near Murrí, Departamento de Antioquia (Republic of Colombia)
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Horseback Riding La Blanquita (Frontino) - El Sireno (Urrao)
July 19, 20, 21 and 22, 2016
The idea of this fascinating 90 km journey on horseback through the biogeographical Chocó; was born from a circuit that had made me in that area
Since I arrived in the Murri Valley I fell in love with this hidden place and that's why I decided to go back to cross it. Before reviewing this adventure, I share some data of this exotic inhabited area for 8 millennia.
Six hours away from the municipality of Frontino, there is Murrí. A corregimiento immersed in the National Natural Park Las Orquídeas or Caráuta Forest Reserve. Of this Park Frontino has 65%, Urrao 35% and Abriquí 10%.
Its water richness is incalculable. Its waters, crystalline and abundant, sprout from the basins of the Carauta Rivers; Deer, Streets, Chaquenodá ,, Jengamecodá, Penderisco, Murrí and many more
Gold abounds in all its streams. The La Ñame Mine, one of the most famous, has been worked since colonial times. In the bowels of this region there are also some rich deposits of copper. There is also the so-called "sharpening stone" or "tibe stone", which is only available in Brazil and the Ural Mountains.
37 indigenous communities and more than 11,700 Emberá Katios inhabit the paths of Amparradó, Pegadó, Pantanos, Jenaturado, Atausí, Jengamecodá and Curbatá, among others.
All this aquifer, mining and woodland wealth of the beautiful Murri Valley, is shared by the municipalities of Urrao, Vigía del Fuerte, Murindó, Dabeiba and Frontino
Geographically speaking, this is a branch of the Andes mountain range that descends from the Frontino wilderness (4,080 masl) to the plains of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, through steep slopes and more or less steep valleys like those of the Murrí River and the Río Sucio, both tributaries of the Atrato, backbone of the biogeographical Chocó.
This is undoubtedly a magical land but, unfortunately, the prolonged geographical marginality of this region has contributed enormously to its valuation as a wild, insane, uneducated, backward and insecure territory. Having traveled it, I found the opposite and gave me the opportunity to live one of the most wonderful walks of my life
1st Day La Blanquita-Quiparadó. 18km
The crossing began in one of the three valleys that form the extensive Murri Valley: La Blanquita. The other two valleys are Chontaduro and San Mateo.
On a previous trip I had the good fortune to meet Aroldo Benítez, one of the two arrieros from La Blanquita. In that opportunity he told me about the various options of crossings that there are in the region and he recommended the one that goes to Urrao. He also told me that to go to the Municipality of Cacique Toné, there are 3 trails: one for Carauta-Venados, another for Jengamecodá and one more for Vásquez.
I went back, in the company of Luis Alberto, to do some of them. Aroldo would, of course, be our guide and muleteer. The mere fact of performing a job that for years is in danger of extinction and that is only seen in remote parts of the world, makes this man a special being.
His physical strength, combined with the wisdom to handle the mules and the skill to overcome obstacles and dangerous trails; They evoke those men from before who are no longer seen. Without a doubt, with Aroldo, we were in the best hands to undertake this journey.
Very early we went through the extensive valley of La Blanquita, village of Frontino. We take an unfinished road that goes to the Cuevas River. We cross several water flows that require good "beasts" to pass them. We raffled all kinds of land and, further on, we entered a lush jungle area.
Along a path that sometimes narrowed, we went up and down the foothills of the mountain, always accompanied by rivers and streams. We crossed the slope of the Devil, which, as the name suggests, is terrifying. We passed through cliffs that aroused the adrenaline and we continued in search of lower lands.
During the trip we saw several indigenous women dressed in their parumas (skirts) of colors and psychedelic shirts finely embroidered, carrying on their back baskets woven palm full of provisions. Large tobo sheets, like an umbrella, covered their heads to protect themselves from the rain.
We went down to San Mateo an old town founded in 1725, located at the foot of the river that bears his name. There, gold is the engine of the economy. At this point is one of the limits of the Parque de las Orquídeas, which goes along the foothills to Chaquenodá.
After greeting the locals, we continue. We crossed the Qda El Purgatorio and arrived at an indigenous place called Quiparadó. Since it had rained, the rivers were swollen and later we had to pass two of them; Aroldo suggested finishing this first day there.
Benítez contacted the Professor of the village who very kindly allowed us to stay at the School. Prof. Agustín Banaerubi not only let us sleep, but also lent us his stove and helped us prepare the food. In his house, accompanied by his two women, both pregnant, and with 9 children already begotten, this native, a native of Dabeiba, delighted us with their stories. After listening to it, we set out to rest after this first day of 18km
2nd Day Quiparadó-Vásquez. 30km
To have slept in an indigenous community that still does not speak Spanish and maintains ancestral customs. To have shared with him Profe and his family, walked his simple and practical palíficas dwellings, amazed with the simplicity in which they live and marveled with the collage of colors of their suits; It was a difficult experience to repeat.
Quiparadó indigenous community, guarded by the thick jungle and settled at the foot of the river that bears the same name; We left early in view of the long day ahead.
We did it by the base of the Parque de las Orquídeas, a 32,000-hectare park located on the western flank of the western cordillera, a peaceful Colombian region where water and rainfall abound.
The Rivers Chaquenodá, Jengamecodá, Quiparadó Carauta, Río Calles and Río Venados are part of its water wealth. In this park 3,493 species of endemic plants of the place have been reported. In the area there are peasant communities of Paisa origin and indigenous communities: Embera - Katíos and Chaquenodá.
