The Serranía de Macuira is one of the few mountain ranges in the Alta Guajira semi-desert area.
The Serranía de Macuira, we find the National Natural Park, like a green oasis in the midst of an arid zone with a unique biodiversity ecosystem which, among other things, has earned it the designation as an Area of International Importance for the Conservation of Birds (AICA).
The highest peaks of the Serranía de Macuira constitute an area of abundant fog. This is due to the fact that the north-eastern trade winds, which become charged with humidity as they pass over the Caribbean Sea, crash into the mountains, principally at night. The stunted vegetation caresses and traps the humidity condensed in the mist that floats over the peaks. The north-eastern slope absorbs the greatest humidity from the winds, thereby giving rise to most of the water sources in the form of surface water, springs and rivulets, permanent during the rainy season and intermittent ifi the dry season. This abundance of water gives life to many forms of flora and fauna. The south-western slope is drier.
Most of the water produced in Macuira filters through the sands of the nearby semi-arid area after flowing down from the Serranfa. This ground water is the main source that satisfies the needs of the Wayuu communities, qho extract it from deep wells.
Given the Serrania de Macuira´s peculiar location in a semi-desert area. it has been termd a ´bideographical island´. The Alta Guajira desert acts as a natural barrier keeping the Serrania islated from other similar ecosystems and forest. Despite this, the Park area presents highly varied flora, with 349 species of which 10 are endemic and a wide range of ecosystems, including tropical dry forests, nontane forests and woods and thorny scrubland. The most outstanding of all, however, is the dwarf-tree cloud forest, unique in Colombia, coveringa total surfacearea of some 15 square kilometres. The trees are evergreen and the forest provides the habitat for a great number and variety of mosses and lower plants – such as ferms-, capable of storing water (called th Yaurama Phenomenon by the Wayuu people), an illustration of this forest´s particular ability to capture moisture from the fog.
The diversity of fauna is one of the most significant characteristics of the Serranía de Macuira. Over 140 species of birds have been registered in the aiea Of these, 17 are endemic and more than 10 are migratory. Among the twenty-or-so species of mammals we find the squirrel, the rabbit, the while headed capuchin, the giant anteater, The mouse, the oncilla, the deer and the crab-eating fox. There is also a wide variety of insects, reptiles and amphibians. Indeed, around 15 kinds of snake have been recorded, and recently a new species of frog has been discovered.
The area’s greatest asset is its human population. The Serrania de Macuira is occupied by the Wayuu Indians, who reached the Guajira Peninsula via Guyana hundreds of years ago, having come from the Amazon jungle. According to their cosmovision, the spirit of the wind propels the clouds, the rain from which fertilises the Serrania. This is how they explain the proliferation of forests and waters. n Wayuu cultures integral thinking, the forms of nature and the human life cycle are closely linked. Wayuu cosmogony presents the Serranfa as the mother that gave birth to its people; the Serranfa therefore enjoys sacred status and came to form part of the entire community’s heritage.
Wayuu society is based on a clan structure, and each clan comprises a number of families, each of which has a small number of dwellings, a cemetery and access to a source of water. The Wayuu have never formed large-scale communities; indeed, throughout their history it has never been possible to identify caciques (local chiefs) with power over larger communities. This would explain why as a people they were never conquered.
In the La Macuira area of influence, the Wayuu people eke out a living from subsistence economy, engaging in shepherding, agriculture when the rains permit, craft work, without a significant market, and fishing.
- Established: 1977
- Area: 25,000 hectares
- Altitude: Between 85 and 867 metres above sea level
- Climate: Warm
- Average temperature: 27°C
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
- LOCATION: The Macuira National Natural Park is in the north-west of the La Guajira Peninsula, in the municipality of Uribia in La Guajira Department.
- HOW TO GET THERE: There are two overland access routes: 1.- Entirely in Colombia: From Riohacha take the road to Uribia and, from here, to Bahia Portete, where the 115-km route to Nazareth begins, (the journey takes between 7 and 8 hours in the dry season). We recommend travelling this last stretch in the dry season (in winter it is practically impassable), in a 4×4 vehicle and always accompanied by a Wayuu guide. 2.- Travelling also in Venezuela: Take the Maicao-Paraguachbn highway, cross the frontier and follow the’ road to Castilletes. At this point, leave the road at the Serrania de Cojoro and enter Colombia once again to travel to Siapana and Nazareth. To follow this ijnerary you need a visa.
- WHERE TO EAT: The last place on the way to take in provisions is Uribia, although some Wayuus will sell you their typical food on their ranches.
- WHERE TO STAY- The Park has no accommodation facilities, although the Wayuu people will let you sleep in hammocks on their ranches. In Nazareth there is a National Parks information centre and, next to this, a camp site with room for five or six people.
- WHERE TO SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION: The area borders on the corregimiento’ of Nazareth, where you will find the nearest hospital.
- HOW LONG TO STAY: Four nights and five days should be enough to make a decent visit to the lliiiinln, although this also depends on the itineraries you plan to follow.
- WHEN TO GO: Summer is the best time, since it normally rains between October and December.
WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK
The Park provides scope for research and environmental education activities, although its greatest attraction are the magnificent hiking possibilities, which allow visitors to discover the cultural heritage and a great variety of flora and fauna, such as amphibians, wildfowl, reptlles, oncillas and deer. On these trekking circuits you can take unforgettable photographs and videos as you visit places of great environmental and cultural importance and enjoy such unique and varied experiences as refreshing bathes in crystalline streams or contact with Wayuu cultura on their ranches. For the latter, you must hire an authorized native guide and sign the visitors book. The main circuits and visits are the following:
- The Nazareth-Siapana path: Duration: 7 hours, Main attractions: Crossing the Serrania through different kinds of forest alongside rivulets in rocky areas until you reach the Siapana farmstead, where the natives will offer you accommodation, food and craft work.
- Cerro Itojoro: Duration: Approximately 2 hours, 30 minutes, Main attractions: Views of Nazareth, the sea, the desert and thela Macuira interior. A paved trail leadsto the peak.
- El Médano – Alewouru: Duration of 3 hours and 30 minutes from Nazareth, The vast sandy forest, consisting of sands carried by the winds from the north-east to the interior of the Serranla, Since according to Wayuu myth It is one of the landing places of the creator spirit Marelwa, It Is a sacred site and ceremony centre, One of the landmarks on the way is the Worunka stone, the setting for the ‘toothed vagina’ myth.
- Kalal: Duration: 3 hours from Nazareth, Main attractions: The permanent water source, This is another sacred site for the Wayuus and one of the places Inhabited by the spirit of nature. There is also a ranch where they offer accommodation and food.
- The Batea de Kajasshiwou: Duration: 1 hour by car, 3 by bicycle and 4 on foot from Nazareth, Main attractions: A pleasant path leads to a magnificent spring, ideal for swimming.
- The Mekijano vantage point: Duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes from Nazareth, Main attractions: From the vantage point you appreciate the magnitude of the Park and its environmental diversity. There is a ranch where they offer you food and accommodation.
- El Chorro de Ipakiwo: Duration: About 1 hour, 30 minutes from the Mekijano vantage point, Main attractions: Easy ascent to the mythical Princess Makuira rock face, the source of crystalline waters that form small lakes suitable for swimming.
- Contact the indigenous authorities and inform them of your visiting plans. Do not venture alone into by-paths.
- Obtain a Venezuelan visa for the journey through Venezuela.
- Bear in mind that access to the dwarf cloud forest is restricted
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