Thursday, January 12, 2012

Colombia 2011-2012

Wow it has been a long time since I wrote on here.  Last time I was in Nepal.  So lets see what a brief summary I can come up with since then...

After Nepal I headed to Hong Kong and some Machau for a bit of gambling.   Great cities and had a blast and met some cool people to hang out with.

Over the Summer I had the opportunity to take my Parents to Alaska.  This was an amazing 2 weeks of crazy adventure and road trip.  We were blessed with fantastic weather except the last couple days, but made due.  I even got to go up to some glaciers with my Parents.  I was so proud of them that they made it with me.  I loved every moment with them and am blesses to have two amazing parents.
I also made a trip up to Toronto to see a great band (Death from above 1979) and was honored to stay with a cool guy I met in Costa Rica a few years back.  He showed me around town and hit up Niagara also.  I also met a large group of Disc Golfers while I was there and now I am looking forward to going up there again this coming summer...
One other small trip I got to take was a four day weekend in Death Valley National Park with my good friend Dawn.  Had an amazing time and will be definitely by making a return trip.

Oh where to begin.  This place is amazing, minus a couple of long bus rides, but that is expected.  So the story starts off as follows.  So I board the plane in Miami and I am getting pumped to get down there.  I of course was jamming out on my tunes the whole way and must have missed some announcements, because everyone on the plane was doing the whole religious cross thing before we landed (typical in these countries, old ladies always do it on the buses also)  So when we land,  I unstrap and grab my bag and make my way out, but the lady next to me was like ¨where ya going?´´  Ah getting off I guess?  but of course we were not in our intended destination.  Instead we had to make an emergency landing because we ran out of fuel.  We were in Cali, not Bogota.  I must of not heard over my loud music.  Oh well.  So that put me into Bogota about 5 hours later than planned.  Made it safe and sound, and all I could do was sleep.  The first couple days was a bunch of sight seeing and museums and headed up to the highest point of the city and tried all the street food that I could take in.  Then it was New Years Eve.  Pretty calm (most Colombians spend it with their family and then go out after 1am)  We partied at the Hostel and then went out on a party bus all around town until about 4 am.  Then headed to the bus station with my friend Ryan to catch a 5am bus up to Cocuy (hiking mountain town)  little did we know that buses were not running to frequent the 1st day of the year.  We made it about 4 hours north, to the quite boring town of Duitama, hoping we could get a bus, that never came.  We spent the night there, and caught up on some sleep and tried to figure out what to do next.  The next day a bus came with the city name on it that we were trying to get on.  But of course it was full.  But Screw this, we are going to get to theses mountains one way or another, so we hopped on and sat on the floor, for the majority of the 6 hour ride to the Mountains.  We ended up in Guican to start the trek.  We got in around 7pm, grabbed a bite to eat, and decided to hit the hay early for we had to get up and catch the Lechero Truck (milk truck up to the small houses near the trail head) at 530 am.
Well 530 the next day there was nothing, nada, zilch.  NO truck today I guess.  So what is the next thing we do in the pitch black early morning day?  Start walking where we think the the trail starts.  This was challenging and I think we did a few trespassing across peoples farm land.  We hiked roughly about 7kms all up hill and we got to a road.  Luckily people were showing us the way as we went.  And even better we were blessed to be able to hitch hike the rest of the way to the trail head.  An amazing family picked us up and drove us to the Park entrance  We offered them money, but they politely refused.  We go to the Cocuy National Park around 930 in the morning, and we checked in and paid our dues.  But after we told the ranger we were doing the whole trek, he informed us that it was closed.  So we did the next best thing, and did the trek anyways.  We later found out that the reason it was closed was because of the high Guerrilla activity going on.  Oh well I looked to poor and worthless to be kidnapped...
So the first day took the longest since we had to hike right off the bat.  We ended up doing 2 passes and roughly 20kms.  We skipped the acclimating day and went straight to 4300 meters and camped at 3900 meters.  This is normally a 7 day hike but we did it in 5.  We got to the first lake (Laguna los
Day 2
Had two passes to do it was cloudy most of the day, but got periods of blue sky and we took advantage of that with many photos.  We got to the next lake(Laguna del Avellanal) 4300meters around 2pm and went for a chilly swim cooked up some meals and watched a beautiful sunset on a lake like glass.
Day 3
My favorite day crossing two passes and an amazing waterfall.  Awoke to not a cloud in the sky.  Chilly but comforting we made our way south towards the next valley and passes.  We passed about 3 waterfalls before we came to the waterfall (Cascada del Rio Ratoncito)  this was one of the best waterfalls I have ever seen.  it parted to main valleys and descended nearly 300 meters to the next valley floor.  Simple amazing.  After playing along the falls we tramped across bogs, swamps and rivers for 2 hours until we hit the next pass.  After an hour of descending we arrived at Laguna del Pueno)  It was cloudy and cold so we built a fire and ate a hearty meal before trying to sleep, which we had been not sleeping well with the altitude and cold.
Day 4
Woke up again to no clouds.  Nothing like shaking the ice off your tent in your underwear as the sun warms your chilly body.  Today was a long one with about 5 up and down passes.  Very tiring, but that was all rewarded when we came over the last hill and gazed upon the Laguna de la Plaza.  A spectacular lake the stretched for a couple kms.  At the south end there were two cascading waterfalls and on the West end Peaks shooting up from the banks of the lake.  Behind us snow capped mountains and to the East, a valley that ran for as far as you can see.  If there is such a place as heaven, I think I might have just found it.  We set up camp on the south end, and this is where we actually started meeting people (this was a day hike for most Colombians to visit on holiday).  I ended up socializing with many of the people and we told each other their stories.  It was comforting hanging with the local and seeing how kind these people really are.  We headed to bed early, for we had an early start to the next day, because we needed to cover a lot of ground.
Day 5
Simply amazing sunrise... (I think I am so lucky to have had such good weather on treks, hopefully it never runs out)  Made our way over the first two passes.  Most people do this in two days and then drive the rest of the way.  We walked nearly the whole thing.  I till have the blisters.  Well after the last pass it was all down hill from here to Cocuy our final destination.  After we got to the road (6hours)  we walked and walked and did not see many forms of transport.  We were bypassed by a few people and finally one guy stopped and talked to us in english.  He said he would love to give us a ride, but the weight of us in the car would bottom it out.  we understood and said thanks...  About ten minutes later that same car came back up and picked us up.  He informed us he drove down and was told the roads are good the rest of the way.  This mans name is Mauricio, and he is one of the kindest men I have ever had the fortune of running into in travels.  He drove us to Cocuy and we exchanged stories the whole way.  We became great friends in that short drive.  He also offered us a ride to our next destination we we gratefully accepted.  We got a hostel in Cocuy and had a fantastic meal and played some basketball and soccer with the local kids in the Plaza.  What a wonderful end to an amazing trek.

