Sinchi Sacha means “strong forest” in the Kichwa indigenous language. Carlito, our young guide, knows every centimeter of his world, the forest; with his machete opens a way that knows by heart, he follows the “songlines” traced by his ancestors. While we listen to the fascinating lesson on the animals, trees and medicinal plants, we exceed crystalline water torrents, vine forests, mariposarios (humid cliffs where the tropical butterflies flock together) and we reach fabulous cascades dipped in the luxuriant jungle. After walking for hours we lose the orientation: the snazzy colors of the flowers, the infinite shades of green, the cries of the animals, the sound of the rain falling on the leaves, the humidity smell that every minute becomes deeper and wilder… an outbreak of emotions that take shape and dissolve in the palette of a painter, in the symphony of a single artist: the nature in all its strong creativity.
The deep canyons dig incurable wounds along the Andean ridge and mark the border between Colombia and Equador: we reach Ipiales following the Pan-American highway from Popayan through Pasto. We greet therefore Colombia, a large and wonderfully wild country, sad and crazy, happy and “thief”… Colombia, a country that more than every other Andean state, has been underestimating its most precious treasure, the wisdom of its indigenous peoples, asphyxiating their culture in a logic of useless conflict. Colombia, the country that condenses all its seducing fascination in the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien Años de Soledad), written by the Colombian genius, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
“Bienvenidos al Ecuador” (Welcome to Equador), says the enormous cartel: the next challenge and many projects to realize, our dream to discover the Amazon. After traveling for so many months we reach the half of the world: a foot to north and the other one to south, or vice versa, we cut the line of the Equator.
In a day of movements with buses and camionetas we cover the whole Cauca valley, from Armenia (eje cafetero) to Popayan, passing through the lively city of Cali. Our goal is the region of Tierradentro, an archaeological site, almost unknown by tourists for problems of security, but particularly interesting for the presence of underground burial chambers, unique example of Pre-Columbian art (V-VII sec D.c.). The village of San Andres Pisimbalà is a charming place, inhabited by extremely nice people, belonging to the Paèz indigenous community. It remembers to us Chiapas and Guatemala, where we lived unforgettable experiences. To reach this pueblo an entire day of travel on unpaved roads is needed, but just for this reason the region conserves its authentic beauty. Here, the nature is wild and strong, leaving no satisfactions to the campesinos, nevertheless you can breathe an incredible peacefulness. We stay at Doña Marta’s casa familiar: she’s a nice old woman who loves cooking us the best arepas of Colombia.