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the Degree Confluence Project
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Colombia : Antioquia

2.6 km (1.6 miles) SE of Capachero, Antioquia, Colombia
Approx. altitude: 1923 m (6308 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 6°S 104°E

Accuracy: 82 m (269 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: North #3: South #4: East #5: West #6: GPS picture #7: Esteban, Maria Eugenia and Juan Sebastián #8: Esteban, Juan Sebastián y Felipe #9: View from the top of the mountain #10: Felipe guiding Maria Eugenia, who is riding the mule

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  6°N 76°W  

#1: General view of the confluence

(visited by Esteban Vélez Sáenz, Juan Sebastián Vélez and Maria Eugenia Hurtado)

English

04-Jul-2004 -- Nuestra aventura rumbo al punto 6 N° 76°W comienza en Medellín a las 6:30 de una fría y lluviosa mañana. Alistamos nuestros equipos de una manera muy simple, sin calcular los grandes riesgos que encontraríamos en tan difícil y bella exploración. Salimos de Medellín rumbo a Salgar por carretera pavimentada en buen estado aunque muy lisa por el fuerte aguacero del amanecer. Al llegar al alto de la Tolva (a 1918 msnm), comenzamos un fuerte descenso hasta Bolombolo, un corregimiento a orillas del río Cauca a 549 msnm. Diez kilómetros antes de llegar nuestro vehículo pinchó la llanta trasera derecha lo que ocasionó una demora de cuarenta minutos aproximadamente entre el cambio, parchada, etc. Seguimos la ruta por la carretera de Bolombolo hacia el río San Juan hasta llegar a la desembocadura del río Barroso donde comienza una carretera estrecha de peligrosos abismos, sin pavimento, que lentamente nos conduce al municipio de Salgar, donde se encuentra nuestro punto de confluencia. Preguntamos a algunos campesinos por el sitio de destino (un paraje llamado Capachero) y la mayoría lo desconoce, llegamos a una tienda de vereda y compramos alimentos enlatados, pan y algunas bebidas que resultarían insuficientes para el desafío que nos esperaba.

Comenzamos a subir por un estrecho cañón bordeando una quebrada. A las 11:30 ya había despejado la mañana pero estaba muy húmedo el ambiente, así llegamos a un sitio donde acaba la carretera y nos encontramos con una casa campesina con instalaciones de beneficio de café y es el sitio donde dejamos el vehículo. Allí el GPS que nos marca 1700 metros hasta la confluencia. La casa está a 1450 msnm, allí un niño de doce años llamado Felipe se ofrece a señalarnos el camino montaña arriba en medio de los cultivos de café; el ascenso es muy difícil por la topografía de la montaña y la gran inclinación del camino; vamos bien orientados ya que el GPS nos va mostrando una menor distancia hasta el sitio buscado, después de caminar dos horas, llegamos a una mata de guadua (bambusa guadua) a 1798 msnm y que sería de gran utilidad como punto de referencia durante el regreso.

De aquí hacia arriba rumbo al monte de altos árboles, bejucos, malezas y todo tipo de insectos picadores, allá el GPS nos marca menos de 500 metros después de 3 horas de ascenso. Allí se improvisa un almuerzo y ya la falta de líquido comienza a hacer estragos. A las 14:30 continuamos caminando dentro del monte rumbo al punto buscado, por momentos se pierde la señal satelital, pero el deseo de llegar nos estimula a seguir a pesar de lo maltratados que nos encontramos y que ya habíamos agotado la existencia de agua. Por fin llegamos a la cima de la montaña a 2100 msnm comenzamos a descender hacia el otro lado de la montaña en medio de una gran hojarasca húmeda y muy resbalosa que ocasiona permanentes caídas y hace muy lenta la marcha; aunque sabemos que nos vamos acercando poco a poco y metro a metro, hasta encontrarnos a 200 metros de la confluencia a las 15:00. Luego de un descanso de cinco minutos continuamos descendiendo con dificultad pero llenos de optimismo para ubicar el deseado punto, siempre guiados por Juan Sebastián quien cargaba el GPS.

Entramos al área de menos de 100 metros del destino, sentimos una inmensa alegría y con júbilo nos felicitamos y avanzamos lentamente hasta llegar al punto en que la altura de los árboles no permite que llegue la señal satelital y ante esta dificultad insalvable procedimos a tomar las fotografías correspondientes siendo las 15:30, con la brújula tomamos la orientación para las fotos hacia los cuatro puntos cardinales y procedemos a planear el regreso. El punto está ubicado a 1970 msnm.

