By: German Morales Z. Professor and Director of the UAO School of Tourism.
Photos: The team of Juan Manuel Quintero Ospina School of Tourism, Hotel Calima, La Rochela and ASOPTUR.
The Cauca Valley has in its geography a pre-Columbian history which is located in the heart of the department in the center of its territory between the municipalities of Vijes, Yotoco, Calima and Restrepo. An area historically recognized as the Kalima region or territory, which is the result of the blending of ecosystem potentials in the foothills of the western mountain range into an ecotone of diversity that preserves the best of the dry forest in flat area of the geographic valley of the Cauca River and the best of the Valle del Cauca mountains, which in this combination have created the perfect conditions for the fulfillment of life, which, after a wonderful explosion, have given this region the blessing of being an ecosystem and a cultural force.
Winds blowing from the Pacific Ocean pass through Bravo River charged with moisture and nutrients, they bring breezes and mists that like a natural spell called Kalima (a name given to the fog) name this land and basin blessed by nature that runs through this tropical rain forest to merge with the San Juan River in the biogeographical Choco.
This blessing of conditions made it possible for our ancestors from Valle del Cauca Kalima culture which existed in the geographic valley of the Cauca River between 1600 BC and 200 AD of linguistic connection with the Caribbean in cultural connection with the Panches and Muzos, will settle in these lands full of life, water, species of fauna, flora and unique and outstanding landscapes that gave this ancestral power the opportunity to progress, in three societies like Elama, Yotoko and Sonso who laid the foundations of a strong and veraquera Valle del Cauca, which turned Calima into a pre-Hispanic reference of its time for its development, through pottery, goldsmithing, and above all for his harmonious relationship with nature and his adoration and admiration for the exotic animals that inhabited this Valle del Cauca and its western Cordillera mountains.
Precise, observant, and in sync with the local nature, the Kalim progress these lands through perfect cities built on terraces to accommodate large populations who were able to live in peace and thrive on their ideals and customs of pure nature.
This Kalima social gold ended with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors who followed the Kalims and drove them to the point of extermination, because they took away their precious metal of great value in those days in colonizing and destroying Spain, which had our America as its closet of salvation from the decaying European society that needs our youth and diverse courage to save their race, society and economy, because it is our mega-diversity that gave Europe another chance.
These lands, once occupied by the Calimas and not often visited by the Spanish due to the low gold deposits, are once again filled with biodiversity and great opportunity. Suddenly, and in the middle of the forest, where the Calimes once were, the road opens to meet the Paisa Antioqueño and the Caldense muleteer, who meets the paradise Valle del Caucano, which they call Transitit was the year 1913 and Don Anselmo Rendón and Nicanor Grisales were investigating what were the lands of Don Julio Fernández Medina in a city with such biodiversity that exotic animals were their daily bread, especially snakes, which is why they changed it to this named place Culebrerawhich later received the name of Restrepo in tribute to President Carlos E. Restrepo and the hero Jose Felix Restrepo.
Restrepo is the pearl of Calima, nestled at the foot of Valle del Cauca, western mountain range, from where, with its own light, it was able to shine to be a benchmark for the municipalities in the center of Valle del Cauca. Restrepo keeps the culture of Calima alive, of which it feels more than proud as a society, and is therefore the only municipality in Colombia that has decided to pay tribute to its prehispanic ancestors calling its central park the Parque de la Cultura Calima and at the same time is an open-air museum of parts of pre-Columbian replicas of what were our Ilama, Yotocos and Sonsos. Here in Restrepo there are even several folk dance festivals and another of symphonic string ensembles that pay tribute to Calima culture, clearly showing that Restrepo is the cradle of Calima culture. And there is even a route of traditions and pictograms that connects the rural areas of Restrepo and Yotoco in the iconic Valle del Dorado, an area of splendor of the Calima culture.
A great tribute to our ancestors, with which the collective memory of the first Valle del Cauca will not disappear and will be passed down from generation to generation. as this ancestral heritage that he should never die because the courage, iron and hard work we have in Valle del Cauca comes from this pre-Hispanic Calima spirit.
Today, Restrepo dreams of being a world-class tourist destination and little by little it is taking the necessary steps to achieve it, in fact it is one of the few municipalities in Valle del Cauca that decided to do things right from the beginning, the beginning. For this, Restrepo has a leader like the engineer María Esneda García, who carries the municipality not only in her heart, but also in her head with the concept of a sustainable territory, and for this reason she took on the task together with the municipal CIDEA to consolidate the brand For sustainable recovery, even if the administrations on duty didn’t understand what it was? Or the immense value of this leader to the future of her Restrepo.
