I was really excited to go to the Farallones de Satatausa, about 90 minutes bus ride north of Bogotá, ever since I saw it in another blog. There are some beautiful photos of the 3000 metre peak and it’s one place that you can see the Bogotá savannah and valleys on the other side at the same time.
There wasn’t much information in English and I did my usual of not reading the blog information correctly, as I’m so used to just winging things now and having a smart phone, which led to us having an interesting adventure. At one point we climbed down a path in the cliffs in the photo below without any climbing gear and one wrong move and we would have been flying. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve been truest scared, but there are lots of posts on Instagram of people being up there so don’t worry it’s perfectly fine. First I will cover my story and then at the bottom I’ll describe how to take the correct route and have a less scary time than Angela and I did, although for an exhilarating climb feel free to follow in our footsteps.
We set off to Terminal Norte early and had luck with a bus arriving pretty quickly. Unfortunately for us the bus route ended in the middle of a calle in north Bogota about 5 locks from Portal Norte, I’m blaming Angela for that one as I questioned the destination of the bus, but it was a better hold up than we have had int he past so I took it and soon we were on the Transmilenio and had arrived at the North Terminal. We needed to get a bus to Sutatausa which is a town on the way to Ubate. We were charged $12500 pesos as I had only told Angela the final bus destination, which was our second mistake of the day. This in turn meant that the bus driver didn’t know we wanted to get off at Satatuasa and with only 3 minutes to get the bus I ran to get a necessary Coca-Cola to accompany my Carulla empanadas, which in hindsight were over expensive and not great. I was a little anxious as the instructions had told us to tell the bus driver so he could drop us at the appropriate location. Angela was suggested that we could just tell the driver when we arrived. I took a look at the drop-off location on my map and where the path let up and long the ridge f the cliffs and put the pin in a completly different place to that suggested by my information. I only found this out several kilometres into the hike. But we will come to that a little later.
If you get a direct bus to Satatuasa then the journey is around 90 minutes, the bus we flagged back to Bogota seemed to want to stop at every village and hamlet on the way so be careful, and when we reached the town I surprised our driver by asking to be dropped off. Instead of heading straight up to the hike we decided to check out the town and I wanted to see if there was some tourist information to ask questions. Also I had read in another source that the hike started next tot he church.
We arrived around 8:30am and the town was deserted. Later we found out that most the people that live in the town work in mines or flowers, split by sex, and they were all at work at this time. Also as a note there are a few shops along the main road but not so much further into town, at least not open. We didn’t have so much water with us since I had lost a bottle but I was fairly confident there was a shop closer to the cliffs, as I had read, but obviously not in the location I had thought. As you can see from the photos below the tourist information was closed, so we took a left and headed the 2km to where I have put the pin in the map. That was where we made another mistake as the route to the cliffs and the first point we had missed is accessed by taking a right from the church and following the signs.
I was excited to be hiking again and we made good progress along the road with Angela leading, although I was sad to see what had been a completly blue sky disappear into the clouds. But then again this was Bogota so not unexpected. The road was a dirt track and a few cars and motorbikes passed us as usual.
We soon reached the pin I had placed in the map and expected the shop to be located. We had a choice of turning right, which would have been a very long way around but would have still taken us to the correct place or turning left to go up the north of the cliffs and then walk the 2-3 kilometres along the ridge before descending on the south side. I think all in all I had guessed it would be around a 15 kilometre hike, which is not without the realm of reason, especially as it was still before 10am. Maps.me was behaving a little strangely but trails were marked on the map so I didn’t see any reason not to proceed, so we followed the road to the left and headed down into the valley below.
Again in good spirits and making good time we continued walking. We ran into a couple of old locals and for some reason I pushed Angela to ask for directions. They told us that there was a path up to the cliffs but this wasn’t the normal way for people to come. I may well have realised y mistake by now. The path that maps.me had shown me went across private land and apparently the landowner didn’t let people pass. But the man pointed to a house in the distance and said that the owner did let people cross his land but to be careful as there was a viscous dog and we were given directions up to the top of the cliffs.
