8 Day trek in Los Nevados

2018/06/10-2018/06/17

Day 1; I left the hostel around 8am taking a jeep to Cocora valley. From there the hike started up. The weather got crappier and crappier while going up and half way I met a group of French and one Polish girl that were taking shelter at a farm house, I joined them while I had lunch and we waited till it got dry.

When it was dry again we left but quickly the rain started again, I left the group and continued solo, I didn’t want to arrive in the dark (which as it turned out was correct, the last part they walked with headlights). Around 4pm I was at finca primavera, kind of a hostel, I had stayed here 3years ago as well.

Day 2; This would be a shorter day, as it turned out the shortest day of the entire track. I left around 10am and with around 4pm I was at the base camp of Tolima, with 5200m the second highest volcano of the park. I had heard a lot of different stories about this one, people from the finca had told me that to leave the finca at 1am, or the basecamp at 1am, or the camp at the lake at one 1am, this didn’t make sense since the base camp and the camp at the lake where according to them 4hours from the finca, this didn’t make sense either because the basecamp was farther away and higher than the camp at the lake. Anyway, I didn’t really trust their info.

I met 2 guys as well, that had been there the day before, they told me the glacier was inaccessible because of heavy snow. They turned out to be right especially since the night that I camped there about 20cam extra snow fall during the night. My tent had it heavy and I had to remove snow during the night by kicking from inside to the roof and sides of the tent.

Around 4pm I was at the basecamp and went for another small hike to find water, In the end I only found puddles, but with the water filter I could at least get about 1.5l of water from this.

Day3; The snow had transformed landscape and with the strong wind it took a long time to pack, but the view was great. Since going to the peak didn’t seem to be an option I just packed and continued towards some hot springs. The path went between large friallejoles (the typical outer worldly plant from this area with furry leaves and a thick stem that grows 1cm a year), some were as high as 4m, or in other words about 400years old.

The path descended to finca with some hot springs, for 5000pesos, about 1.66euro, I had a host chocolate, that didn’t taste like chocolate but taste great after the snow and went for a swim in the “cold pool” which was still about 30 degrees Celsius.

The guy that lived there explained me the route towards laguna Otun from where I planned to go the second glacier in the park.

On the way from the hot springs I found a bamboo stick which would turn out to be of great help on the rest of the hike. Quickly after finding it I had to cross a river, I couldn’t jump stones, the stream was strong and the water about a meter deep at its deepest at the shallow spot I picked to cross. I only was able to make it because of the extra balance I got from the stick and even then, although I had stripped down to my boxers, my boxers had gotten a little wet…

The path went up past another finca, no people where there, only aggressive kievits. And later, another finca named Africa, where they directly invited me in, gave me an agua panela (hot drink made with cane sugar), and I watched how they were making cheese.

I continued, and shortly after the finca the path disappeared, I had to cross a swamp, with floating plants and quicksand really cool to see but a little tricky to find a save and dry way to get through. This took as well longer than I expected, and I camped on the higher flat area in a small opening between the friallejoles. Beautiful sunset.

Day 4; I packed my tent and continued without path, till suddenly there was a clear trail again, it would disappear again but reappear every time again. The path went past a couple lakes and down to lake Otun. Here there was a camp side next to the ranger’s house.

The ranger wasn’t there but when he arrived they let me camp under an over capping, so the tent would stay dry. They gave me cheese with bread, agua panela, and later on some very tasty kind of fried liver sausage and pasta, a very good dinner compared to my own pasta or instant mashed potatoes with instant soup.

Day 5; the ranger had told me a certain part of the park was closed, but told me as well that if I left early he would not know I had gone there. So, I left early but I didn’t find the correct path and made another loop, still very beautiful, but my clothes were soaked from trying to get through the vegetation. On the way I saw a small kind of deer and lots of rabbits. Later when I came back after this loop trail and the ranger gave me again some food (wraps and apples for later) he told me he had never seen this deer, but when we hiked together later, and he showed me where the path started I had wanted to take before, he did show me some of the foot prints of this deer.

So, although not allowed he helped me to find the path up to nevado Santa Isabel. I walked up and around 4300m pitched my tent. With an almost empty backpack I continued to the peak and around 5:30pm was back at y tent, a quick dinner and to bed.

Had been a long day but with great views of lakes and glaciers on top of the nevado.

Day6; I packed and walked the high route around the lake, again great vies of lakes and a couple of eagles was circling around.

I went down to the lake and finished to loop back to the ranger station. I had promised to let him know that I was ok. He wasn;t there but I wrote (with a piece of soap because I didn’t hve a pen) a note that I was okay. I walked back to the path and met the ranger, now on a horse, so he told me how to get back to Salento. I passed some geysers and followed a path down the valley.

