A Breath of Cold Air

After sweltering away on the Caribbean coast, and experiencing some warm weather even in San Gil, Villa de Leyva and Sogamoso have felt nice and fresh. I suppose the Seattle in us just can’t handle the heat too well.

Sogamoso isn’t a very pretty city, but it’s next to the El Cocuy national park and the Páramo de Ocetá, a type of moorland that is only found in South America. We haven’t done much nature stuff since we arrived in Colombia, so Craig and I decided to bust out our hiking boots (which are always packed at the very bottom of our backpacks–such a pain) and get into nature.

But first! A trip to Lago Tota, the largest and highest lake in Colombia. Mostly surrounded by small villages and green onion farms, it also boasts a white sand beach and a MONSTER! I’m sorry to report that we weren’t able to glimpse this awesome creature, but the lake was very pretty.

Canoodling couple on Playa Blanca, Lago Tota.

We then headed towards Iza to partake in some thermal baths–our fifth hot springs of the trip. Piscina Erika wasn’t the best so far, but it wasn’t bad, as long as you don’t mind smelling like rotten egg for awhile afterwards. We closed our day with some delicious pudding from one of several vendors in the town square. When I asked what they were called, the woman answered, “Deliciosos postres,” which just translates into “Delicious desserts”. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but they were very yummy.

Puddings! Craig and I got two flavors–blackberry and passionfruit. They were indeed delicious; just watch out for the bees.

The next day, we set out on a hike with our very own guide–a first for us. Miguel was also the owner of our hostel and I’d guess in his fifties. We panted up to about 3,800 m (12,400 ft), but this time at least, we didn’t feel the effects of the altitude much. Not sure what the difference was between this and other, not so great times we’ve had with altitude, but we were thankful. Despite being twice our age, Miguel set a pretty blistering pace with almost no breaks. When we finally reached the viewpoint, everything was completely fogged in and there wasn’t much to see. Miguel looked at his watch and exclaimed, “Wow, we’re early!” Craig and I wished we hadn’t woken up at 5:45am when he said that.

What we saw.

What everybody else sees. Cue tragic violin music.

The fog cleared for a nanosecond–enough to glimpse Lago Negro way down below, but the weather decided to take a turn for the worse then and we hiked back to Monguí in almost a steady drizzle. Craig and I have definitely gotten our fill of Seattle-like weather now, and I’ve also become aware that my boots are no longer waterproof. (Hiking through rain in a marshy wetland is a good way to test this if you’re unsure, by the way.) Still, the Páramo was very beautiful when the fog lifted enough for us to see it. It’s filled with Frailejón, a funny-looking species of plant that only grows 1 cm per year, according to Miguel. Thus, some of the frailejón we saw would have been 300+ years old.

The frailejón is only found in páramos, which are only found in northern South America.

Brief spurt of good weather. Really beautiful–we’d heard it was one of the most beautiful places in Colombia. I think we would have agreed with this more if we hadn’t been soaked with rain.

Miguel finally having a rest. That guy was a machine.

Be careful what you wish for–lots of cold and rain.

We’ve been on several hikes this trip where guides have seemed completely unnecessary (Glacier, Colca, Salkantay), but the Páramo is not very well-marked. It would also be a desolate place to get lost in. It’s doable without a guide, but I would say only for very experienced trekkers and maybe if you have a GPS. The trail gets lost several times on the way, and if you go the wrong way, rivers have to be forded, etc. Not much fun. It’s not the most difficult hike we’ve done, but it was definitely the wettest. I’m glad for our cozy hostel (Cazihita), since the rain is still pouring down outside.

Our next stop is Bogotá, where the forecast is for lots of rain as well. After six soggy days there, we’ll fly to Buenos Aires–yahoo! It looks like it’ll be nice, spring weather when we get there. We’re looking forward to Bogotá nonetheless… but I sure wish I had my rain boots here!

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