My Journey to the Orinoco Basin in Colombia, Part One

April 30, 2022 Documentaries, Ecotourism, The most beautiful places in Colombia

I dreamed of visiting the Orinoco Basin in Colombia for many years, but I could not reach that remote place. Finally, that dream has come true, and I will be narrating this wonderful trip step by step. Sometimes, people ask me how I became a full-time traveler; maybe it is in my blood because my ancestors traveled with their cameras since photography was invented. I have always been fascinated by reading travel books. They are a constant source of inspiration, especially those of the first explorers who visited the Americas after the conquest. One of my favorite authors is Alexander Von Humboldt with detailed accounts of his travels through Latin America in the 1800s, especially his book “Personal Narrative,” where he recounts his journey through the forests of the Orinoco River. I loved Darwin’s voyages on the Beagle and his passion for discovering and describing the species he encountered. Although not as well-known as the other two, the naturalist Leo Miller wrote a beautiful book on the birds he observed during the six years he traveled through South America in the early twentieth century.

These authors wrote detailed and beautiful narratives of the jungles, forests, rivers, and the abundant fauna and flora they found. Although they were scientists, their stories are beautiful poems about nature. They invited me to dream and explore those same places, and that is how, in each of my visits to Colombia, I try to immerse myself in that abundant and privileged nature.

During my trips, I always try to observe the landscape surrounding me in detail. I ask and learn from my guides and the people who live in the places I am visiting. On these trips, I never know in advance what I will experience. There are always delays in the routes, changes in plans, and even the weather, which is always unpredictable. All these events force me to be flexible and adapt to whatever happens, but I have also discovered that I find a new and surprising experience every time I lose something.

I began my trip to the Orinoco region in Medellin on a small plane belonging to Colombia’s government airline Satena. At six in the morning, when the rain was gently falling, and the clouds were thick and gray, I walked down the puddled track to the plane with my cameras in a cloth bag since they don’t allow backpacks inside the cabin and excitedly settled in my seat, ready to start my adventure.

When the engines started, and the plane picked up speed, I sighed deeply and prepared to enjoy the flight. A couple of minutes later, and before reaching height, the pilot aborted the takeoff. I confess that I was scared. I had never had to live an experience like that. All passengers wondered what had happened when they announced a problem in the aircraft, but this was routine and did not present any problem for the flight. After fixing whatever had happened, we returned to the runway and took off after a while.

The flight had a short stopover in Bogotá, but it was pretty long because the assigned plane collided with a bird and could not fly. We had to wait for another plane. Two hours later, we took off to Puerto Carreño, the capital of the department of Vichada, located on the Orinoco River border between Colombia and Venezuela. After flying for an hour and a half through the clouds, we were informed that the airport was closed due to storms, and we had to divert to Puerto Inírida. We waited until we could leave in the middle of the rain towards our final destination.

From the air, I could see through the clouds the extensive savannah of the Llanos Orientales, with its land still parched due to the prolonged dry season barely over and the gigantic rivers surrounded by golden beaches and dense dark forests. I arrived in Puerto Carreño after more than 12 hours of travel. Due to countless delays on the routes, I went to bed in the middle of a strong storm, anxiously waiting for what I would find the following day.

The life we ​​lead in cities and towns keeps us protected. We are always indoors, travel in closed vehicles, buses, trains, and cars, and rarely walk in the rain. But in many places, that is not the usual. As I emerged from my room, splashing almost knee-deep in water, I realized that a new experience was beginning, and I had to adjust to being wet for the following month.

When I settled into the truck seat that would take me on the first part of my journey, I was completely wet despite my raincoat and boots. We took a dirt road, which had turned into a river of red mud. Visibility was awful because the windows were fogged, and it had been raining torrentially for several hours. I was anxious to see where I was finally. I wanted to breathe the fresh air of the savannah and make that long-awaited trip real. When a small light appeared on the horizon between the thick and dark clouds, we stopped to see the fantastic scene of a sunrise with the first mountains of the Guyanese shield in the background.

Seeing it up close, the flooded plains were already beginning to turn green, and small plants were sprouting from the sand. In a few more weeks, the savannah would be completely green.


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