05 February 2013

Iguaque: A mystic journey to sacred highlands

Posted in Blog

It was December 2012 and we wanted to do something different to celebrate the end of the year. The interesting thing about working in a tour operator is that the line between business and pleasure disappears almost entirely and every trip becomes an opportunity to explore new destinations that could make it into our tours.

We wanted to visit a place off the beaten track, we also wanted a challenging experience and spending some time with nature, away from the daily routine of the city. So, after considering a few options we decided to go to "Iguaque", a Natural Park located just 45min from Villa de Leyva, in the department of Boyacá.  This beautiful park is a Flora and Fauna Sanctuary where you can ascend to the sacred lake of Iquaque, one of the eight lakes located on top of its mountains, about 3860 meters over the sea level.

Different? Check

Challenging? you bet!

In addition to the physical effort required to hike to the lake, we would be visiting a sacred place for the ancient Muiscas.  For this indigenous community, who used to inhabit this territory before the Spanish conquest, Iguaque had a very special meaning. According to Muisca mythology, mankind was created in the Iguaque Lake, when the goddess Bachue came out from the lake with a boy named "Iguaque" in her arms and when the boy grew up they populated the land.

Iguaque was known then as the "cradle of gods". Today, many people believe that a trip to the lake of Iguaque cleanses the soul and purifies the spirit. The site is a magical place that invites you to reflect about yourself while in deep contact with nature, clean your spirit and come down from the mountain feeling renovated and full of energy.

Now that we have explained why we chose The Natural Park "Iguaque" for our trip, here is the description of our journey.

We stayed two nights at the park arriving the night before the trip to the lake, so we could start our journey early in the morning the following day as the weather changes quite often and the temperatures can drop rapidly, we also wanted to have enough time to go back before the sunset, just in case our physical condition was not good enough and we needed more time for the ascent.


Iguaque Refugio
Natural Park Iguaque - Refuge and Visitor Centre

The night before the trip, the lady in charge of the visitor centre (also a local guide) gave us the necessary indications about the ascent and talked to us about the spiritual meaning of the journey: She asked us to knit a symbolic Muisca pouch in our minds while we walked up the mountain, and put in it all our bad and negative feelings or attitudes. Once we were in front of the lake we were supposed to throw the imaginary pouch into the water and then reflect about the things we want to improve about ourselves and how to change our negative thoughts and feelings. The way she explained it to us was really emotive and gave us the strength and motivation to climb the mountain the next day.

We woke up very early the following morning, had a hearty breakfast and started our journey at 7:30 am. The path to the top was clearly marked and consisted of eight sections of 500 meters each. As we climbed the mountain the landscape and vegetation changed. For the first four sections, we were surrounded by cloud forest and then for the last four the "paramo" (moorland) vegetation took over, proving a striking change of scenery.

As we said at the beginning, the natural park is also a flora and fauna sanctuary, so we wanted to catch a glimpse of the birds living in the area and maybe take some pictures. However, despite the splendid weather we couldn't see any bird, we heard them all the time, specially while we were in the forest, but we didn't see any, we only managed to see some butterflies and other insects. But we didn't want to come back without any picture of the animals in the park, so we stopped to take a picture of a fly that looked a bit different to the ones you usually see in the city, this one was a bit hairy, maybe just to protect itself from the cold temperatures during the night, that was our main achievement as bird watchers... :) (not impressive... we know)


Iguaque - Fly
Natural Park Iguaque - A Fly from the paramo

Probably the most difficult moment in our journey was at the end of the section 4, when you see the steepest section of the climb (also known as "the wall"). it does look scary at first, but in reality, you can walk your way up without any training or special equipment. After several stops to catch our breath (you really feel the effects of altitude as you pass the 3,000 meter mark) We managed to get to the end of stage eight. From there we had to walk another 30 minutes to finally arrive at the most mystical and beautiful lake we have ever visited.


Iguaque Wall
Path to the Iguaque lake -Station 5 "The Wall"
View from of the Andes Landscape from Iguaque
View of the Andean Landscape on the way up to Iguaque lake

The lake is a spectacular place to be one with nature while you take a rest and enjoy the nice feeling of achievement after walking all the way up and earning the right to see it with your own eyes.

We spent one hour by the lake, we ate and re-hydrated to have enough energy for the descent. After the obligatory group photos, we started getting down and had the opportunity to appreciate the spectacular view again.


Iguaque Lake
Iguaque Lake
Iguaque - We did it
Iguaque Lake - We did it!
Iguaque Manantial
Natural Park Iguaque - Pure water from a natural spring

After a great day of hiking and with our cameras full of great photos, we returned to the visitor centre for a delicious lunch and a well-deserved rest. Our bodies were tired but our souls were invigorated and full of happiness.

There is something about climbing a mountain that captures a human being's imagination and somehow brings out the best from you. We now understand why the Muiscas regarded Iguaque as a sacred place. Being there is like going back to your mother's womb, it is a place where peace and solitude prevail. The perfect place for a new beginning.

The Uncover Colombia team