I noticed that itinerary of what they called “the road less taken” or “off the beaten path” are à la mode lately. I personally don’t have any preference in visiting either common places or the off the beaten path ones as long as it intrigues my travel interest (things that intrigue my interest: natural water bodies (beaches for sure), ancient buildings, donuts, awesome natural wonders, and places that are famous for their street food).
Therefore, when I develop a travel itinerary, I categorize interesting places to visit into two categories: the Déjà vu, and the Jamais vu. Déjà vu is French for “already seen”, and jamais vu means never seen. (Pay attention folks, in this paragraph alone I have taught you 2 French famous phrases. Now you can go out and impress your friends with your rich vocabularies of foreign language).
Déjà vu in my itinerary means the most common touristic spots and lots of people has déjà vu it (I am inappropriately bilingual, see how I recklessly mix two languages in a sentence? My writing is the macabre of literature), while jamais vu stands for those “off the beaten path” places. One of our favorite jamais vu itinerary in Colombia is when we visited Rio Claro
Rio Claro canyon is a national rainforest reserve in Antioquia, Colombia. It is located about three to four hours east from Medellin. The entrance itself located along the highway that runs to Bogota. This conservation is privately owned and has been running since 1970.
Rio Claro literally means Clear River. It refers to the river with pristine crystal clear water that runs across the conservation. Rio Claro is a one-stop outdoor activities that combines tourism and nature. It has awesome activities that let's you to explore the nature in a cool way; rafting, bird watching, cave exploring (speleology), zip lining, and many more.
How to get there
A few travel blogs said that Rio Claro is a pain to get to by bus. Luckily it wasn’t the case for us. We went to Terminal del Norte in Medellin and chose the Transoriente bus. The ticket was only about 8 USD per person and you must tell to the ticket agent at the terminal that you want to be dropped off at Rio Claro. He or she will make a note on your ticket about your destination because Rio Claro is not an official bus stop/destination. You may want to remind the bus driver too tho, you know, just in case he forgets.
The bus trip took the typical zigzagging route along the Medellin-Bogota highway. It took us about 4 hours to get to Rio Claro with one time stop at a local restaurant on the side of the road. The going back to Medellin was a bit more adventurous. We had to flag down a bus by the road while hoping the bus was heading to Medellin and had 2 seats for both of us.
As you can see from the map, the distance from the gate to the Centro de Informacion or the welcome desk is quite a walk, and you have to get here first before you start your activities or get into your room if you are staying for the night. The path is made from gravel and it can become muddy after the rain. There is no shuttle so I suggest you to take a backpack with you because dragging a suitcase along would be a pain, even if wheeled.
The room in Rio Claro was one of the most expensive accommodation we had during our trip in Colombia because they charge it per person (the price includes 3x meals per day). There are different types of rooms to choose from, depending on your budget. We took the La Refugio for 80 USD/person/night. The fanciest option they have with amazing panoramic view. Although we call our trips as backpacking trips, backpack term only serves as our means to carry our logistic. We don’t really do what real backpackers do like sleeping in dorms or shared room. Mainly because we are socially awkward (and I fart while asleep).
The room has one side fully open to the nature, overlooking the Playa Marmol and the dense rainforest. This is where I realized what they meant by Rio Claro canyon. On the other side of the river is actually a rocky mountain covered by thick rain forest. From our room, it looked like a wall made out of trees. It was amazing!
Playa Marmol means Marble Beach. It’s actually a giant slab of natural marble on the bank of the river where you sit, sun bathing, or simply hangout on after taking a dip in the river. Honestly, I think that a marble platform is a bit dangerous, I mean it’s slippery, you can easily fall and knock your head on it and fall unconscious. And get carried away by the stream that leads to who-knows-where. Then again, this is just my anxiety talking.
Templo del Tiempo (Temple of Time)
Templo del Tiempo or the Temple of Time is actually an open cave with with huge stalactites, pretty Indiana Jones-y.
Playa de Manantial
Playa Manantial is another beach part with a sandy bottom. It has a rope tied from one side of the river to the other side. You can hang on your dear life on this rope and try to cross the river to reach the waterfall that burst out of the canyon wall. The river is usually crystal clear which gives it its name, but unfortunately it was raining the day before we arrived and made the river water murky and cloudy. Anyhow, it didn’t stop me from taking a dip. The water was cold and refreshing.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do much activities because Nico was sick, very very sick like he was about to die, seriously. He caught the infamous travelers’ diarrhea. We suspected that he caught it a day before we arrived in Rio Claro, so it was not the food from the Rio Claro’s restaurant’s fault. That dang bacterias sent from hell know well how to make nervous travelers miserable.