Por el cansancio y la falta de agua tomamos la decisión de continuar descendiendo cañada abajo en un terreno muy inclinado, pensando que ahorraríamos tiempo, pero qué error cometimos pues después de bajar 400 metros llegamos a un sitio que no nos permitía seguir, pues la alta maleza y los peñascos resbaladizos lo impedían, además de que careciamos del equipo adecuado. Son ya las 16:30 y en medio del desespero, comenzamos de nuevo a ascender prácticamente arrodillados y agarrándonos de cualquier bejuco o raíz, para tratar de buscar la antigua trocha. A las 17:15 encontramos la trocha pero mi esposa Maria Eugenia ha sufrido una fuerte luxación y gran dolor en la rodilla izquierda al rodar durante el ascenso. Sabíamos que por la hora y la distancia la noche nos cogería en la montaña y tomamos la decisión de mantener la calma sin desesperarnos y avanzar lo que más que pudiéramos rumbo al guadual, pues el GPS ya tenia señal. El dolor en la pierna de Maria Eugenia va en aumento y la marcha se va haciendo mas lenta, quedan unos 20 minutos de luminosidad antes de entrar en penumbra y tomamos la decisión de separarnos para ir a buscar ayuda y conseguir siquiera una mula o un caballo para poder bajar a mi esposa. Juan Sebastián seguiría con el niño campesino llevando el GPS y un radio (Motorola Talkabout), yo me quedo con el otro radio, un machete y una pequeña linterna, además de dos chaquetas para el frío. Cada cinco minutos nos comunicamos hasta saber que han encontrado el camino y así, en la oscuridad de la noche logran llegar a las 19:45 a la casa campesina. Allí logran conseguir bebidas hidratantes, dos bestias de silla, linternas y analgésicos para el dolor; nos comunican que comenzarían a subir nuevamente a nuestro rescate a las 20:30. El ascenso es rápido por la comodidad de las bestias que son duchas en conocer el camino. En la mata de guadua se amarran los equinos y se inicia la búsqueda a través de los radios, las linternas y los gritos, en medio de la extensión de helechos, zarzas y malezas etc. Gran emoción nos produce encontrarnos en medio de la estrellada noche que para fortuna nuestra no amenazaba lluvias. Luego de beber agua en grandes cantidades, iniciamos la búsqueda de los mansos equinos cosa que se logra a las 21:30. Una sensación de alivio y bienestar nos embarga al saber que a lomo de estos nobles animales iniciamos el descenso con paso seguro, rumbo a la casa campesina; el dolor disminuye a causa de los analgésicos traídos por nuestro hijo. Por fin, a las 22:15 llegamos a nuestra salvación de manos de este humilde hogar que nos ofrece comida, bebida, amistad y seguridad en medio de la gran sensación de triunfo que sentimos con orgullo por haber logrado llegar a la latitud 6N, longitud 76W después de más de doce horas de titánico esfuerzo. Luego de descansar media hora reiniciamos el regreso a Medellín para llegar a las 00:30 a nuestro hogar, pensando durante todo el recorrido como planear la visita a otro punto de confluencia .


English



Getting to the 6°N 76°W confluence was a reckless adventure because of our lack of planning, lack of knowledge and lack of common sense. Now, as I recall it, it seems exciting, almost glorious, but true is that it could have ended really bad.

First, the characters. Esteban Vélez and Maria Eugenia Hurtado, husband and wife, both in their fifties. And me, Juan Sebastián, the son, in my mid-twenties. None of us is and athlete or something that might resemble it, none of us have experience outdoors, not to mention having ever been lost in the jungle.

Second, the equipment. Everybody was wearing jeans and running shoes, we have a cheap etrex GPS, a compass, a wristwatch, a flashlight, a digital camera, a machete, a couple of Talkabout radios, and no maps simply because in our country there are no maps of rural zones. Our provisions were two tangerines, two small breads, a can of sardines (!) and four plastic bags with juice, each of only 200 ml. Stupidly we carried no water with us and we’ll suffer the consequences.

The confluence is located only at 70 km of Medellín, our city, but it was a 3,5 hours drive, because the roads on the Andes are full of curves and because we had a flat tire. We came close to our destiny, a spot called “Capachero” at 11:00, right in the middle of the Colombian coffee region. The landscape was like a poster: high mountains, incredible green vegetation, rivers flowing almost in free fall each mile. Our GPS showed that we were only 1.3 kilometers away from the site we stopped our vehicle, a house located at 1450 masl. Who was going to imagine that it would take us four hour to reach the confluence and more than ten to come back to the security of our car?

