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Bogotá + Eldorado + Laguna de Guatavita

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

I had come for the gold. I was looking for El Dorado. I wanted to tell the legend in my third film and so I needed insert images to put on top of my narration. This is where my research led me.

Musée de l'or
Gold Museum


From the top of Cerro Monserate, the valley where Bogota is built looks like an economic monster, with its skyscrapers rising up into the clouds of pollution. It is a view not to be missed to understand the importance of this capital. Inside, in its historic center, Bogota has kept its authenticity from the time of the Spanish conquest. At Bogota's Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Bolivar Square, I remember seeing the most beautiful doors of my life. A colony of pigeons is a delight for tourists and street vendors, selling food so you can ride them on your arms or head, why not!

Also, don't forget the Botero Museum, Colombia's most famous artist. Everyone loves his chubby characters, which bring smiles to young and old alike. You can also observe his typical works all over the world, we saw one of his sculptures in Yerevan, Armenia! If you go through Medellin, his works are exhibited in the open air at Plaza Botero.

For my part, I had come for the gold. I was looking for El Dorado. I wanted to tell the legend in my third film, and so I needed insert images to put on top of my narration. We started by visiting the gold museum. We were not disappointed, especially for the price ($1.17CAD)! Don't miss it, they have a mind-blowing collection.

The conquistadors also came to South America for the gold. According to Marco Polo, there were many. It was in Bogota that the legend began.

The Legend of Eldorado

Eldorado means “The Golden” in Spanish and the legend appeared in the region of Bogotá: a mythical land supposedly overflowing with gold… But how did the conquistadors come to such an idea?

The origins of the legend of Eldorado are buried deep in South America, (literally). Like any self-respecting legend, the myth of Eldorado has some grain of truth. In 1298, Marco Polo, a Venetian merchant, wrote “the book of wonders”. In this book he describes the different islands and cities he visited on his trip to Asia. He describes seeing precious stones and gold in abundance there.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America when he thought he had discovered the Indies described by Marco Polo... several years later, the conquistadors therefore set out in search of the cities of gold described by the latter in India when they are in America! Marco Polo was actually probably describing the famous golden-roofed pagodas, located in Burma.

At the beginning of the 16th century, when Spanish explorers set foot in South America, a legend of an indigenous tribe was told to them: when a new tribal chief came to power, a ceremony at the lake Guatavita was celebrating his reign. The new ruler was covered in gold dust and bathed in the lake. Precious jewels and gold coins were also thrown into the depths, in order to appease a certain god who was there...

The madness of the Eldorado seekers has gone very far. In 1545, apparently they tried to empty Lake Guatavita to find the city they believed to be buried there. The level of the lake being at its lowest, they found hundreds of gold coins on the edge of the shore, but of course, no trace of these marvelous cities of gold.

Laguna Guatavita
Laguna Guatavita

Laguna Guatavita

I was then really curious to go see this lagoon, located at 3000 meters above sea level. I explain to my traveling companions how important it is for me to film this lake, as insert images for the film. We are heading towards Zipaquira. From there, you still have to drive at least 1 hour to get to the town near the lagoon. Nearly an hour and a half later, we are finally in the small town of Sesquilé, where we are told that it is possible to go to the Lagoon. The sign says it well, it's that way, in 4 km... I point out that it's still a long walk, but the guys insist on walking. And there is a factor that we forgot to consider: altitude sickness. Although it's nothing compared to Peru or Bolivia, I still had difficulty breathing that day, and the filming equipment, although relatively light, weighed twice on my shoulders. See effective remedies for altitude sickness.

La route pour se rendre à la Lagune de Guatavita
The road to go to Laguna de Guatavita

Returned to the entrance of the site, we are told that it is not possible to go to the lagoon alone, we must absolutely be accompanied by a guide. In the past, mayhem would have been made on the way, and this is to avoid it. We pay the entrance to the reserve ($6) and reluctantly follow the tour group and the guide. We do, however, learn some things about the vegetation... deadly plants that the natives used against their enemies... we find it comical because the guide keeps repeating ''here you could really appreciate...'' as a key phrase ... Actually, we couldn't wait for her to stop talking to us about the vegetation because all we were thinking about was getting to the lake. We had been concentrating our efforts on that for more than half a day, after all.

Le magnifique paysage lors du tour organisé
The magnificent landscape during the organized tour

I was happy to be in front of the lagoon, finally, and to take the plans I needed. I tried to concentrate on the energies that lurked there, I tried to imagine these natives performing their ritual in the lake... but the gang of tourists spoiled it a bit.

Still, it was a memorable day. It was perhaps that day that Michaël and Cameron understood that making a travel film sometimes takes a lot of filming time, for a few minutes of visuals in the end!

Mon Eldorado, que je trouvai au Musée de l'Or de Bogota!
Bogota Gold Museum


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