beach, I bathed and Marcel crossed the river fighting the currents and fully perceiving the force of nature.  

Dinner brought us addiction to Hit – Colombian soft drink in various flavours; our favourite became mango, which we couldn’t get enough of. I’d (almost) give anything for one right now!

~
The heavy rains during the night did not bid well, because Rio Claro was not so claro in the morning. Consequently, we decided to skip rafting, have breakfast and one last Hit, then leave earlier to Bogotá

We did that in that same heat, trekking to the bus stop, our eyes continuously searching for toucans. Some smaller birds kept us company, along a very courteous gentleman, eager to find out more about us and our country. We smiled, swapped photos, and shared a taxi to Doradal. It was Election Day in Colombia.

~
What about Rio Claro? Where did I hear about it? Ah, yes!
I still can’t remember. :)
But I’d love to be back!

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