I changed my course to go past another peak and laguna leone and laguna negro. This turned out to make the hike a lot longer.

I walked passed a finca and after drinking a hot chocolate (that didn’t taste like chocolate but tasted great again), we walked together towards the lakes, he had to go there to with a young calf, but since the calf didn’t want to, I went ahead.

The path got smaller and smaller and from laguna negro was completely gone. In the end I made it to laguna leone and set up my tent there. I could see a little of the path on the other side, but the path just went down to a swamp, so it was better to camp here.

Day 7; The path disappeared within the first 100m, with the use of the apps mapsme and OsmAnd on my phone I found after about 2hours again a path leading to the pass of 4200m. If the weather was okay I wanted to climb the peak and by doing so I could take a short cut to the refuge/finca where I had stayed the first day.

After the pass I followed the path but since the path really went the wrong direction after a while I went a little back and decided to try another direction. I found again a path and after passing a peak I could see laguna encanto, down in the valley where I had to go. I continued and around 5:30pm I finally made it to the finca. It had been a long day.

Day 8; Around 9am, I continued hiking through the mud, back towards Salento. Around 5pm I was back in the hostel where I had started a little over a week ago.

Salento

2018/06/07-2018/06/09

Day 1; Half of the first day was already gone when I arrived after a bus ride that took a bit longer then expected due to a landslide. I visited the viewpoint in the afternoon and again in the evening, visited the town and went for a swim in the pool of the hostel.

In the evening some card games and after that that a game of Tejo, a game with which you try to throw a small metal disc inside of a metal ring with small explosives. 9 points for an explosion and ending in the circle, 6points for in the circle, 3 for an explosion and 1 for the closest to the circle. The game goes till 21points.

Day 2; First a dive in the pool to wake up and next I went cycling together with a guy from the hostel, pretty much the same round as I had done 3years ago, coffee fam, and waterfall, this time I went alone to the waterfall and visited the other falls as well and the caves.

The way cycling up took a lot of effort, especially since the bike was a bit small, my knees came above the steering while peddling

Day 3; Starting with a swim in the ppol again. Preparing for a long trek, getting a map printed and plasticized, buying about 10kg of food for about 10days hiking and then joining a group for another coffee tour at a larger farm.

 

Some coffee facts;

In this area they grow mountain coffee, this coffee is abit more sour (I personly ,ike it less).

To protect the coffee plants from a certain type of insect that from the two beans of coffee only eat one bean, they grow fruit plants (some coffee fruits have 1, some 2 and some 3 seeds, the ones that have one seed apparently taste better, this is a special extra expensive type of coffee).

Another threat to the plants is a fungus, to prevent the fungus coffee seeds from another area, the hybrids are imported. Second generation is already less resistant, cross breeding I guess.

There are 3 types of coffee plants, Robusto, Arabic and one that isn’t grown really, because its grows slow and doesn’t taste good, they all originate from Africa.

Biggest coffee producers are Brasil, Colombia and Indonesia.

The plants have optimum production in the second and 3th year than they are cut and again have 3 good years, this can be done twice.

The beans are picked, moved through a machine to remove the peal, the sweet pulp is washed of (for honey coffee this is left and there is a fermentation process), the beans are dried, selected, and roasted.

The crappy coffee stays and is generally roasted longer so the worse taste is less obvious. The good coffee is in generally unroasted exported. Each country roasts it according to their preference, Italy long, Colombia traditional short, Netherland in the middle.

The biggest importer of Colombian coffee is Finland.

Tatacoa desert

2018/06/05-2018/06/06

♪ I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
Lala la, lalalala… ♪

 

No horse, rain and no real desert either. The Tatacoa might look like a desert, but officially is none. It has been an old crater lake and when it dried up this is what was left. In the wet season there is almost every night rain, but it still looks very dry because of the blazing sun and the lack of plants, still this apparently the greenest fake desert of the world.

 

♪ On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound ♪

 

♪ On the first part of the journey ♪, I was given a ride by two guys on motorbikes, I was very glad because the sun had been very hot and walking next to the road not very exciting.

♪ There were plants ♪, mainly cacti, one small one had red flowers and after the flowers were gone something that looked like very brightly colored peppers.

♪ and birds ♪, lots of different types, bright yellow and red ones and one that lived in the cacti.

But I soon found there were as well a lot of insects, I have a couple of bites from sandflies on my lacks and although I took care not to pitch my tent on spot with ants, the ants seemed to be attracted to my backpack and I still had to remove lots of them from my stuff in the morning.

