Geographic reality of Magical Colombia.

At the beginning of 19th century in the days of the geographer Humboldt’s visit to Colombia crossing the territory from coast to coast was a very big challenge. Magical Colombia has a big variety of altitudes, landscapes, and ecosystems. Pionero can help you discover the marvels of Colombia.

Now by car, bus  or bike the roads are still steep winding, and from the plane you can see the green mountian landscape with winding roads but imagine how it was in the days of Humboldt’s visit to Colombia. Without trains and steamboats the crossing of rainforests and climbing of the Andes meant traveling by horse or mule which was a great expedition.

 The diversity of altitude and rough terrain already was a big challenge for communication and contact between Inca’s that occupied the border area between present day Ecuador and Colombia in the 15th century and more northern based cultural groups such as the Muisca, San Augustin, Tolima, Tairona , & La Tolita Cultures. Later on when the first Spanish Conquerors arrived 1536 with their horses and mules they followed the Magdalena-river  for nine month until they reached the high plain of the Muiscas. On their way encountering Indian settlements and a lot of bush and rock climbing their way to the high plains (altiplanos).

Humboldt visited South America to map, and investigate geography, geology, climate and to lesser extend plant and animal life as well.

The visit of Humboldt to Colombia (then called Nueva Granada) was a total coincidence. On the way to Panama with the plan to cross the central American peninsula to travel further by sea to Guayaquil, the boat was redirected to Colombian Caribbean coast because of a storm. In Cartagena plans changed to crossing Colombia by land firstly to Bogota (Santa fe as Bogota was called then to reach the city of  Pasto and cross the border with Ecuador. He wrote in his Diary that he never thought visiting Santa Fe and crossing the 5000 miles through Santa Fe, Honda, Popayan with 12 mules by land. Nor didn’t he think he had sufficient finances for this (1). The River Magdalena was of great interest to him as mode of transport but also the life line of cities and villages. Alexander von Humboldt drew a map of the River Magdalena , and described the rocks, people, and plants he encountered. Until the mid 19th century before train and steamboat. The main transport were mules or canoes often operated by Colombians of African or mixed African-Indian heritage (zambos) . Later in mid 19th century the first steamboat arrived. In the 1880’s there were some 20-30 steamboats of the type that also cruised the Mississippi in those days. The ships still were in use until deep in the 20th century.

After traveling mountain up to  Bogota (Santa Fe)  Humboldt visited the mythical lake of Guatavita and examined the paramo of  Sumapaz, and the salt mines of Zipaquira amongst others.

The Paramo of Sumapaz was considered sacred for the Muiscas. In Muisca belief the area was seen as associated with the divine forces that created men that should not be entered. In the 16th century the german adventurer Nicolaus Federman launched an expedition to the Paramo of Sumapaz in search of the mythical treasure of El Dorado believed to be hidden there by the Muiscas. Humboldt’s visit to Colombia was the first scientific research in the area. In 1801 Humboldt was the first to describe the Paramo and its Flora . The treasure was never found. But the attraction for Colombia, its nature geography and people stayed.

Colombia is divided in three mountain ranges: The  western mountain range (cordillera occidental), the central mountain range ( cordillera central) , and the  eastern mountain range (cordillera oriental). The three mountain ranges are part of the northern Andes system (Andean Region of Colombia), and divide the country in two deep valleys the valleys of Cauca and Magdalena River.  Apart from this the country has two coasts:  the western pacific and eastern Caribbean coastal plain, and the amazon rain forest in the South where Colombia borders Peru. Pionero can help you follow in the footsteps of Humboldt’s visit to Colombia.

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