It was all due to the mountain’s height. We had to climb to 2100 masl (a 650 meter ascent!) and then go down again to 1970, where the confluence was located. That was not the problem, however. The mountain was not covered with friendly coffee crops, it was so high that it was all covered with a dense forest. Since we had no idea where we were going, we decided to contract a guide at the house where we’ve parked the car, a 12 year old boy called Felipe and his ugly but loyal dog, Tony. But after we left behind the last coffee plants, he was as lost as we were. Our only guide was then the GPS. Our speed was only 3 meters per minute (!) because of the slope and the incredible dense vegetation. There was no paths to follow and we were making ours using the machete. Every plant had a different kind of prickle, and after two hours, ours arms were bleeding. At 14:00 we decided to have lunch. The half of a tangerine, the half of a bread and a bag of juice for everyone. That was all the liquid we were carrying, and at that point we should have considered a return. But not, we still were full of ambition and decided to reach the top of the mountain and there we would consider another options.

Being at the top, and the GPS showing only 300 meters to the confluence, we choose to continue. The descent was not so hard, but we were very thirsty and tired. Finally, at 15:30, we were within the 100 m range when we lost the GPS signal due the high trees. So, we decided to take the pictures as soon as we can find a point with good reception inside the 100 m diameter. We were exhausted, but really happy. Then, it would come the worst part.

We were so weary that we didn’t want to climb the mountain again. We started to go down expecting to reach the bottom, find a road and getting to our car. But after we descended for 400 meters, the cliché attacked and we arrived to a cliff. It was impossible to go on unless we jump to our death. No option but climbing the whole way to the top. And then we got lost, the GPS stopped receiving the satellite signal again, and we had no choice but speculation. The compass was useless without a map and we had no idea of where we were. Suffering a lot because my mother slipped and got an ankle twisted, we tried to orient in the woodland, but we couldn’t find any path or water for guidance. My mother started to despair since it was too obvious that we’ll have to pass the night in the forest if we couldn’t find our way out in the next couple of hours. Trying to “keep the calm”, I started to yell at her and all of us ended fighting. We were very dehydrated, and no traces of water could be found. The tropical forest exuberance is just a myth: there is no water, there are not fruits nor animal. Only thorns and mosquitoes. We decided not to talk and walk instead. Very slowly, we reached the top.

From the top, we could find our way. I was very stupid since I didn’t mark any waypoint during the ascent. I have only marked a point close to a “guadual”, a bambusa guadua plant. We were 800 meters from the point and the sunset was only 20 minutes away. We started to walk to the guadual, but my mother simply couldn’t walk more. So we decided to split the group: My father and my mother will remain in the mountain with a radio, a flashlight and the can of sardines. Felipe and I will go down looking for help and water (we were really despaired for something to drink). The nigh fell over us, and Felipe had already recognized the way in the dark. I stumbled several times because there were no light: the sky was clear but there were no moon. Felipe guide us through the coffee plants (el cafetal) and after almost one hour of leaving my parents in the woods, we finally reached Felipe’s house. I honestly can tell that I experienced one of the finest moment in my life when I could drink a cold Coca-Cola. I haven’t drunk anything since eight hours ago and I had lost enormous amounts of water due to the intense exercise. So finding a cold soda in the middle of the country was like a dream, a very happy dream come true.

But not for my parents. Nevertheless they kept the flashlight, they got lost after reaching the guadual, when they were supposed to get to a point where Felipe an I could pick them up with some horses. The radios saved the night since we always kept the communication and agreed to wait where they were standing. Felipe’s father borrowed us two mules and a lamp. I got water and an analgesic for my parents and then started to climb the mountain again, but this time riding the mules. They knew the way until we arrived to the edge of the forest. There we tie the animal to a tree since they can continue walking into a bushes so thick. After several minutes again walking with a machete to clear the way we find my parents and gave them the liquids. They were relieved and cheerful. It was 21:30. I had to come down from the mountain by walking, since the two mules were occupied by my parents. After almost an hour, we reached the house and our car. We were offered dinner by Felipe’s family, a humble but very kind people. We gave them all the money we had with us and left after taking a couple of photos. Our home was three hours away, we got back to Medellín at 00:30, really exhausted, really happy and really grateful for being ok in regardless of of our poor planning abilities for going outdoors.


 All pictures
#1: General view of the confluence
#2: North
#3: South
#4: East
#5: West
#6: GPS picture
#7: Esteban, Maria Eugenia and Juan Sebastián
#8: Esteban, Juan Sebastián y Felipe
#9: View from the top of the mountain
#10: Felipe guiding Maria Eugenia, who is riding the mule
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)