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Sunday, 01 July 2018

Colombia's Tatacoa Desert: The Ochre Valley of Sorrows - Page 2

Written by Yuri Drobkov
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I usually imagine deserts as hot and parched fields of sand, but the Tatacoa is not as dry as it might seem, I even encountered a small pool of water while following a dry riverbed. Admittedly, it was shallow and muddy, but it was water. It’s hard to believe an information board at the entrance which says that the local precipitation is only 1.078 mm per year. Apparently, this is enough to support the many trees, bushes, and cacti that cover the eroded cavernous landscape. Not only are plants thriving – numerous insects and animals are also supported by this habitat. I encountered lizards, spiders, moths, butterflies, vultures, eagles and even goats while out there. There is also a chance to spot snakes, scorpions, and turtles.

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Needless to say, this place has no hotels. Besides the observatories, there are only a few private houses and hostels, and camping. So in order to spend a night there, it’s better to take a tent and other camping gear, along with water of course, as it gets expensive to buy in the desert. Electricity is hard to come by, as it can only be generated locally, and internet connection is an even rarer luxury. A part of the serenity of the Tatacoa is being offline, a tête-à-tête with nature and yourself. This is uncommon these days and it might be boring, or maybe even disturbing, to some.

I found the transportation here is quite easy – the closest settlement called Villavieja is about 6 km to the west. From there people take mototaxis to bring them into the desert, the way out is to stop one of them on the way back. I came to Villavieja from Neiva in a colectivo, a shared local transport. That’s one way to do it and the drivers of the obviously overpriced mototaxis will try to convince you that it’s the only one. However, there is a quicker, cheaper and more exciting way to get out – it includes taking a ferry from Villavieja across the uneasy waters of Magdalena river, to the city of Aipe. A short countryside hike from the coast and then the streets of Aipe will bring the adventurous souls to a major highway going from Neiva to Bogotá.

If you’re a fan of astronomy, archeology, nature or just exotic off-the-grid places, the Tatacoa Desert is a place worth visiting at least once in your lifetime. Be sure to bring water, camping gear, sunscreen, a raincoat and your favorite camera!

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©Yuri Drobkov

(Page 2 of 2)
Last modified on Monday, 02 July 2018

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