Can Colombia’s ancient stone pathway tell a story from the past?

Can Colombia’s ancient stone pathway tell a story from the past?

We were awakened by the aroma of coffee prepared by the owner of the lodge in the municipality of Guaduas, Colombia. After we drank the morning “tinto” and ate a simple breakfast of corn cakes (arepas) and eggs, it was time to pull on our ‘warrior’ boots that were waiting for us at the door, still with some mud on the soles from yesterday’s hike. Hat, materials, camera, water and “mecato” as we Colombians call snacks. Everything ready for today’s exploration.

We were two biologists in a group of professionals from various disciplines such as history, arts, geography, anthropology and architecture. I had my eyes fixed on the beauty of the fauna and flora with the objective of documenting the current environmental state around the path that Jose Celestino Mutis travelled during the Royal Botanical Expedition of the New Kingdom of Granada between 1783 and 1816. The aim of the expedition was to obtain information for the tourism projects that were being developed to celebrate this great scientific enterprise that was based in the Colombian Andes.

That day we crossed the municipality and arrived at a neighbourhood called Camino Real. This name means the Royal Roads or King’s Roads, built in the 16th century to bring supplies to the rapidly forming towns and cities, and to extract from these territories the precious minerals that would be sent back to Spain. It was the Spanish crown that wove this network of cobbled roads, but many followed the paths built by the indigenous people since pre-Columbian times. The Royal Road continues, fading in some stretches but always reappearing further along, while the surrounding landscape gradually becomes more rural.

With the help of signs and the kindness of the inhabitants, you cross the village of Ceniceros and arrive at the viewpoint of the Piedra Capira, an immense rock whose history is the subject of various myths and legends. This walk of about an hour from the town centre was worthwhile for us as biologists, not only for the photographs we took of some of the plants whose drawings we could later find in the image bank of the Botanical Expedition, but also for that precious moment of silence in which, after sharing our knowledge with the locals who accompanied us, and receiving their knowledge in return, we let the majestic valley of the Magdalena River fill our eyes and leave us forever with the image of blue hills and snow-capped mountains as a backdrop to the natural landscape sculpted by the geological and historical forces of our beautiful country.

This is just one point on the tourist trail known as the Ruta Mutis, which, based on various information surveys and the work of local communities, has been established as an attraction for hikers and those interested in historical destinations. It covers several municipalities in the departments of Cundinamarca and Tolima in Andean Colombian, and which are easily accessible with climatic, topographical and scenic conditions to suit all tastes.