In this guest post, Alex from Depth of Mind talks us through his journey to discovering the natural sight of Cueva del Esplendor in Columbia during his 6-week solo tour of South America.
It’s only when you’re out in nature that you really appreciate how small you are in the colossal circle of life. The huge tree’s looming high into the sky, the buzz of insects frantically going about their daily lives and the far-off cries of unseen animals piercing the atmosphere around you. Of course, it’s possible to feel this in rural locations across the world, but never have I done so more than in the jungles of Colombia...
I’m Alex from Depth of Mind, a blog focusing on the beauty of travelling the world and the associated benefits. It’s only through travelling that I’ve really got to appreciate the planet we live on, whether it be in Ecuador’s rich, diverse Mindo cloud forest or the hot, humid islands in the gulf of Thailand.
In truth, I have no particular favourite. They’re all magical in their own way and it’s for this reason, I implore everybody to see what they can. It has certainly opened my eyes to the rich beauty of our world, even in the garden of my own home, and the associated challenges we face to protect our environment.
As I sit here on a hot, English summers day (without a rain cloud in sight, believe it or not) my mind turns to Jardin, deep in the Colombian region of Antioquia. This quaint, colourful little pueblo, so often overlooked by travellers in favour of the larger, more popular Salento, was one of my favourite destinations throughout my tour of the country.
It was also where I realised I’d truly started doing what I’d visited South America for – immersing myself in nature. Jardin, whilst peaceful and serene, is located amidst the Colombian Andes and is often subjected to violent thunderstorms unleashing torrential rains onto the countryside. Thus a lush, green landscape covers the folded land and has created some truly wonderful natural attractions. Whisper it quietly, one of them is the elusive Cueva del Esplendor.
The journey to Cueva del Esplendor
The cave, lying deep in the rolling hills outside of Jardin, is literally translated to “Cave of Splendour”. After jumping onto a small jeep that took us up the stony, winding tracks into the Andean mountainside, we disembarked halfway and continued on foot up to the small homestead from which we’d join the trail.
Even at this point, the scenery was stunning. Deep green hills rolled away over the horizon, interspersed with jungle and farmland. A haze hung lazily in the air, providing a sheen over the surrounding countryside. It was a promising sign of things to come.
Upon entering the small farm, we were served homemade arepa’s and aguapanela; a beautiful, sweet drink made from hardened sugar cane. For someone with a sweet tooth like me, it was most welcome! Fully refreshed and charged with energy, we made our way down the damp, muddy trail, pressing through the jungle foliage with the sound of rushing water in the valley below.
It felt like an adventure – something out of King Kong – as we dashed across flowing streams and rivers via a combination of stepping stones and guide ropes. As we negotiated one fast-paced crossing, we turned the corner into a huge rock, with the only route being to clamber through the large, naturally created hole bored over thousands of years by wind and water. We did, and there it was… the Wall of Wishes.
The Wall of Wishes is the gateway to Cueva del Esplendor where many have wished for good fortune and health. The tall, lichen-covered cliff face had a constant stream of water dripping and running down it, providing a welcome cool-off in the jungle heat.
The real treat, however, was to come. We walked past the wall and into the dark abyss, opening up a magnificent sight as our eyes adjusted to the light. Amidst a roar and thunder, a huge waterfall was storming through a hole in the cave roof, crafted over millions of years by mother nature. The torrent, which then exited the cave swirling around large rocks and pools, was bright white against the shadowy backdrop.
It was like a shining ray of light out of the heavens. As we took pictures and admired the view, our guide pointed out another vantage point from which we could take a look. For one reason or another, I was the only one who opted to climb up to this alternative viewpoint, but I’m so pleased I did.
For a moment, it felt like I had this entire natural phenomenon to myself; like an explorer from a bygone age discovering a forgotten land. It was a magical experience and, at that very point, I understood why I had chosen to come to South America; it was for the nature. Certain moments stay with you for life and for me, that will be one of them.
So how do you visit Cueva del Esplendor?
Well, the beautiful town of Jardin is the place from which you begin. The pueblo in itself is well worthy of a couple of days of your time. I booked my trip via my hostel, Sergeant Peppers, which is based within five minutes walk of the town centre.
At a price of $55,000 COP (roughly £11 GBP), it was well worth it, as this included snacks, lunch and travel – not to mention entry to the attraction. The operator – called Cueva del Esplendor themselves – were located at the top of town on Carrera 2a which was easy to walk to.
How difficult is the hike? How long does it take?
The hike in itself was relatively easy, as we were dropped off a short walk from the homestead and then took our time to negotiate the muddy trails to the cave.
We had a group of people of all ages and no-one particularly found it difficult. That said, we did see a small group of girls who had tried to hike the walk from Jardin itself to the farm from where they planned to pay the fee to see the cave. Whilst this would of course save money, it would be quite an extensive walk and they looked like they were regretting it!
For us, the entire activity took roughly the morning, meeting at 09:00am and getting back around lunchtime. This gives you plenty of time to explore the rest of Jardin and its numerous attractions.
Looking back, it was a fantastic trip and one I will always remember. It was testament to the sheer power of the waters ferocity that it was able to carve a hole in the rock over thousands of years through which to plunge into the cavern below. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. So whether it’s half way around the world or your local countryside, get out and explore. You never quite know what you might find.
Interested in becoming a featured writer at Earth Sun Wild Air? Have a unique story or guide to share about somewhere naturally beautiful that you’ve discovered on your travels?
Get in touch!