BOOM BOOM goes the fireworks at 430 in the morning the next day.   Looks like we are getting an early start.  We headed out and were on the road around 530 with our destination being Tunja (to catch a bus to San Gil)  I loved talking to our new friend and listened in amazement of his climbing stories.  He had been climbing for over 30 years.  Well two hours down the road are lovely day took a turn for the worse.  A drunk driver was heading right for us.  Mauricio did his best to avoid him, but small mountain roads leave little room for error, so of course we were struck.  Glass shattered, tire destroyed, and the whole driver side was smashed in.  the car was inoperable and there we were stuck on the side of the mountain 8 hours from our destination.  Well after we got everything sorted out we hitched a ride to the next town where we had to get 3 more additional buses to San Gil.  Our new friend got a tow truck and made it back to Bogota safe.  We will be visiting him again later on in this trip and I cannot wait.  What a great new friend.

San Gil
What an amazing town...  So much to do.  We went white water rafting and some caving which were both fantastic.  Ate ourselves silly with cheap street food.  Met heaps of new friends.  Visited the colonial towns of Barichara and Guane.  I also endured some Steaks covered in Fat belly Ants...  Yum Yum.  I also competed in the the national game of Tejo.  My dad would love this game.  It involves drinking and throwing a 1-3 pound wait at a target laced with gunpowder.  If you make a big boom you make big points.  I would kind of compare it to bag toss and horse shoes, with a little BOOM...  I loved this area.  Every night the plaza was filled with locals and tourists and of course drinking and eating.  It was such a lovely atmosphere, I found it hard to leave.  But that brings me to my next adventure...  The Lost City...

Here is a Link to some of the photos I have taken so far...