In August 2010, I visited Colombia for the third time to pursue my quest to see Cano Cristales, the worlds most beautiful river, in person. I had been backpacking for the last 4 months thourghout Central and South America and Cano Cristales was going to be the the final adventure of my journey. On the internet I found very little information about this location and furthermore almost none of the backpackers I came across had any idea this amazing river even existed let alone have any useful information. With some research I was able to obtain few contacts in Colombia and that was my starting point of my quest to visit Cano Cristales.
Cano Cristales is located in Macarena in Meta district, which is about 100km from the capital of Colombia,Bogota, so I took a bus into Bogota. Once there I started visiting all the travel agencies I can find including the 2 travel agencies that responed to my email inquires. They reassured me that Macarena is now safe and I should not worry about security and as it turned out they were right. They told me the only option available was to fly into Macarena, which from my research, was not true. The price I was given was between 1,000,000-1,500,000 pesos for a 3 day tour. From my research I came across professor Xiro, who use to teach in Macarena and had visited Cano Cristales on numerous occations. Before my arrival to Bogota, Xiro and I had exchanged a few responses and he had given me his contact information and even offered his house to stay. After gathering all the information from the agencies, I contacted Xiro and as promised he took me into his house with his wife Pilar and cat Luna.
Pilar, Xiro, and I discussed what my best option would be in visiting Cano Cristales. Bus and boat were a bit cheaper but not by much, but more importantly did not have a regular schedule. Although I initially wanted to take a boat into Macarena, I didnt want to wait around for a boat that might or might not have space for me, so I took the flight option. If you op to go with bus or boat, make sure you are flexible with you schedule, but Xiro can help you either way. My concern of safety, especially holding a US passport in FARC territoy, was reassured by Xiros photos and stories of his time spent in Macarena. Xiro made all the arrangements to get me to Macarena and back, which included catching a bus collectivo with me from the street 5 in the morning. My flight was reserved ahead of time so I did not have to worry about getting stuck at a city, which was a real possiblity, since the only flight to Macarena was a small cargo style plane.
Once in Macarena, I met other travelers who were visiting Cano Cristales. All but one were Colombians, mainly from Bogota, and the other being Bolivian. I was the only person who got there independently and was not in a tour. Xiro had arranged a guide for me at the airport and helped me find a hotel, etc. I liked the fact that I was not in a tour and can explore Macarena and Cano Cristales independently. Also having the option of staying little or long as I wanted was also a plus. I spend three days there and even with my high expectations, Cano Cristales was the highlight of my trip. It truely is a magical place. Security was never an issue because there is a military base in Macarena and there are soldiers patroling at all times . I ended up spending about 400,000 pesos less than if I had taken a tour.
When I returned to Bogota, I couldnt find a ticket out back to Los Angeles for another week, and Xiro, Pilar really took care of me and we became good friends. They would make delicious Colombian dishes and take me to all different neighborhoods in Bogota. I even visisted his school and spoke to his students for his birthday, which is something I will never forget. In retrospect I am really glad I had that extra week to see and experience the part of Colombia that not many foreigner get to see. In every country there are always people like Xiro and Pilar, kind and open minded, the difficulty is finding them. I am glad I did and I hope they join me on my future expeditions. Yun Shin Los Angeles USA firstname.lastname@example.org
Video Wade Anderson from Obregon USA biking in Colombia, : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmeBXD2R4n4
MEREDITH AND ANDREW FROM NEW YORK IN BOGOTA COLOMBIA...