So we walked more and started going up again and found the house. I was a little concerned as we seemed to have to walk into the property and there had been a lot of barky dogs, who were not friendly as the other dogs had been. One the property we spotted a man welding who was not friendly at all and did nothing when the vicious dog came to attack us. Luckily Angela didn’t panic and we walked away without incident. Disappointed we retraced our steps, thinking we would need to go all the way back to the intersection. I definitely knew we were in the wrong place by this point, but we had been told there was a path up and up we wanted to go. After a few hundred metres we stopped at a place where Angel had picked up a pigs leg before and right to the left was a path not on the map. It seemed to lead in the direction that we wanted to go so we decided to nervously follow rather than turn back.
The trail ran for a few hundred meters around the property we had just been forced off and I was a little afraid that the dog would come back but luckily he didn’t. It narrowed passing around a few more properties before ending in what appeared to be the back garden of a farm house. We passed through and found a road which I was temped to follow but sitting the other side of the house were two lovely people who informed us the path us was right next to us, and so began our steep climb.
It was tough work and plain sailing until the track crossed a barbwire fence. The track clearly went forward and with nowhere else to go we climbed through and continued upwards, soon coming to another fence but this time presented with a safe way to climb over. The path widened and had obviously been washed away but we continued upwards.
We passe behind a water pumping station that supplied water to the valley, which the first man had told us about but made it sound as if it were 5 minutes away, not an hour. Soon after the path opened up into a meadow where we took a short break and saw a mother and her young children pass. We continued up and the path kept splitting into several directions. We were not following a path on the map anymore so had to rely on gut and passers by. Another woman informed us we were still going in the correct direction and then we came out on the top of a crest and could see these beautiful mountains.
We took some more directions form the lovely people in this farm house who seemed to think that we were a little strange for coming this way but told us we were on the right path and then we started to climb up again.
The image below gives you some idea of where we were headed and it became much steeper after this point. IT didn’t feel too bad going up and there was nothing too challenging, most paths at the top of mountains are a little dangerious and you just have to go slowly and take your time.
We actually soon joined the top of the path that I had wanted to follow in the first place and I felt pretty happy that we were on the right track.
Then fairly soon we arrived at the top and there was a beautiful view and we stopped to rest and eat lunch. And then it started raining, the wind struck up and it became really cold. We ate quickly, donned waterproofs and decided to follow the ridge to the path that led down. As I said it was 2-3 kilometres away.
was a little tricky to find the path on the map but initially we were able to follow something that was fairly overgrown and could get back onto the line using the GPS even if there was nothing that really obvious to follow. It was then at this point where we found that the suggested path led us up a clear rock face, so we stopped and enjoyed the view and picked our way around. There were some steep climbs but nothing too too crazy, just it would have been a long drop if we fell.
This is the view to the other-side of the mountain, it didn’t look at steep and there was no obvious path down but you can see there are houses there and keep this in mind as we will come back to it later.
We continued picking our way across the ridge and found some more beautiful views.
I’m not sure if these photos do it justice but this is where we had come from, basically there were lots of trenches/gullys we had to climb down into and then out of again. Some were a lot deeper than others and mostly it was fine but it was long and hard work. We had also ran out of water by this stage. I was really thirsty, tired and dehydrated. And the problem is when you get to that stage is that you start to get tired, and when you get tired you make mistakes.
So we pushed on, going up and down and up and down and then we got to this view, which caused us to have a moment of reflection as we realised we would at the very least need to get to the end you can see in the middle before we stared to go down. I looked at the map as I thought we had been making good progress and realised I had zoomed in a lot. So much so that we had only made it about a third of the distance along the ridge. there were two more peaks on the map which were around the same distance away that we had just come and then the path continued in the same direction for the same distance yet again before turning back to town. We didn’t know when the path would start to go down but it was now about 2pm and at our current speed it would have taken us around 2 more hours to get to the peaks and then who knows the rest. It gets dark in Colombia by around 6pm so I started to panicked a little.
We looked at walking down the less steep side of the mountain, didn’t have an idea if that was even possible but even if it was, and we could see a road it was a long long way to get us back to the road we would take to Bogota. I noticed a route on the map leading down but the path stopped a third of the way. We decided to head to the path and make a decision as to what to do.
