Sunday 3 April 2022

Inírida - An Adventure To Cerros De Mavecure

Search "Inírida" on Google Images and you will mostly see pictures of an otherworldly rock formation rising out of the steamy jungle. These three quartzite hills are called the Cerros de Mavecure. Considered sacred by the Indigenous groups that reside in the region, the Cerros de Mavecure are located around 50 km by boat south of Inírida. Laura and I were keen to spend a day at the Cerros de Mavecure, lest we be the first tourists in history to visit Inírida and not see the hills, and so we organized our visit on February 2 so that it would coincide with Laura's birthday.

Cerros de Mavecure, Guainía, Colombia

We met Mario and Yimer at the docks just before dawn and set out down the Río Inírida. Yimer estimated that the trip would take around two hours. This would mean that we would arrive shortly before 8 AM, giving us a chance to climb one of the hills (and look for birds) before the temperatures soared. But as you will discover, dear reader, our day did not unfold as we had envisioned. 

It started off well enough. We watched for birds along the banks of the river as the sun rose, with the wind whipping through our hair. Laura caught some shut-eye while I remained vigilant, camera in hand, watching for interesting birdlife. 

Muscovy Duck - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

Though the boat clipped along at a good pace, I had some success in this venture. I noticed species such as Bat Falcon, Green Ibis, Amazonian Umbrellabird and more. 

Swallow-tailed Kite - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

The kilometres flew by and we enjoyed the ride as we stared out at the river, flanked by endless green forest. And we were making good time as well. 

At around 7:20 in the morning as we were over 3/4 of the way to the hills, we spotted a pair of Giant River Otters along the shore! Yimer slowed down and we approached them, taking care to keep our distance from the bank since the water levels were low and there were certainly downed trees hidden in the murky water. 

Giant River Otter - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

The otters were curious as we approached and I managed some photos that I was happy with. Though Laura and I had seen this Endangered species before on a few occasions, I think that these were our best ever views. 

Giant River Otter - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

Ker-klunk! The soft whirring of the outboard motor suddenly stopped. Yimer tried to restart it but it did not catch, instead producing a horrible grinding sound. Clearly, the rotors had caught on something under the water's surface. This was not good.

He hauled it out of the water and gave it a once-over, uttering a string of profanities as he realized the prognosis. For our purposes the motor was effectively shot, and of course there was no backup. Our day's itinerary had just changed in a hurry.

Luckily, we had stopped near a small homestead of no more than three houses. We climbed up the bank and met one of the men and informed him of our troubles. He let us know that there was a larger town somewhere upriver and suggested that we paddle the boat there, in hopes of finding someone who could help. While Mario and Yimer conversed with the man, I busied myself by photographing some of the Crested Oropendolas that were nesting beside the houses. 

Crested Oropendola - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

Unfortunately, we had but one paddle to share amongst us, and the boat was no small craft either. Yimer found a long wooden pole along the shoreline to help push the boat along, while Mario took the first shift with the paddle. I could see that he was struggling and so I replaced him after half an hour. For around two hours, Yimer and I maneuvered the boat upriver, making slow progress against the steady current. Those countless hours paddling in Killarney and Algonquin Provincial Parks as a youth were paying off now, that's for sure!

It was hard work but at least we had some friends accompanying us. Early on, we noticed a trio of Amazon River Dolphins that investigated our craft sitting idly in the water.

Amazon River Dolphin - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

These dolphins were quite curious and they stayed with our boat for the entire two and a half hours that we paddled. We joked that we needed to train them to hold onto a rope with their mouths, so that they could be our tugboats. At least they worked as our guides as we progressed up the river.

Amazon River Dolphin - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

We rounded another bend and the town appeared in the distance. Finally! As we pulled into the dock, our three tugboats finally left us, returning in the direction where they first found us. 

Amazon River Dolphin - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

Yimer and Mario headed into town to try to find a solution to our problem. It was now 10 AM and the sun was high in the sky. Laura and I were doubtful that we would be able to make it to the Cerros de Mavecure which were so tantalizingly close (yet so far). While we waited for the guys, we contented ourselves with watching several Black-collared Swallows along the river. 

Black-collared Swallows - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

The guys returned, bearing good news. They had found another boat operator who was willing to tie our boat to his, and he would maneuver us all the remaining distance to the Cerros de Mavecure. 

The three dome-shaped quartzite hills soon appeared on the horizon.

View of Cerros de Mavecure - Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

Though it was nearing midday, Laura and I were just happy that we had made it to the hills after all. It had been an adventure, that's for sure! 

Cerros de Mavecure, Guainía, Colombia

We paid our entrance fee (which included the mandatory accompaniment by a local guide) and prepared to climb one of the three hills. The air temperatures were above 30 degrees and humidity was high. The black rock was baking in the sun so the temperature felt significantly warmer. Laura and I took our time as we climbed, hoping to find some birds or other wildlife along the way. 

Bridled Forest Gecko (Gonatodes humeralis) - Cerros de Mavecure, Guainía, Colombia

It was, admittedly, very quiet which was not a surprise given the time of day. We only noted a few bird species such as some Red-shouldered Tanagers, a Chestnut Woodpecker, and a couple of raptors.  

Unidentified whiptail (Teidae) - Cerros de Mavecure, Guainía, Colombia

The walk up to the top took just over an hour. It was definitely a struggle near the end due to the high temperatures and surprising lack of a breeze. Some of the sections were quite steep, requiring ladders to traverse. 

Climbing Cerros de Mavecure, Guainía, Colombia

The view from the top made all of the discomfort well worth it. For as far as the eye could see there was nothing but forest, savannah, rivers, and the occasional granite hill rising out of the green. 

Cerros de Mavecure, Guainía, Colombia

Cerros de Mavecure, Guainía, Colombia

We descended from the top, arriving back just in time for lunch at the one restaurant that was located in the shadow of the hills. Afterwards, Laura and I enjoyed a well-earned dip in the warm waters of the river, with the hills towering above us. What a view. 

Despite the setback with our boat, Mario and Yimer had been working hard to figure out a way to get us all back to Inírida. They had called a local guide from Inírida to meet us at the hills and tow us back to town. By mid-afternoon, the group of us set off on the long journey back. 

Río Inírida, Guainía, Colombia

The return trip took a lot longer since we could only travel at half-speed as we pushed the incapacitated boat ahead of us. We watched the afternoon turn to evening. Bird sightings included the usuals like Anhingas,  Large-billed Terns and various kingfishers, but also some highlights like Black Skimmers, Yellow-billed Terns, an Olive Oropendola and a handful of Band-tailed Nighthawks that began flying well after the sun had set. 

It was almost completely dark when we finally pulled into town. What a day. It was certainly a memorable way for Laura to spend her birthday!

1 comment:

Geoff Carpentier said...

what an amazing way to spend your day of adventure with the one you love.. Happy Birthday Laura (belated but heartfelt!)