The most Fantastic Sunrise in our Planet

September 13, 2022 Birds, Birds from Colombia, The most beautiful places in Colombia

I love getting up early to wait for the sun to begin its journey to open the shadows. It is a pleasure full of unexpected sensations. I enjoy collecting sunrises and keeping and treasuring them among my memories and images. Those that I have lived on the summit of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are experiences that are difficult to describe and forget.

The Sierra Nevada is an isolated mountain system located north of Colombia without connection to the Andes Mountains range. It includes all the thermal floors on the planet, from the crystal clear waters and warm beaches in the Caribbean, where temperatures range around 95 degrees Fahrenheit, up to the icy, snowy ridges, where Gonawindua is the highest peak, with 18,700 feet above sea level and an average temperature below freezing. 

In its foothills are desert areas. As you go up, the humid jungle, the cloud forest, the paramo, and the glaciers maintain permanent snow throughout the year.

Cerro Kennedy is the highest point that can be reached by car. The road to get there was built some 50 years ago. It was never maintained, and the water deteriorated over time. Now it looks more like a riverbed than a road for cars.

Although the distance in miles is not much, we had to leave at midnight to reach the top before dawn. We started the challenging ascent in a 4×4 vehicle, enveloped in thick fog in absolute darkness. The progress was slow because the large rocks, the mud puddles, the deep gaps, and the landslides shook the car from one side to the other. The exuberant vegetation closed over the road, and I felt how the emotion overwhelmed me as I entered that magical world.

I no longer felt the lack of sleep, the cold, or the discomfort of the road. The car’s headlights illuminated the enormous leaves of the palms and ferns and the waving chusques (a kind of bamboo) as we passed. Streams and waterfalls crossed over the road because there were no bridges.

After three hours, a pale gray reflection lit up the sky, signaling the start of a new day. The dense fog barely allowed the silhouettes of that fantastic world to be seen dimly. The vegetation seemed to float between the innumerable layers of hills.

As the light increased, the distant peaks were outlined, and the wind began to blow, creating a magical dance. The clouds that lazily dozed over the mountains woke up, slipping between the tall wax palms and the trees loaded with moss and lichen. The golden hues shimmered in the sky and were reflected in the tiny drops that rested among the plants.

Walking in that ethereal world of crystal droplets was an incredible experience. I could float above the clouds, fly over the Sierra, and see the world from above.

As the sun rose, everything was filled with light, and a bright new world emerged from the mist. The bromeliad-laden trees regained their fantastic colors, and the flowers, grasses, leaves, and mountain slopes covered with tiny plants shimmered. I found ferns with the most varied shapes and sizes slowly unfurling their leaves, celebrating the new day. An explosion of lichens and mosses of unlikely colors, green, pink, yellow, and magenta, flowed over the dark rocks.

Santa Marta parakeet, Pyrrhura viridicata
Purple-throated Woodstar, Calliphlox mitchellii
White-tailed Starfrontlet, Coeligena phalerata, female

As I gazed at this fascinating world, I heard the great flocks of parrots passing by. They were the first to fly, awakening the earth with joyous and noisy calls. Soon, they were joined by other birds with their songs and the hummingbirds with their loud buzzes among the fragrant flowering trees.

I slowly descended the mountain, immersing myself in that green, luminous, and fantastic sanctuary. Each thermal floor brought new varieties of plants and birds. The sun’s rays touched the leaves against the light, turning them into shimmering jewels against the forest’s darkness.

Golden-headed Quetzal, Pharomachrus auriceps

The quetzal song could be heard in the distance. I waited anxiously, peering through the thick foliage until I saw its red chest feathers despite being in the highest part of the forest canopy. It was about 120 feet away from where I was. I zoomed in with my lens and saw it so close that I could almost brush its fantastic feathers with my fingers.

The Sierra Nevada awakens intense feelings of connection with the land and its creatures. It is a fantastic place that surrounds me with its magic of colors, sounds, and fragrances. It embraces me with the dense mist of its mountains, the sun’s brightness on the sea, and the song of its birds.


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