Colombia Favorite Tips by richiecdisc Top 5 Page for this destination
Colombia Favorites: 64 reviews and 52 photos
worth carrying the tripod just for this shot
Fondest memory: The fifth day was the last one we would have to truly worry about. If we made it to Laguna de la Plaza, we were home free navigation-wise. The weather held up wonderfully and though we made it to the lake easily enough, walking around it to the camp was much more physically demanding than we had imagined. Again, we passed out at camp too late to really enjoy it but thankfully the next morning we were rewarded with a near mirror-like reflection of the backdrop peaks of this 4000m lake, surely a virtual rough sea normally. The walk out was blissfully easy and we decided to bypass the last lake camp when whipping winds nearly blew us up the exit valley, choosing to get a simple room in the refugio.
The rest of the trip around Colombia was a breeze after that. We both expressed wishes to go home then and there but we persevered to find a plethora of charming colonial towns in the trek's wake. These led to a gorgeous coastal area and a group trek through the mountain jungle to La Ciudad Perdida. The coffee region followed before more colonial towns exposed Colombia for what it was, one of the most varied, vibrant and probably economically viable countries in South America.
The truth was, we were not mentally ready for Colombia when we went. It was mostly done to ensure that the El Cocuy trek did not become another dream unfulfilled. With each passing town, area, we nodded in agreement that it was yet another great spot we were glad we hadn't missed. But somehow we never quite got a grip on just how great Colombia was until we had already returned home. I know in writing the many pages I have on the wonders of this great country that I have finally come to terms with it. Colombia will probably stand as the most successful trip in my travels around five of South America's countries. Everything we set out to do, we did. El Cocuy was a seed that grew and grew, and finally it was a flower that was not necessarily picked but stop we did to smell its wonderful fragrance.
blessed with amazing weather, D packs up
Fondest memory: We debated the sanity of heading out but we had just done an acclimation hike to the first pass and it had gone very well so we figured we'd go to the first lake and see how we felt. We had enough food and fuel to last over a week so the worst case scenario saw us camping there or the next lake for a few days and returning the way we had come. Of course, the hike to the pass was considerably harder with our very full packs. We had never done such a long trek before so our load was heavier than anything we had ever carried. Still, we made it to the lake even if it took longer than we had hoped for. Wild horses even greeted as in the last valley before the lake shore appeared on the horizon.
The next day and pass were even harder but the lake and its camp an even greater reward. We were at a crossroads and we knew that to venture further would mean to complete the circuit rather than returning safely and surely as we had come. We pressed on and though that third day should have been an easy one, it was anything but and on reaching the third camp, we fell into an exhausted pile, barely able to set up camp and make dinner. The fourth day nearly broke us and we cut it short after finding the next pass to be a boulder strewn remain of an avalanche of some sort. It was really too early to stop hiking but we were spent and we played our last wild card by camping there. We now had maybe only one day of extra food and turning back was out of the question. We had been blessed with incredible weather thus far, having rarely seen a cloud let alone any rain. In an area noted for white-outs, fog and wind, we had mostly been worried about running out of sun screen. We just prayed our luck held out.(concluded below in Fondest Memory)
my lovely wife on our 5th Anniversary
Fondest memory: So, this time the trip was planned for the optimal weather, for the perfect season to trek in El Cocuy. The rest of Colombia would have to fall as it may. We trained for weeks in preparation and flew into Bogotá on New Year's Day. After a few days of acclimatizing there, we took a 15-hour bus ride to the small town of El Cocuy to further ready our lungs for the 4000m+ altitude we would find ourselves for the next couple weeks. We after all lived at sea-level and knew this was an especially crucial step for us. After we felt ready, we took the milk truck up to the refugio where we would start the trek, just as we had read about. As with many such things, it felt a bit like a dream. Was it real or was it Memorex, I wasn't really sure.
