Trip to the Orinoco Basin in Colombia, part two
My journey through the Orinoco River basin to the tiny town of Garcitas took me through unexpected places. The dirt roads looked more like the beds of a stream filled with the accumulated water from the rain of the former week. Garcitas has 78 registered inhabitants, and it is just a tiny point in the immensity of the plains where the Orinoco travelers find refuge.
During the wet season, these plains can rain for weeks without respite, and it becomes impossible to travel through them, but when I began my trip, it had barely started, and the land was blooming with green colors so luminous that they seemed unreal. I could only compare them to early spring in temperate zones when all the forests are reborn simultaneously. The Orinoco region is not caused by cold but by the long drought of the dry season.
We had to cross the tributaries of the Orinoco using old ferries that awaited the arrival of the few vehicles that traveled through those distant lands.
Then, we arrived at the Guiana Shield with its extensive stone plates. I was surprised by the skill of our driver, who knew how to navigate on those rocks where there were no signs to mark the way and where large pools of water unexpectedly appeared. The rain had paused, and I could walk around to see this strange place. I wished I knew about geology to understand the history of these rocks. They seemed of volcanic origin due to their dark color and rough texture.
Although cloudy, the stone reflected the sun’s heat, and tadpoles and small fish were trapped in the rock pools. The vegetation, primarily cacti and thorny bushes, was scarce since the plants grew over the rocks. I even found some plants that I had never seen before. They looked like palm trees or giant ferns, with tall stems and long leaves growing from the center.
After leaving the rocks, we drove through the savannah for a while. I wanted to walk and breathe the clean air, feel the soft breeze and the light rain on my face. The grass was starting to sprout, and I wondered what these savannahs would look like after a few months of getting soaked in water daily.
The plains were surrounded by very tall and dark mountains made of solid rock. I saw some white spots in the distance. At first, I thought they were birds, but then when I looked closer through my lens, I saw that they were large bunches of white flowers blooming with the first rains.
This trip was fantastic, despite the intermittent rain that did not allow me to use the cameras regularly, so I tried to save these details in my memory.
The grasslands were dotted with gigantic nests of termites, unique palm trees grew near the creeks and wetlands, and nature shone in every color saturated by water.
Among these fantastic meadows, I found the first birds of my trip, a pair of Tropical kingbirds (Tyrannus melancholicus) defending a dry tree where two roadside hawks (Rupornis magnirostris) were perched. It seemed like an unequal fight, but the persistent tropical kingbirds, living up to their name, achieved their goal and conquered the tree.
We finally arrived at our destination, which we should have reached the night before, but we could not do so due to flight delays. As always, I try to find the bright side to everything that happens to me. Maybe the previous afternoon, in the mid of the storm, I wouldn’t have had that time to walk through the meadows and discover the secrets hidden in the rocks.
The “Posada Vichada” was a small lodge in a plot next to the Orinoco River, surrounded by large pots of flowers and orchids hanging from the branches of the trees. The chickens fluttered about pecking at the insects, and they had a well-tended garden with vegetables and herbs.
The house had a traditional kitchen with large, shiny, polished aluminum pots hanging on the walls. Plates and cups were arranged on rough wood planks, and colored utensils, pitchers, and glasses were set on the tables.
During my trip, I loved to talk with the farmer and indigenous women around their kitchens and learn how they lived in such remote places. Some had lived in the same community as their ancestors, while others arrived in the region displaced by violence. Despite the hard life they led, they all shared their stories of pain, love, and joy. In the warmth of their stoves, I enjoyed their food and fragrances and learned the wisdom hidden among their pots.
While I was savoring the food, a new storm broke out, and my guide informed me that it was time to board the canoe that would take us up the Orinoco River.