When I thought of the Orinoco Basin, I imagined steamy vegetation and chocolate-colored rivers with exotic animals lurking near the shore. My last post showed such a landscape, but that type of scene comprises only a fraction of the land. Such a jungle ecosystem is only found as narrow strips along the waterways which bisect a mindbogglingly huge savannah, the llano. This great plain stretches 350 miles East to the Orinoco River which defines the border with Venezuela and about 175 miles north and south from the ocean to the Amazon Basin. The few people who live out there raise cattle and have to travel sometimes 3 days by boat or by jeep over incredibly rough, rocky, muddy indistinct trails just to reach some semblance of civilization. Likewise, the men have to drive their lifestock these remarkable distances.
The hardy stock of residents of this desolate area are called llaneros and recall the American cowboy of 150 years ago. To get a taste of the life on the llano, our host asked my guide and me if we would like to ride out a bit to visit one of his outposts. I was not sure I was up to being four hours out and back on the saddle, but yup pardner, that's me on that white nag heading out into the wild blue yonder. I found the grassland really muddy and loaded with countless deer and families of capybaras. There were odd turtles, large iguanas and countless species of birds wherever there were ponds. In addition, numerous scrubby hillocks interspersed the landscape where cougars and jaguars sleep during the day and come out at night to hunt. Then there were the herds of cattle. This section of ranch had over 6000 head of white mooers.
After an exhausting ride in searing heat, and nursing a sore butt and bruises on my legs, I arrived at the above hacienda and was treated to a great meal and to watch horses lassoed and others being ridden for the first time.
This day showed me yet another a side of Colombia I hadn't expected. Never have I been in a country so diverse in culture, climate, geography. It is so wild and and untamed like that proud horse above.
Btw, the toothy animal in the last post was a male white spectacled caiman, a relative of the crocodile. It is identifiable by a high pointed forehead and looks like it is wearing glasses. As far as its sex is concerned, I didn't roll him over to look but was told by a reliable source! The second picture is of a family of capybaras swimming and frolicking in a pond.