We set up camp at the refugio and planned another few days of acclimation day hikes. I met a ranger who spoke English and he further gave me confidence that we could in fact do the trek alone especially if we took the time to ready ourselves for the altitude we would be subjecting ourselves to. The very next day he told me that we had to cut our plans short as the park was going to be closed due to fire hazard. It was an unusually and evidently very dry “dry”season that year. Even we had to admit that the weather in the town of El Cocuy had been a lot nicer than we had anticipated. I had told him enthusiastically and passionately about my desire of doing the trek. He knew my story well and that to be denied the chance to do it at this point would not be fair. He knew also that the park would not be closed, just the backcountry where we were headed. He said he'd look the other way but that we had to go the next morning.(continued below in Fondest Memory)
the varied terrain of El Cocuy NP
Fondest memory: In 2007, I started to make inroads towards doing the trek. I was in contact with a couple of guides and a few people I knew if only cursorily through the Internet had been to Colombia even if not in this particular area. So, I made contact with the guy who had written the book that had led me to El Cocuy in the first place. He admitted he had not been there in many years and that his knowledge was surely dated but still warned against doing it alone unless I was very experienced. Of this I wasn't really sure so I looked for a suitable guide but when he pushed me for a commitment and one for a much later date than I really wanted, I backed off. The weather which sounded awful at best would likely be even more so when he wanted me to go and I just figured the time was not right and went off to Ecuador instead.
In 2010, after a lot more trekking experience in both North and South America and with a move to Germany in my immediate future, Colombia was slipping from my fingertips. It didn't really make sense to go there right before the move but I knew that unless I did go then, it would likely never happen. So, the plan was hatched to go to Colombia for two months and though traveling around as much of the vast country as possible was planned, El Cocuy remained the focus for at least me. Oh yes, I had a wife now and though we had been together as a new unmarried couple as far back as 2002, we were now united in even stronger fashion and this trek would be something we would tackle together or not at all. I also happened upon someone online who knew quite a bit about El Cocuy, having trekked there numerous times and though he warned of horrid weather, the need for experience and being prepared, he also said it was something that could in fact be done without a guide if we met those conditions faithfully. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
the sun rises in El Cocuy National Park
Favorite thing: Colombia has something for everyone with one of the most varied terrains of any country and a charming collection of colonial towns and vibrant cities. As much as I love such things, it is generally nature that leaves the biggest impression on me. Even in this regard, Colombia is unfairly endowed with some of the world's most pristine beaches, jungles, and alpine areas. Having grown up near beach areas, I now find myself more drawn to the mountains and in Colombia, the greatest of them all are those in El Cocuy National Park. This is what drew me to Colombia and it is easily my favorite thing from a trip full of great memories.
Fondest memory: Colombia was an odd trip for me. I had a vision of it for many years before finally getting there after never really having any inclination to go there. Funny how things transpire and how a photo, a few choice words can plant a seed in your mind that grows and grows. South America as a continent was like that for me. After doing a fair amount of traveling and never thinking about heading to the “other side” of the Americas I saw a photo of Los Cuernos in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. Though I mistakenly thought they were the namesake “torres” or towers of that very park, the image of them drove me to Patagonia as surely as anything had driven me anywhere. Somehow when researching treks for Peru years later, I happened upon a glossy guide on such things for all of South America and in that guide was a brief description of a walk around the massif known as El Cocuy in Colombia. There were only a few photos and nothing like the ones I had seen of Los Cuernos with regard to quality. The description was not much better at painting a can't miss vista. No, this was more or less a case of a man talking about something that was not easy to attain. El Cocuy was not for the meek, not for the inexperienced, not for just anyone according to my narrator. It was just so for me even if some of the aforementioned characteristics applied to me or not. I wanted to do it badly and so the seed was planted. This was around 2002 and there was little else I could find about the trek. Colombia was opening up but even in a circle of fairly experienced travelers I didn't know anyone that had been. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
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