Exploring Latin America 🇦🇷 🇧🇴 🇨🇱 🇨🇴 🇪🇨 🇲🇽 🇵🇪 🇺🇾

El Cocuy

I was a little crushed as soon as I found out this upcoming weekend was going to be a holiday. Those are the best weekends topend in cities and to plan ahead where the parties are the best. So far I’d missed everyone and ended up in a hike or in the case of Baños and ended up in the worst hostel. So having left the others by staying an extra night in Villavicencio and finding out they were now in Medellin I was a little crushed. But I reminded myself I wasn’t here to party and my gut was telling me I had made the right decision to go to Wl Cocuy, although this wasn’t helped by the hostel owner who was trying to be helpful but convinced me that all the busses and hostels would be sold out. This wasn’t the case but it was close.

In doing my research the day before I found out that I was going to have to find a group to hire a guide but I decided to head there anyways and let fate work it’s way out and this is where sometimes if you set balls in motion and leave life to chance it can pay off. But you do have to set the balls. I read a blog online which recommended a hostel run by Martha, who is also a guide, so I messaged her in the morning. I could see the message hadn’t been delivered so I decided that when it got to 4pm I’d book a room. Until then I tried to chill in the hostel and wanted to check out around 12pm as I know the bus wasn’t until 8pm and I didn’t want to send hours at he bus station.

A Colombian girl who was staying at the hostel was leaving at the same time so we shared a cab to the bus station and took the same bus to Bogata. We chatted most of the way and she helped me when I held up the bus as a ran to the toilet before boarding. We said goodbye at Bogata and I declined her offer of help finding the next bus, I already knew where to go and she had been working all week, and soon I had a ticket, but no accommodation. On booking.com I found one hostel which had an experience double room, at around £20, so I took it and then found an Asian style restaurant close by so headed there to use the WIFI for the next few hours until the bus. I had a delicious juice and rice dish.

As for El Cocuy I have the numbers for two guides Winston and Martha who I talk about in the post and if you want them leave me a message and your email or WhatsApp and I can send them to you. I don’t want to leave them on this post.

I returned to the bus terminal, found my bus and settled in for the night. The bus took a long time to leave Bogata, and made a couple of stops to pick up more passengers and as it did I played on Tinder and generally with my Phone. I received a text from Martha saying that she did have a spare room. I was kind enough to reply and say thanks but I’ve found another place and she got back to me saying that some people in her hostel wanted to go hiking tomorrow and that we could form a group. I said thanks and I’d go to see her in the morning. After that I watched Neflix and went to sleep, as much as one can.

I work up early as usual and after watching be bus crawl around the mountains I went back to my phone and saw I’d been super liked. I normally reject them but I can’t remember if I was still saying yes or if my finger slipped as the bus went around a corner but I said yes and got a response back straight away. Turns out Angela is an early riser and we had a fun conservation which led to her saying that she had a few weeks vacation and I soon had a travel buddy for the next two weeks. All we had to decide was where to go when we met in Bogotá in a few days time. I was starting to think that maybe I had made a good decision. But still there was the problem of getting myself on some hikes.

I arrived at the hostel and couldn’t see anyone around, or find a way to call anyone. So I waited and soon a guy showed up and checked me in. I was exhausted so tried to sleep in my room which was spread over two floors and had five beds before taking a shower and deciding to have breakfast. It was still only around 10am. I asked the hostel owner for assistance but he didn’t really seem to want to help and just told me I’d need to find other people. He made no attempt to help me meet others but luckily I didn’t need his help.

I had a quick breakfast and then went to see Martha, her guests were out on a hike and she knew two Germans staying at another hostel who wanted to join. Problem is that they were not here right now. So I agreed to come back later and went to visit the park office. We didn’t really understand one another but they told me to come back at 3pm and it was suggested they would help me join a group. So with nothing much more to do and being shattered I went back to the hostel and waited.

At 2pm I went back to Martha to meet the French couple. We chatted for a while and decided to take one trail the next day and waited for the Germans. They arrived just as we were giving up hope. We decided to take on the Laguna de La Sierra Trail the following day and then the Germans and I would take on th Ritacuba Trail. The Germans had a guide, Winston, who was giving them information from there hostel. So we went to the park office and paid for the fee for the entrance, then across town to buy the insurance and back to the office to watch the video. Winston showed up and told us we would need to meet at 4am the following day and it was now about 5pm. I ran around town getting supplies and had dinner in my hostel contemplating how this had all falles into place. After reading the blogs I was really worried about how to organise it all and no one here really spoke English and my Spanish was terrible but luckily I had found Spanish speakers and yet again fallen on my feet.

