El Dorado, unwakened

Mark Strand Hiking Nature Poetry LiteratureThe silver blue horizontal slice between the mountains in the picture above is Colombia’s Guatavita Lake, better known as El Dorado. The legend that its bottom is heavy with treasure arose when the conquering Spaniards learned that the then-native Chibchas sunk gold there as an offering to the gods.

The actual gold found at Guatavita never met expectations. Today, a small part can be found at Bogotá’s Gold Museum and a much larger part is likely housed in museums that display the former wealth of the Spanish Crown.

After the seven-hour hike I took this week I can say that, regardless of the lack of gold, time spent near Guatavita is invaluable. To me, the poem above, written by former U.S. poet laureate Mark Strand, accurately describes the view. Or, rather, captures the shortfalls of language, of description, at the feet of the truly magnificent.

Read La Calera 2013



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