We continue towards the Qda Island and Qda Barro hoping that this last one was not repressed by the heavy rains that had fallen the previous night. We crossed the Qdas Sardina, Sanguijuela and Pavarandó to reach the Jencamecodá River. This was one of the two most jungle routes of the crossing
We arrived at the Jengamecodá farmhouse. Further on we came across the river that gives its name to the village. Here began one of the two odysseys of this day: crossing the river that was still grown.
A tree trunk cut in half makes a raft for the villagers to pass to the other side. In view of the fact that this rudimentary raft lacks technical design, it is difficult to handle so Aroldo did not dare to manipulate it.
As we could not stay there, our muleteer and guide decided to try his luck with his mules specially chosen to cross the rivers of the region. In an impeccable maneuver passed the backpacks, it happened to us and spent the rest of equines.
After this activity, which took more than an hour and a lot of adrenaline; we mount the mules again to continue skirting the Jengacomedá until its mouth in the Penderisco River
At only 15 minutes we find the Penderisco, which at this point of the route is large and flowing towards its mouth in the Chaquenodá River where it changes its name to that of Río Murrí. Appeal that identifies the entire area.
Luckily in this river we found a young man with his raft that helped us to pass to the other side while the beasts did it swimming. Once we crossed the Penderisco we entered again in the second exuberant route of the walk that would take us to Alto Murrí
The jungle appeared again with deep mudholes and swamps in which the mules got stuck several times and we were still in summer.
At one point along the route, we began to see more "civilized" villages in territories occupied by Afro-descendant communities that live in places such as Paracuchichí and Murrí Medio. The change was immediate, the architecture of the houses became different and pastures and crops spread throughout the area.
The story tells that at the beginning of the XVII century, the Chocó Indians native of Quibdó, Lloró and Bebará, fleeing from the pressure of the encomenderos of mines; They ascended the Murri River and settled on its banks. The same was done by several indigenous leaders of Citará, giving rise to the diaspora that years later was recorded in the "maroons" established in the middle and upper basin of the Murrí River.
For these lands, inhabited several centuries ago and with a lot of history, we continue riding in favor of the Penderisco. Several kilometers further on we came across the mouth of the Mandé River. We turn to the right and begin to climb this Rio, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful in the region.
Falling the afternoon we passed through Vásquez Viejo, the original farmhouse that perished because of a flood; and a couple of kilometers away we reached Vásquez Nuevo.
As it was already night Aroldo contacted the inhabitants of the first house we found to ask for an inn, request permission to prepare food and release the mules in the meadow.
Without hesitation Diomedes opened the doors of his house and gave us all the comforts without asking for anything in return. This gesture amazed us and showed us that there are still people and communities in which humanity is above all.
Exhausted, after 30 km on top of the mules, we prepare food and sleep in the spacious Diomedes room.
3rd Day Vásquez-El Puente. 24km
We left Diomedes house. We cross this picturesque town full of colorful houses, built at the foot of the Mandé River and we begin to climb this serene and crystalline flow of water.
For more than two hours we toured the Mandé beaches. At one point we left the river, we took the left and started a steep ascent by a gutter that took us to more temperate climates. I sensed that the time had come to say goodbye to the exuberant jungle to enter into more intervened lands.
At some points of the ascent we stopped to contemplate the beautiful little valley that below forms the Rio Mandé and the chain of jungle mountains that guard it. Magical landscape
Above we begin to see a mixture of jungle with intervened lands and typical houses of Paisa culture. Beyond we were surprised with hundreds of palms similar to those of
Wax that gave a special touch to the landscape.
That which began to change account of the entrance of civilization: more houses, deforestation, roads, paddocks, barbed wire, electricity and an unfinished road in terrible condition. Riding through the mudflats that form in this way requires nerves of steel and mules with vigor.
Although in Vásquez we had been told that on that day we would arrive at La Quiebra or La Clara, we, with a slow pace, reached only to a place known as El Puente. We crossed this construction made on the Nendó River, climbed a little and arrived at a house.
In view of the fall of the afternoon and the heavy rain, we opted to ask for an inn. Once again, the kindness did not wait and without hesitation they welcomed us. There in the heat of the stove and the stories of this family hit by the adversities of life, we prepared to prepare dinner.
I took from the backpack a bag of "Gourmet Pink Lentils" to put in the atomic pot. Since I did not know that this type of lentils are soft and do not need to put them to soak, or put them in the pressure cooker, they are undone. Even so, we ate them. This episode served to laugh the rest of the night and for that reason this chronicle takes the name of "Gourmet Pink Lentils".
4th day El Puente- El Sireno. 18km
With tremendous breakfast we were dispatched from the house of the Bridge where we left a fierce and brave woman of 40 who, with her 5 children, tries to rebuild their lives.
We undertook the 4th and last day of the voyage. We take again the unfinished road that made the journey very technical because of the presence of rock. We ride for a while by a kind of channels filled with water. And then we entered a palisaded path. Undoubtedly, this was the worst section of the whole trip.
Beyond, we draw again with the unfinished road that increasingly brought us closer to civilization. We arrived at a point called La Sierra where the road became much more evident. In this way, covered with slippery sand, we set up the rest of the morning.
Below, on the left, the Penderisco River was our reference point. This is an imposing flow of water that forms an extensive basin in which the valleys of the rivers Pabón, Urrao and Encarnación are located, among others.
In front, the Paisas mountains, were our landscape, while up in the sky, the EPM helicopters transported the light poles that would bring electricity to this secluded corner of Antioquia.
At 2pm we arrived at El Sireno-Urrao after having lived a unique experience of 90km on the backs of mules that for 4 days took us through remote places of our geography.
There we hired two bikes that ended up bringing us to Urrao, a beautiful municipality in Southwest Antioquia; known as Hidden Paradise, the Pearl of Penderisco and the Antioquia Switzerland; where we take bus back to Medellin.