So I awoke sometime after 3am, grabbed my small bag which I left in the hostel and walked to the meeting point for my second to last hike in South America. We drove in darkness for an hour and then my friends came to see me as the sun rose. It felt so good to see those snowy peaks.

You can either stay in the towns or in refugios near the trail heads. The Germans had stayed in one the night before and we would stay in another tonight. Everyone met here and it was busy as this is the most popular trail and also being a bank holiday it was busy.

Laguna de La Sierra Traíl

This is a 21km trail which is not easy and does take sometime. It is open from 6am and you want to get moving as the weather is good in the mornings but quickly gets cloudy after lunch. You’ll see from the pictures. The beginning of the trial is the muddiest I’ve seen outside the UK and it really as walking across water soaked fields with deep puddles. Which made for slow going and we were held back by the poor French girl in our group who really struggled with the altitude.

I’ll never get annoyed by anyone going slow when hiking especially at high altitude but at this stage in the trip this was not high for me and I decided to push ahead especially later in the trek as the clouds came closing in. But for a hike like this i don’t need a guide. It’s just because you have to as per the rules.

I was excited to see some cows in this beautiful valley.

The path wound it’s way up and around several huge valleys as the sun was rising. Due to the amount of people it was slow going but my group was the slowest so each time I overtook them they over took us as we waited for everyone.

I was particularly fond of the plants which are exclusive to this region. I hadn’t seen anything like this in the Andes before.

By this stage I was worried about the clouds closing in and having seen that I could handle myself Winston our guide was happy to let me push ahead. He was amazing actually as he stayed with the slowest member of our group and looked after her. Some guides would just push ahead but Winston was amazing.

I waited by this lake to rest and for the others to catch up. I nearly gave up but then I saw the Germans. I told them I was going to push ahead and I’d meet them at the top. For me it was now a race against time and I curses as I reached false summit after false summit just desperate to see the white mountains.

And then suddenly I was there in my happy place. Up around 4600 metres looking at blue lakes and white mountains.

This wasn’t quite the end of the path. But I ate my lunch and waited for everyone here regardless as the clouds came in.

After everyone arrived a few of us decided to walk to the glacier. You can see how cloudy it is now.

It was really cloudy by the glacier and started to get very cold. We didn’t stay long and headed back meeting Winston along the way. He guided us back on the long journey and it rained heavily a few times until we were low enough for the sun to arise. I was feeling the effects a little especially as I’d walked up so fast but I was happy. We finished around 4pm and it has been a long day.

The French couple were heading back to town and two Israeli guys joined us for the hour journey to our camp that night. We go there just before dark and I was happy to find I have a room to myself. It was freezing and I was glad I want camping as the Israeli guys were. We had an early dinner and I took myself to bed as I was still feeling the altitude effects. The Germán lady had decided not to come on the hike and I was very tempted to join her but this was to be my last hike and I couldn’t bail on it. I was exited and sad.

So I was up sometime after 4am and had breakfast and was walking sometime between 5 and 6am. Today I was exhausted and walked slower than the others. I was also hindered by taking photos but I couldn’t find the energy to move fast although this has the effect of me not getting altitude sickness for the first time which was a huge win!

The sunrise was stunning and soon I was way above the valleys below which themselves were around 4000 metres.

As usual the vegetation changed the higher we climbed and we started to see the snow capped peaks.

Then we really left the vegetation behind and just had the rocks. I was finding it really hard to breath and still had no energy but my pace was really helping me.

And I was lucky it was so beautiful and the weather was good. I was excited and happy to keep pushing forward.

And then as always you reach the top and I was so happy. I can’t describe how beautiful this was and it’s one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen on my journey. We had made really good time and I’d reached the end point of my final hike. All there was to do now was to go back down and the way back was just as stunning.

Obligatory photos at the top.

Glacier closeup.

And after it became stupidly cold we headed back down. It was just as beautiful and I felt at the top off the world.

We made it back to camp in record time. I had read this trek took eight hours, we did it in around 5. After a quick shower Winston drive up back to town. There was a tiny issue getting bus tickets which Winston sorted out. He let me hangout at this hostel after the owners of mine were unwelcoming even though I brought lunch there. He looked after me all afternoon until the night bus was due and even messaged me the next day in Bogata. Honestly if you are going here contact Wilson he’s the best. I have his number so message me if you want it.

I spent the rest of the day killing time to get the bus buying chocolate and eating a local burger before getting the overnight bus to Bogata. But I was now relaxed as I knew I’d be meeting Angela the next day and I’d have a travel buddy again, but this time one who knew the country.


Caño Cristales


Bogota, Palomino, Minca and Cartagena

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