While planning a little getaway to Gachantivá, a small town about one hour from Villa de Leyva, Boyacá, Colombia, I stumbled upon a travel agency called Turistivá that offered Talleres Vivenciales.
What are Talleres Vivenciales?
A Taller Vivencial is an Experiential Workshop. Think of it as a time you spend learning and sharing an unforgettable experience with locals, learning from them and their experiences. Some workshops include: Milking a Cow, Shearing a Sheep, Learning how to cook a traditional dish, Bird Watching, building sustainable communities, saving the woods, etc.
We love these kinds of workshops and activities as they allow us to truly immerse ourselves in the local culture and learn from experts that love sharing what they are passionate about.
We signed up for a few Talleres Vivenciales via Turistivá, one of which was to visit Cochahuaira, an ecovillage. When we arrived at Cochahuaira, we met Catalina (not me, another Catalina), who gave us a tour and shared all of the magnificent features of this Ecovillage. Catalina’s first language is English; although she told us she hasn’t used it much since she moved to Colombia, she felt a bit rusty. Nonetheless, she shared many things in English so my son and husband could truly grasp some critical information. Her English is fabulous. We were amazed that a place like this existed in the middle of the Colombian mountains. It would be an understatement to say that if I could, I would move to Cochahuaira and become part of their community.
The Muisca tribe was a group of indigenous people that inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense in Colombia. That’s the area that Villa de Leyva and Gachantivá are in. So why do I bring that up? Well, the word Cochahuaira had a special meaning to the Muiscas.
What does Cochahuaira mean?
Cochahuaria meant rainbow for the Muiscas, representing the bridge between heaven and earth.
This Ecovillage is located in a perfect place with an unobstructed view of Lake Iguaque. During our visit, Catalina shared that Lake Iguaque was considered a sacred place for the Muiscas. The legend says that this is where humanity came to be. The goddess Bachué came out of the lake with a boy in her arms. When the boy grew up, they became husband and wife, and their children populated the earth.
What is the Cochahuaira EcoVillage?
In the 90s, a group of friends came up with an idea. The truth is that for them, this was a dream. They wanted to create a self-sufficient community away from the city where they could care for and nurture a piece of land in the world. Each of the friends had different abilities and interests; therefore, they felt they could all do something to make this place a natural sanctuary where they could enjoy their retirement and make the planet better.
Clara Ángel Ospina was one of the people in the inaugural group of friends who started Cochahuaira and was an architect. She started out by designing the first two houses in the Ecovillage. She was inspired by the shape of the fossils found throughout Villa de Leyva; therefore, these two houses are shaped like a snail and made primarily out of soil, dirt, and bamboo. The group wanted their homes to be made with sustainable materials that went with materials they could find in the surrounding environment. Bioconstruction should be sustainable, should have a bioclimate design, the materials can be recycled or reused, and try to use all materials from the area. In addition, bioconstruction should be compatible with life.
As the project progressed, the friends learned how to build with different materials, create food gardens, care for the nature around them and create a self-sufficient village. Although they are all retired, the group of friends and a few people that have joined the Ecovillage are constantly working and developing ways to make Cochahuaira a better place.
Why visit Cochahuaira?
To visit Cochahuaira is to see and believe that dreams can come true. Just ask any of the inhabitants of this unique place, and they will tell you that Cochahuaira means happiness to them. As you walk through the Ecovillage, the group has created informational boards to share with us, visiting the learning process and the things they have accomplished since the inception of Cochahuaira. It’s incredible to walk and see the forest they have restored, the beautiful gardens, the attractive houses they have learned to build using natural materials, and the systems they have created to clean the water and reuse reclaimed water. You will also see great examples of solar power, how to collect rainwater, how to use it, and how to take care of the surrounding environment. They live by the permaculture philosophy of life where they become part of nature, not above nature.
Before visiting Cochahuaira, you can also schedule Reiki sessions, Energetic massages, or simply a hike to admire this incredible place and learn more about their efforts to protect nature while living happily and pursuing any dream you may have.
The cost to visit Cochahuira and hike the beautiful trails was$15.000 COP (Colombian Pesos) per person.
The guided hike through the preserve is about 2.5 hours, and your guide will share with you stories, projects, and information about how the Ecovillage came to be and its impact on the environment.
Their love for nature is evident. While hiking the trails, we found an oak tree. Catalina explained that trees hold a lot of energy, and it’s always nice to hug them to thank them and to receive their energy.
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