Guainía: Land of Many Frontiers (Part 2)

In Guanía, the land of many waters and frontiers, we also went South. We navigated the course of the Inirida river towards the south in search of the Cerros de Mavecure, a sacred place in the middle of the Orinoquia jungle savannas. The Cerros are a group of massive tepui rocks formed during the Earth precambrian period, approximately 1.7 billion years ago. They are part of what is known as the Guiana Shield, one of the three cratons that constitute the nucleus of the South American continent.

After approximately 2 hours of journey in a fast motor boat on the Inirida river the silhouette of the three Cerros de Mavecure appeared far away on towards the west. The imposing shapes of Pajarito, Mono and Mavecure emerged in the background of the thick canopy of trees as if they were just one single mountain. With sizes of 712, 480 and 170 meters, respectively, the three hills disrupt the landscape of the jungle with their soft and rounded peaks as if they were drawings, abstractions of the idea of a mountain.

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When the boat moved closer to them, their huge volumes, at both sides of the river, unveiled a curvy passage with rapid waters. We disembarked before entering the rapids at the port of El Remanso, a small village and reservoir inhabited by the Puinave indigenous community. At the bottom of the Cerro Pajarito, Arcangel Agapito, a member of the Puinave community welcomed us and hosted us for two days. From El Remanso one can start several hikes to the Cerros de Mavecure, and also take rapid boats to continue going south through the Inirida river or exploring the waterspouts and canals that cross the forest with their serpentine shapes.

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Exploring the Cerros by walking was a wonderful experience that transported us to another frontier of biodiversity and ancient geological formations. We hiked the Cerro Mavecure the first day and were surprised by the liveliness and expressiveness of Angelitas bees, white orchids, and plants we never have seen before.

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Cerro Mavecure

Walking to the top of Mavecure is physically intense. It requires that one crosses acute slippery slopes and rocky pathways and adapt fast to the hot weather of the environment. Physical and mental strength are key for reaching the top. After approximately 60 minutes of hiking we reached the edge of the Cerro. Still surrounded by the loud buzz of Angelita bees (a species that does not sting), and tired by the physical effort, the immense view of the forest gives you an spiritual reward. Looking at the vast sea of trees one can eventually start to notice other tepui rock hills coming out far away, forming an archipelago of mountains in the horizon as if they were volcanic islands in the middle of the ocean.

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From the top of Mavecure one can also appreciate the volumes of Cerro Mono and Cerro Pajarito, which impressive shapes appear right in front, as gigantic bald fruits at the other side of the river.

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Cerro Mono
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Cerro Pajarito

Likewise, hiking Cerro Diablo gave us the opportunity to experience closely the biodiverse ecosystem that has grows on the tepuye mountains and their surroundings. We started this expedition early in the morning the second day of our stay in El Remanso.

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Cerro Diablo

Cerro Diablo hides behind the Cerro Mono and Pajarito, and is not visible from the river. This mountain is accessible through an indigenous trail that crosses the small village and enters a particular kind of Guiana shield forest. The Acai (maca) palms, yuca brava plantations, and other trees that the the Puinave keep in their community are part of a vegetation that changes dramatically as one approaches closer to the foot of the tepui mountains.

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The soil actually becomes darker, slippery, and wet, as one enters the Cerro Diablo. White orchids and other bushes grow in an ecosystem irrigated by threads of water that descend from some place on the top of the hill.

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According to some of the indigenous myths, the threads of water are tears of a princess that was trapped at the top of the Cerro Pajarito, the tallest of the Cerros de Mavecure. However, these tears also appear in the other Cerros forming a lively water network that allows plants to grow and that is constantly running. Depending of the slope of the mountain, the tears create different drawings. While in the tall Pajarito and Mono mountains the tears run in vertical lines, in Cerro Diablo, the threads of water flow in more horizontal manner, having multiple turns, and forming even tiny ponds at some places. When descending from the top of the mountain we actually took a refreshing bath in one of the ponds we encountered, and recharged our energies after more than 3 hours of hiking.

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In the land of many waters, the ecosystem that thrives on the Cerros and their surroundings is in itself also a frontier. A borderland with the forest savannas and rivers. The way that water flows on the dark and rocky surface of the tepui mountains, tracing networks of life, and connecting the roots of plants and bushes, resembles itself the territory of Guanía crossed by rivers, waterspouts, and canals. In this micro-land of the Cerros, the Angelita bee, a sting-less honey bee, is perhaps the most notorious inhabitant, with its perpetual buzzing and air dancing. The bee pollinates the white orchids that grow everywhere on the Cerros de Mavecure.

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