A short while ago, we wrote a post about how we’re lucky enough to have day jobs that sometimes take us hopping around the world. This time around, we were lucky enough to visit quaint little Guatavita – a small town nestled in the Andes, where time stands still as ancient legends meet the slow life.
Getting to Guatavita
Guatavita, a municipality and town in the Guavio Province of the Cudinamarca Department, is about 1 hr 20 min from Bogota where we were staying. The drive from Bogota can seem a lot longer thanks to the unpredictable traffic in the city but it never once took more than an hour and a half, save the one day they were doing road repairs and we had to take a long detour. Since we were making a film in the region, we were lucky enough to visit many times and also explore the surrounding areas. There’s also bus services that take you to the town, but luckily, I didn’t have to use any of them.
The legend of El Dorado
Gautavita comes with a bit of a legend. Lake Guatavita, a short distance away from the town, is reputed to be one of the sacred lakes of the pre-Colombian Muiscas and it’s possibly here that the legend of El Dorado began. Legend has it that the Muiscas celebrated a ritual here where Zipa (named El Dorado by the Spanish) covered himself in gold dust and ventured out into the water. Once done with his ritual, he washed off the gold dust in the lake and the rest of the worshippers then threw trinkets, gold and other valuables into the lake. There has been quite an effort made many times in the past to recover some of these treasures but they yielded just a handful of pieces, some of which was auctioned, while other pieces sit in museums. Today’s modern day treasure hunters though, have to return disappointed. The Lake is closed and any hunt, dive or effort to recover the treasure is now illegal.
Years later, the town of Guatavita was flooded during the construction of the water reservoir nearby and the town that you see today is one that was rebuilt in the mid 60s on higher ground. Guatavita is a quaint white-washed colonial town that’s near spotless. Filled with tiny cafes, restaurants and a smattering of craft and artisanal shops, it’s the perfect quiet getaway from the bustle of Bogota. And it’s hardly surprising that I bumped into a lot of people from Bogota over a weekend who visited this romantic pueblo just for the peace and quiet.
There isn’t much to do in Guativita and that’s exactly what I loved about it. Sure, there’s a Museum and Church, but I didn’t visit either because they were shut when I had the time and were open when I was working on the film. But if you do want to go around exploring the little town on foot, wear comfortable shoes. Most of the paths are rough uneven stone and cobblestone, but there’s no reason to grumble when you have such beautiful views.
The whitewashed buildings reminded me much of Greece, except for the tiled roofs. And the mood is just the same as well. Slow, languid and as if someone pushed the slo-mo button on life. Everything’s at a relaxed pace and the locals really make it a point to jolt us city-folk back to calm. Just watching them take their time to stroll along, waving their ‘buenos tardes’ to every passerby, stopping to make conversation, and just filling their lungs with the beautiful crisp mountain air, made me slow down too.
Green and ups & downs
Lucky for us, we were there just after a few days of rain. But I was told that Guatavita is lush green all year around. And you can actually smell it in the air. There’s tiny parks, play areas, open pedestrian areas and lots of little ups and downs to keep you on your feet all day. And don’t get too excited about the bullring. Thankfully, they don’t stage bullfights and the ring is primarily used for performances and shows.
In the end, don’t expect a bright, loud fiesta when you head to Guatavita. What you can expect is a silence that will put the brakes on the hustle and bustle of our city lives. With crisp mountain air and splendid views for company. And the occasional ‘Buenos tardes’ to go with it.