Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sitting on Top of the World

Tonight I realize I am telling you about a 400 page book by reading to you pages 17, 237 and 336. That's how inadequate I feel in describing my daily adventure. Nonetheless I post to you anyway and hope that you may get a flavor of the style and the plot.

I snapped the above three pictures day before yesterday when I visited the paramo at Otun Quimbaya Reserve in the Central Cordelleras. The paramo is a relatively flat length of terrain sitting along the top of this Andes chain at 12, 600 feet. Even though this spot is located at 3 degrees above the Equator, it stands above the sweltering heat and jungle and is perpetually icy cold, foggy, rainy and has even moments of snow showers.

Not surprisingly it has its own strange flora and fauna, an amazing ecosystem that can be found no place in the world except in Colombia and a small part of Ecuador. On this desolate landscape, if you are lucky, you can spot a weird-looking Paramo white-tailed deer, incredibly furry rabbits, bumblebees that can withstand bitter cold, the spectacled bear, and highly endangered mountain tapirs, a smaller and furry relative of the unusual animal with a funny nose I posted about several weeks ago.

The ground is wet and soggy and has beeen described by some as a living sponge. The top photo is not a bush but is taken at my feet. It is a bright green carpet consisting of thousands of individual plants interspersed like sequins of tinier colorful plants. Every inch exudes life including a variety of daisies, a kind of Indian paint brush, and the strange looking column-like plant Espelitia, from which burst vibrant yellow sunflowers.

When I leave Colombia on Friday, I think I will miss the paramo the most. I may have other opportunities to be in tropical jungles, but not as lush as those here. I may see quaint villages and other indigenous people, but not like here. I may be in other bustling and chaotic third world cities and hear the songs, ideas, and voices of a different culture, but not those as complicated as here. All those things being said, there is only one paramo and it is a hearth of life. I loved being part of this harsh, but also gentle landscape and to see it growing magically out of the frozen depth of time. I am humbled and in awe. It saddens me to say adios, but I have learned so much and hope to remember that I was once sitting on top of the world.


  1. What a fantastic post! The very best ever! I can feel/hear the joy you have experienced in this land so different from the US and a sense of loss at leaving! What an incredible experience you have had! Thank you for sharing it!


  2. Magnificent! Your words telling how you feel about what you've experienced, the photos and the world they conjure up. I especially enjoy the scenic center photo and the cold, eerie last one. I can feel the mist.

  3. Okay, I have to make it unanimous! This is probably your best post ever...absolutely magical in the way it communicates your feelings. All of them--the joy of discovery, the wonder at the diversity of it all and the sadness of leaving. And I love the sensory quality of it, especially the phrase "a hearth of life." Somehow that phrase evokes the hot spring early in your adventure--also a source of life. Full circle.

  4. Simply wonderful! You engaged all the senses and made me wish I wish I was there too. I love the word paramo. See you soon in Oregon, not a bad place either.