From this point of view and with the company of ASOPTUR, the Tourism Association of Restrepo Valle del Cauca, which today leads the new generation of entrepreneurs in the municipality, led by Ana María, or with the tireless support of María Eugenia, Mónica, Shirley, Freidi, Beatriz, Valentina, Andres, Adriana, Francia, Carlos, Gina, Armando, Orfilia and all those leaders who believed that a sustainable Restrepo was possible, risked to make things good for tourism in Restrepo, not with campaigns or media programs that give a lot of visibility and put end of fate. No sir, they have given themselves the task of working from the basis of Total Destination Management and for this reason pillars such as those of tourism planning, as Restrepo has its tourism development plan or bets on destination marketing, strengthening human talent, competitiveness and bets on its connectivity. All this framed in a destination full of routes and attractions that every tourist should appreciate and experience.
Restrepo decided to pay tribute to the two great opportunities or potentials that the municipality has, such as the nature and the culture of Calima, and thus, from its great comparative advantage, decided to invite the world to come to Restrepo and live the perfect experience.
Restrepo is a nature loaded with metaphors for the degradation of life itself, which finds its own and autochthonous manifestation in the sub-xerophytic enclave of the Rio Grande, a dry desert forest ecosystem unique in Colombia, home to endemic species of fauna and flora that can only be found in Restrepo Valle del Cauca.
But there, in the middle of this desert and enclave, the idea of a Tatacoa New Desert in Valle del Cauca but with the comfort of Restrepo, an area that captures you among its canals, sinkholes and contemporary art manifestations sculpted by water and wind, which as works of art make you feel like you are on another planet in this reddish landscape , if perhaps on the Red Planet like Mars and that is why some already decide to visit Mars-Restrepo, in this endemic place that is only possible in Restrepo Valle del Cauca. Here the hostess is the Mejía León family, who from one of the best vacation spots in the valley, La Rochela, serve you in the best way. Let the different experiences live…
A trip to Mars can also open the door for you to reach the sweet land of Restrepo in San Salvador, where the local community offers you a pleasant experience while appreciating how the cane melao is transformed into Panela Vallecaucana or typical sweets that tourists can prepare and enjoy. From this sweet route and while appreciating the landscape and on the way to the MTB, follow the Restrepo MTB adventure route between the planted forest areas, you can reach the Dagua Protective Forest Reserve in the Madroñal area, where Rincón is Restrepo Ecological: black door.
Here, under the guidance of Doña Orfi and Armando, you can appreciate the landscape of Lake Calima, yes, because Restrepo also has a large part of Lake Calima on its territory, and here in Puerto Negra, the ecological trails, the birdwatching route and attention of the host community makes you feel at home, not forgetting that its three-phase Sankocho is becoming more common every day among lovers of adventure, nature and good local cuisine.
The Black Gate and the edge of Lake Kalima takes us to another area that Restrepo protects and cares for as its best kept secret Bravo River, a place of unprecedented mega-diversity and where the El Paraíso Falls Adventure and Birdwatching Route stand out as the natural jewel they are today. Here it is common to see visitors enjoying the waterfalls of fresh, clear and crystal water, as well as those bird watchers who know that the Rio Bravo is unique among the natural ones.
In Restrepo there is a fascinating route in the Quaca Valley which it is full of colors and flavors of the tropics that in a territory of agricultural production like Finca la Cabaña there is the path of exotic and tropical fruits between pineapple, macadamia, blueberries and of course the queen of tropical fruits, the Colombian fruit par excellence, her majesty Pitahaya, which in this place reached the largest production field in Latin America, which is exported to different places in the world, where they saturate themselves with the sweetness of this wonderful fruit as if from the paradise of paradise. Prepare your palate and senses to enjoy this Route of colors and flavors with the attention of the best hosts.
Likewise, Restrepo is a an agricultural and livestock closet of great value in this region or the territory of Calima and proof of this is its Mercavida village market and the local market square, where there is always fresh multi-colored produce from the field available for those who want to fall a little more in love with the countryside and with this variety of products that are grown across these lands and which you can find in this square, which is full of rural knowledge and tastes.
Restrepo is a quiet, friendly town with people who make you feel like family, its mountains full of crops and protected areas make you feel the essence of the rural Valle del Cauca. In this small piece of Kalima territory you can feel the magic of our ancestors, the power of the colonizing muleteers is felt and in this combination of provinciality and modernity you feel the comfort of a city that makes you feel like a restrepeño.
Little by little, high quality accommodation and heritage architectural value such as Hotel Calima appear in the municipality and little by little the local gastronomy takes on an international flavor with the fusion of Creole cuisine with the flavors of Rustico or the typical delicacies of France.and they become a culinary a delight for the visitor from the local flavors.
Likewise by the leadership of these visionaries who lead today ASOPTUR This competitive tourist destination is becoming possible and little by little those of us who have had the good fortune to know this place can without a doubt say that we sing its praises from Restrepo…
Dare to discover the destination of nature and culture Calima in Valle del Cauca…