So we arrived at the path, it was overgrown, covered in leaves and was a series of vertical drops, that led down over the side of the cliff. Look at the photo below, you can see where it went down. So I didn’t want to go. My instincts were to go back the way we had came but I don’t know if that would have been the correct choice. Sadly it was made for me as Angela decided to take a look and started heading down. I nearly cried, and you can tell by my hiking that I’ve been up a fair few mountains now. The last time I felt this scared was in Bolivia when I hiked Pico Austria and we ended up walking on snow. It was so slippy that if I had slipped there was a long way for me to keep falling. That time I was with a guide. This time it was just us.
So really I had no choice but to follow. AS I said it was a tiny path with a series of vertical drops. Luckily the rocks seemed stable, but honestly, one wrong move and we would have been flying down. There were leads to slide on but my biggest fear was that the path ended on the map. Did that mean it would end halfway down the cliff and we would have to go back up again? So the fist few giant steps down were difficult but they we were surrounded on three sides by mountain, but then we cam to a steep part where the path took a right angle and flattened out. Angela went painfully slowly and when I got there I understood. There weren’t really any handholds, imagine a bumpy slide and at the other end would have been your last drop. I got to the right angle, on my arse, and then proceeded to twist my body and continue down. The path was no wider than my body so I was sitting on the edge of the cliff.
After that we were surrounded by trees again but it was still steep and there was still the opportunity to go flying, but I at least had the guts to stand up for a while. Until the path left the trees and we had about 30 centimetres between the cliff face and the edge. I sat on my ass and manoeuvred along slowly grabbing on to all the plants I could for support, which is not generally advised as plants can come lose and the support is then gone. I can’t really describe how scary this part was but it happened twice and each time I inched along. After the second we entered back into the trees and found switchbacks and the path became a lot less steep.
My throat was so dry I was in pain and Angela’s legs were shaking so much she could barely stand, and soon we left the steep forest and the path levelled out into meadow. I really would not recommend taking this path and I was in shock that I was still alive. I’m guessing not many people take the route without climbing equipment.
Typically the clouds broke up at this point and the sun came out to play and there was still a long way to go down.
Looking at the photos above and below I can’t really believe that we had just come down from there.
We kept walking down until we came to some deserted farms, except for some rowdy dogs who wanted to give chase and walked through them until we reached the road. It was at this point I realised that we still had a 5 km walk back to town. I was so tired and dehydrated and desperate to find a shop but there was noting, still the views were great.
Here are the views from where we reached the farms.
We ended up walking along the main road, which I guessed was the one that we would have walked along if we had taken the right by the church, but the problem was none of the roads quite connected on the map and at this stage neither of us wanted to retrace our steps. We didn’t see any signs, either leading to the cliffs or the town so just kept walking. I was hoping for a car so we could ask for a ride but all we saw were a couple of motorbikes going in the wrong direction.
After about 2.5 kilometres, which felt like forever a car overtook us but we didn’t top it. Luckily we came across it a short while later and the driver was on the road. At the same time a lorry pulled up behind us as it wanted to get by. Angela alerted the driver and at the same time saved us both by asking for a lift to the town. We were dropped at the main road and I found the first shop and brought the biggest bottle of water i could. We sat there for 20 minutes before Angela suggested we wait on the road for a bus. One came past pretty soon and after we were able to get a seat we both sat back and pondered about how we were still alive. Because honestly at the top I really wondered if we were going to make it.
How to hike Farallones de Sutatsusa
If you have read the above don’t let it put you off going. The views are beautiful and although I had a traumatic experience if I had the option to visit again I would, but this time I’d follow the advice in this section. I’ve researched and based on experience realised where we went wrong.
Firstly go to the North Terminal in Bogota, you can get there by using the Transmileno and the station is Terminal Norte. When you exit the station turn right and head to the main building. There are lots of little parts tot he station with busses going to different places. You want to get a bus to Ubate, but say Sutatsusa and it should be around $10000. TELL THE DRIVER THAT YOU WANT TO GO TO THE FARALLONES DE SUTATSUSA and he shoudl drop you on the correct road which is before the town.
Where I have put the pin on the map above is where you want to aim for, so you should be dropped off before you reach the town by the supermarket and from there you can walk to the Tienda Don Antiono. There are several paths up form the shop but you can ask there for advice and this will take you to the top.
If you go too far and end up in town, walk to the church on the main plaza, you can see it from across the town. From here take the path to the RIGHT of the church and you should see signs to point you in the right direction. Ask at the town if you are unsure and it should take around two hours to reach the top from here.