Camping in the Rio Claro Nature Reserve

My girlfriend, Andrea, had managed to score a long four day weekend away from her job thanks to the (plentiful) Colombian national holidays and a bit of work day swappage.

We absolutely wanted to take advantage of the long weekend by getting out of Medellin and heading out to the countryside.

We opted to head out to the Rio Claro Nature Reserve located about three hours outside of Medellin where we could go camping, explore the great outdoors, and get away from city life for a bit.

1  DSC0828 Camping in the Rio Claro Nature Reserve

Testing out my new ENO Hammocks DoubleNest along the Rio Claro.

I was behind the wheel for our drive out of town, and the more I drive here, the more I drive like a Colombian… They are definitely wild and sometimes unpredictable drivers. Passing semis on blind corners, driving down the middle of the road waiting for your opportunity to pass, and other crazy shenanigans.

For instance, if one lane is closed for construction work and everyone gets backed up waiting for their turn, when they give the go ahead, everyone just pulls directly into the left lane and speeds ahead trying to pass everyone else, they definitely don’t continue ahead in the same line that they were waiting in as we would in the States.

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Looking up at the sun and trees from my hammock.

We managed to arrive unscathed to Rio Claro through the circuitous, windy roads, steady stream of slow moving semi-trucks, and erratic drivers.

There is a lot that I love about Colombia, but the lack of major public outdoor parks and reserves is something that I don’t.

It isn’t easy (possible?) to just find a wild area–beyond the few large national parks–where you can walk off into and camp without worrying about trespassing on other people’s property or perhaps something worse.

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Our campsite right beside the Rio Claro–campfires and barbecues are permitted.

But Rio Claro is a nice little refuge, albeit touristy and developed. There is a gated entry way leading into the canyon. There is a large field right at the beginning for camping and then developed cabins, restaurants, and such further back along the trail.

Camping cost us 35.000 pesos per person for three nights–or about $17 per person, about $6 per night.

3  DSC0836 Camping in the Rio Claro Nature Reserve

Looking over the bank from out campsite to Rio Claro.

We set up camp at an idyllic spot right beside the river and away from the bulk of people that wanted to camp closer to their cars and the parking lot. Although the second night a group of three Colombians decided to pitch their tent about 10 feet from ours, despite the massive open field all around us. Strange.

The river itself was cool and refreshing in the sweltering heat and humidity of the day.

We spent the first afternoon bobbing around in the water and afterward testing out my new and amazing ENO DoubleNest Hammock. That thing made all the difference in the world for car camping… Really. It was my chair while cooking, our nightly lounging area, and respite from the ants.

5  DSC0847 Camping in the Rio Claro Nature Reserve

Definitely enjoyed testing out the new hammock on the trip.

One thing I have struggled with here on previous camping and backpacking trips in Colombia has been the food thing… They just don’t have the same sorts of things that I am used to using when backpacking in the states.

Since we were just car camping it made things a little easier, of course. We settled on scrambled eggs with canned salchicha for breakfast, simple sandwiches from pre-made canned chicken and mayo, and then pasta with sauce and some cabana meat or salchicha for dinner.

All cooked over my little alcohol stove… The eggs were particularly tricky because there is no way to adjust the heat output, it just goes full bore, and you stir the best you can to keep things from sticking.

Rio Claro is a beautiful area for camping, and located near Hacienda Napoles, the former retreat of Pablo Escobar, which we also visited during our stay.

6 20140809 145619 Camping in the Rio Claro Nature Reserve

One of the lovely swimming holes, as well as the entrance to one of the caves.

Later in the weekend we ventured further upstream to investigate the adventure sports activities located near the cabanas.

There are lots of adventure sports activities to partake in, from zip lines, to caving, to rafting, which each only cost 20.000 pesos per person ($10). But we kind of wanted to save our money and do our own thing, so we hiked along the river, packed a lunch, and dipped into the various swimming holes along the lake.

Walking along the river you pass by the cabanas and touristy locales before reaching some of the beautiful natural scenery within the canyon.

There are a number of riverside beaches like Playa de Marmol, and Playa Manantial (which even has sand), as well as some cool caves complete with stalactites just beside the trail.

7 20140809 135528 4260 Camping in the Rio Claro Nature Reserve

Stalactites and caves right alongside the river.

After spending the better of the afternoon at Playa Manantial, we continued deeper into the jungle off of the paved trail, scramble over roots, rocks, and leaf cutter ants in our sandals to venture deeper into the canyon with the towering walls and caves beside us, and the sounds of the jungle insects and river to accompany us.

All in all an awesome little escape from city life and the hustle and bustle which I’ve once again become accustomed to. If you find yourself with the opportunity to visit Rio Claro and/or Hacienda Napoles, I would fully recommend it.

The cost for the two of us for gas, camping, food, beer, Hacienda Napoles, etc. for four days and three nights was approximately 400.000 pesos, or $200 dollars ($100 per person).

Further Reading:

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