Ashish just wandered back from the Tatacoa Desert last Friday.
Where is that?
That, my friends, is a little known (even by most Colombians) desert that occupies just 150 square miles sandwiched between Colombia’s mountain ranges, the Central and the Oriental Cordilleras. This is a warren of red – rock formations, dry canyons, and cacti – candelabra and prickly pear. The land is dotted with prehistoric fossils of turtles, armadillos and giant sloths. The soft light of morning brings the voices of canaries, parrots and parakeets as falcons and buzzards wander the sky.
Just five years ago, the region was inaccessible. It was under the control of the F.A.R.C. and no one traveled there. About a year ago, Ashish was there with an educational group meeting with minsters about sustainable tourism. Those same ministers were working on a final offer for a peace treaty with F.A.R.C, a controversial moment. The news of the treaty signing broke that night, and Ashish and the group of travel advisors became a part of history.
While opinions on the treaty may differ depending on who you speak to in Colombia, the indisputable fact is that it is allowing us to expand our exploration of this once sleeping giant.
“I love Colombia, and it feels like home. There is still so much to discover here,” said Ashish. “We have opened so many doors since the peace treaty was signed, and yet only about a quarter of the country has been open to travelers. That is why we are continuing to open doors such as exploring places like Tatacoa. It is a stunning setting that’s been hidden away all these years.”
Tatacoa Desert is not a true desert, but rather a dry tropical forest that millennia ago was a lush forest full of vegetation and animals. Today, there is little water runoff, but the flora and fauna have adapted to the low humidity and high temperatures. Wildlife includes turtles, snakes, spiders, scorpions as well as eagles, alligators and wildcats. The cacti grow to between 13 and 16 feet high.
One of the delightful surprises here is La Tatacoa Observatory, one of the most important observatories on the continent. The sky here is strikingly clear and free from air or light pollution. It seems to explode with stars and meteor showers at night. This desert is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. Due to its location near the equator, the show offers the unusual opportunity to view both northern and southern skies at the same time.
A resident professor of astronomy presents relaxed stargazing show, using several telescopes aimed at the stars and moon and a laser beam flashlight as travelers lay back and relax on a large green carpet rolled out over the desert floor taking in the night sky.
This little traveled Tatacoa Desert can be incorporated into an amazing Colombia journey.
Look for new adventures to lesser known Colombia coming as soon as we can get Ashish to settle down.