River Wild - Rio Claro Adventures

Trip Start Nov 24, 2007
Trip End May 15, 2008

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Saturday, March 15, 2008

  Just three hours east of Medellin on the road to Bogota lies the spectacular private nature reserve, "Rio Claro," or Clear River. Sounds interesting enough, No? This awesome little reserve which probably only two percent of all the foreign travelers tripping through Colombia know about is really just a small piece of paradise protected from outside development. Set against a backdrop of green mountains and jagged rock outcroppings, the reserve is split in two by a beautiful river that cuts through the marble valley floor creating unique marble rock formations and staggering river views along the way. Often banked by huge cliffs and overhanging vines, it makes for a stunning setting and a great place one can visit now that for so long had been seen as unsafe to go because of FARC activity in the area.

Without a tent but really against paying 70,000 pesos (roughly $38 dollars) each for nightly accommodation, we headed to the national Wal-Mart-like super store, Exito (success) while still in Medellin in search for some type of makeshift tent that we could use for the weekend and thus save on depleting funds. Within minutes we struck gold. Not only did we find a tent-like contraption but it was Exito´s annual anniversary sale and we bought it 50 percent off for only 19,000 pesos! Because it only cost us about $9 and was definitely not waterproof we decided to insure our long term well-being and splurged on a $20,000 peso blue utility tarp. For $20 dollars, we were golden and ready to set out.

Arriving at the reserve the next afternoon, sunny skies and one incredible river instantly made this one of our new favorite stops. As good as our luck was however, that night could not have been any worse. In cheery moods we decided to walk outside of the reserve a few miles and dine at a roadside eatery because the regular dose of tuna, bread, cheese and tomatoes that we were so accustomed to eating just didn't seem to match our spirits. We left all of our stuff behind knowing it was safe and went to go eat some real Colombian cuisine. We had just finished our dinner that led us to drinking rum with some good 'paisanos' from Medellin who were elated to see two Americans in the middle of nowhere when all went to hell. First it began to drizzle, making light `tics´ against the tin roof. As we shared Rum Anejo and our new friends began to talk louder, urging us to come dancing with them down the road, the `tics´ turned into much lounder 'Tangs.' Within minutes it turned in to an all out downpour! Torrential-like for sure! Similar to the night in Cascales, Ecuador. Looking worried and knowing we had to make it all the way back to our tent, we laughingly told them our predicament. What the hell at this point.

As nice as they were to offer us good Colombian rum and some late night dancing, sober or not they offered to drive us to our makeshift campsite in the now poring rain. As soon as we hopped into their SUV however the car alarm started blaring and the owner had no idea how to shut it off. We were definitely worried by then because we had only stored our bags under the tarp thinking that nothing would happen. Giving up on the the SUV we hopped in the back of an old `Willis´ jeep without hesitation and soon were speeding down the muddy road towards the reserve; the entire time clearing the windshield with a rag so that the driver could actually see through the condensation building on the windows. By the time we jumped from the jeep, hollered our thanks, goodbyes and ran a 30 seconds over to our blue dome tent along the river we were entirely soaked so we proceeded to get completely naked in order to keep from soaking the inside of our so far, dry and holding strong abode. The rain was tropically warm, lucky for us and rain and believe it or not, aptly named Rock Blue Solid was not wavering. There was not one single trace of water inside.

As we began rejoicing in our masterfully built tent and the fact that the rain will probably be over quickly, the rain worsened. The thought of sleeping happily quickly vanished from our minds. Five minutes later when we thought it couldn`t possibly get any worse it began to pelt our tarp in all out rage and fury. Apparently not being in the best of locations, a reservoir of runoff began to settle under the floor of our tent creating a waterbed-like effect and greatly testing the water tight abilities of our $9 protection from the relentless elements outside. We feared the worse. Our tent would probably soon buckle under pressure, lose the battle and us and our things would be completely soaked from the ground up. This did not sound like a good way to enjoy Rio Claro and I was damned if I didn't do anything to prevent it. Taking my new dry clothes off I dashed outside in the nude and began to dig a miniature water canal if you will using kindling from our now unlikely fire and the coke bottle of 2 stroke fuel we purchased to burn the now completely soaked fire wood. After ten or so minutes of intense digging my great my sand box engineering skills paid off and the reservoir beneath our tent drained for good. It was not just a river beneath our tent. Water could run freely on its path to the main river. If it weren´t for the valiant effort put forth from our amazing tent however we may not have survived the night. Thankfully it stood the test of time and six hours later the downpour eventually subsided.

The next mornings blue skies and sunshine and fun day exploring the river bank trails was given away to another nightly downpour. This time however not nearly as bad. All in all, our time there was quite good. The river wasn`t exactly as clear as advertised due to the runoff from the mountains but it still was an impressive river and the walks we did far upriver were spectacular. Pictures to prove.

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