By Claudia Polanco Yermanos
Villavieja, Colombia, Sep 28 (EFE).- The Magdalena River, as Colombia’s largest river was named in 1501 by Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas, today captivates foreign tourists who come to this country seeking a new and different experience.
This waterway 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) long, whose course begins in Paramo de las Papas in southwestern Colombia and flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Bocas de Ceniza mear Barranquilla, until recently was principally navigated by fishermen, and in the days of the Spanish colony the Magdalena River was the only easily traveled route between Bogota and Cartagena on the Caribbean.
History books, in fact, say that from the 17th to the 19th century, riverboats 20 meters (66 feet) long were used that could carry weights of up to 12 tons aboard, between goods and passengers.
For several months there have been numerous arrivals at the town dock of foreigners interested sailing the Magdalena River before reaching their main destination, the Tatacoa Desert, whose port of entry is Villavieja.
Today tourists take canoes before sunrise that carry 10 people so they can try out what it’s like being fisher folk, and return hours later with their catch.
Others prefer to fish between 5 and 9 pm “because something they learn is you can’t fish at just any time of day. You have to do it when the fish are eating,” Rolando Rojas, 42, told EFE.
On the trip, tourists learn the details of successful fishing and also enjoy a landscape in which, though the refreshing river waters are the main attraction, there are other more unexpected pleasures.
“During the tour people are fascinated to see iguanas over 1 1/2 meters long in the trees, as well as turtles, ducks, eagles and some caimans sunning themselves on the beaches,” said tourist guide Juan Pablo Rojas.
Visitors are also surprised to see the river that in Villavieja is some 130 meters wide, is in other parts of Colombia, like Plato in the northern Colombian province of Magdalena, over a kilometer wide.
Another captivating sight is the contrast of the coffee-colored water with the green of the dense forest along the river, the yellow sand, blue sky and the golden-brown skin of the locals, which in all creates the perfect setting for photos taken by the visitors, many of whom see in the beautiful Magdalena the perfect chance to be fisherman for a day.