♪ And the sky ♪ had been cute cloudy and got more cloudy towards the evening, it even rained for about an hour from 5pm onwards, and later again at night.

♪ The heat was hot ♪, even at night even with the rain I was still sweating in my tent, when it was dry I directly opened the zippers of my tent to let cool breeze in.

♪ But the air was full of sound ♪, till late in the evening and early in the morning you could hear the goats and other animals from a nearby farm.

There were two main parts of the desert, a red part and a grey part, both very nice, but if you compare it to the Atacama very small as well.

At 22:30 a night bus to Salento. It should take about 6hours, but in the end around 12am we were in Armenia, there had been a landslide, after a while one side of the road had been cleared but there was still a long traffic jam.

San Augustin to Neiva

2018/06/04

First a hike to the point where the river is only 2.2m wide while before it is about 10m. Even where it is 10m the river is very strong, its surprising that it actually is possible to get all the water through this small gap.

An arrepa with cheese and a coffee up in the valley, the last couple days I have been making arrepa;s myself and although I don’t know the best water maize flower ratio jet I think mine actually taste better now, but that could be because I fry them and these were prepared on a stone in the fire, everything fried tastes better.

I went to some graves where the sculptures still have their original colors and after that returned to the hostel. In total about 25km.

In the hostel the mother of the owner prepared fried platano, fried yukka and another fried root and gave me some coffee, around 3 I managed to leave and took first a collective and next a bus to Neiva.

I Neiva it took a while to find a hotel for a good price, in the end I settled for a price a little higher then I would have liked, still not more then 10euro and actually a very nice room and including breakfast. I got as well a discount of about 15Euro so I shouldn’t complain.

San Augustin – Parque archelogica y cascada El Cenco

 

2018/06/03

First to the archeologic park, a lot more sculptures. They say they found a bout 500 sculptures in total, for the park they recovered sculptures from all over the world, from a square in Bogota to a basement in Denmark.

I wonder how many sculptures are still somewhere in the ground, 500 in the 2000years the culture that made them was here is not that much.

After the park I returned a bit quicker, I don’t like waiting for people and definitely not when it rains. After arriving back in town, I found out there was a waterfall near the park. The owner of the hostel gave me a ride and from there I started hiking. I had to ask many many times but, in the end, found the waterfall and went for a brief swim.

The way back was more straight forward.

In the evening there was a procession and after wards a show with horse and music. While eating fried platano with cheese and covered with a layer of doe I watched the show.

I tried a couple more fried dishes, one that was like sausage, but with rice, one that was like dumpling, one with potato and a boiled egg inside and one with sweet potato, all delicious.

Pasto to Popayan to San Augustin

Pasto to Popayan

2018/05/31

Early at 5:40 I took the bus, to arrive in Popayan around 13:00. I walked around a bit and went with a guy from Spain to the free city tour at 16:00. He told us about the bridge of shame, called bridge of shame because before the bridge was constructed people were always heaving and panting after they had walked up on the river bank. Around the city used to life Indians, the city is named after one of the tribe leaders, Payan. On the far end is a view point looking over the city, this is an old pyramid. The pyramid was already abandoned when the Spanish arrived. Continue reading “Pasto to Popayan to San Augustin”

Colombia! First city; Pasto

2018/05/30

At 9:15am Albert and me met at the terminal and from there we went to where he lived together with 11 other venezolanos. He showed me the city together with 3 other venezolanos.  We mad a lot of stops, for copies of his papers, a place where they might need people and just places where other venezolanos where working. He was looking for a job and at the end it seemed he had found one in construction, he is a civil engineer.

We talked while walking about why they were here, that they wanted to return but that now this was not possible. One of the girls had a son back in Venezuela, but here family needs the money, so she had to leave him, of course she misses him a lot and wants to go back.

The people in Colombia are not always that friendly they told me. And indeed, in Peru and Ecuador I already had heard stories from locals saying that all Venezuelans are thief’s, I guess in Colombia some people say the same. It really sucks, they can’t really stay in Venezuela and in other countries they are not treated well either, it’s a bit like in Europa.

From this group they seemed all to have a higher education, Albert now got a job in his field, but the two girls worked in a disco for now, it’s a shame but they currently don’t have many options.

Later we returned to their house and they cooked lunch, very tasty fried chicken (first covered with a mix of silantro and cebollita, next with corn flower and then fried), rice and fried banana (platoon). They girls escorted me to my hostel and went off to work.

I went to the terminal to buy a ticket to Popayan, but the first bus would be at 17:30 and would arrive there at 23:30, I didn’t want to arrive that late and decided to stay one more night and leave very early in the morning.

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