Los Nevados: Part 1

The alarm went off at 5:30, we zipped up our bags, chowed down on some eggs, and were out the door. We began the hike in Cocora Valley (9000ft), famous for the 60 meter palm trees. We asked a few last minute questions, lathered the sunscreen, and shed a layer. The sun was bright and warm.

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Cocora Valley

The trail starts mellow, winding through fields, eventually heading into a dense rain forest. We crossed a small creek several times via sketchy wood planks. The climb was comfortable at first. We were in the shade, the air was cool, and we were full of energy.

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Let’s just say the trail is consistent… consistently straight up. It’s like doing the stair master on the slowest speed with a 30-40 pound pack. When we arrived at Estrella de Agua, we were happy to shed the weight. Estrella de Agua is essentially a ranger station. We gave the park employee our information, our destinations for the next few days, and in return he gave us some information and wished us well. The family living in the very rustic house next to the ranger station was serving up lentils, rice, and plantains to their family. They quickly offered us a bowl for $1.50. Worried that we hadn’t packed enough food, we couldn’t deny the hot meal.

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The family’s home and sleepy guard dog.

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With full bellies, we felt like slugs back on the trail. Lesson learned, no heavy meals before a steep climb. We navigated through thick mud, winding up the mountainside. After a few hours, we reached the tree line and entered into the paramo. Full of odd shaped plants, brush, and fog coming as quickly as it was going.

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Destroyed portion of the trail.

We had heard horror stories about the fog getting so thick you can’t see more than a foot in front of you. Of course, that’s where my mind goes, so I picked up the pace. The adrenaline was pumping and I wanted to arrive at the campsite before we were one of those lost hikers. No I’m just kidding, but I did get a second wind and the eagerness was real.

We caught up to three French men hiking with a Colombian guide which was a relief to know we were still on the right path. Our destination was Finca Primavera, a small house with a few rooms and a place to pitch a tent.

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Final descent down to Finca Primavera.

As we started the final descent, the clouds slowly started to clear exposing Tolima, a snow covered peak. The guide explained that the snow at the top is a permanent glacier and can be summited with the proper equipment. Bucket list. By the time we reached the Finca, the clouds had cleared completely giving us incredible 360 views of the mountains and the valley below. What a reward after 10.5 miles of climbing.

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We set up camp while snapping shots of the sunset. I think my body was a little in shock and an intense shiver took over. I layered up, got in my sleeping bag, and boiled water in the tent. Once the sun set, the wind picked up, and Taylor was soon next to me in his sleeping bag fighting off shivers. We moved around like worms warming up our bags and our bodies.

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A clear night and nearly a full moon.

A hot meal and a cup of tea put us into a coma. We snuggled up and fell fast asleep. We awoke with the sun rising. We had a slow morning watching the sun light up the peaks around us. While packing we conversed with Colombians who were on an eight day trip through Los Nevados. They invited us to join them at the end of their trek to summit one of the peaks. We exchanged numbers, said our goodbyes, and were back on the trail headed to Termales de Canon.

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Tolima and all it’s beauty.

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Paramo Iguaque

Our morning began at 6am with a cup of coffee and uncertainty of how we would arrive at Paramo Iguaque. We gathered our necessary layers, packed a lunch, and minutes later Nitzan woke up and so kindly offered to take us to the trailhead. Before the kids and us piled into the car, Nitzan gave us Coca leaves (the most sacred plant in the Andes) to chew on and as an offering to the Laguna at the end of the trail. On the drive we passed by horses congregating, fresh milk kegs being delivered, and farms that have no end.

Iguaque is considered one of the most sacred places in Colombia. The Muisca (indigenous tribe) believed Iguaque lake was where mankind began. The legend goes like this; goddess Bachue rose from the lake with a boy in her arms. He grew and they married and populated the Earth with their children. The goddess Bachue and her husband disappeared into the depths of the lake in the shape of snakes. This legend has attracted thousands (mostly indigenous) to bring an offering to the birthplace.

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We started in dense forest, where succulent looking plants grow on the sides of birch shaped trees. The trail was wet and slippery. Mud caked our boots and legs within minutes. We were some of the first people to enter the park that morning, so our hike was quiet and peaceful. The sun shone bright through the thick canopy of varying shaped leaves.

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At just about half way you cross a line, leaving trees and entering jumbled rocks and small shrubs. The shrubs are high desert like. Some spiny and others soft with coat like fur. We climbed at a 45 degree angle for nearly an hour. Every minute stopping to gasp for air and gawk at the incredible views in every direction. We looked over ridge lines and valleys full of green fields boasting their fresh fruits.

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We scrambled, sometimes on all fours, to count markers notifying us we were getting closer to the top. As we rounded the last bend, we could see just the corner of the lagoon. Peaks bowled around the water and the clouds rolled over us. Our stride became quicker with excitement as we neared the lagoon. Dropping down, reaching lake level, and taking in the view, we smiled like never before. What is this place? How is this real? We had never seen anything like it before. Peaks that were speckled with odd plant life, clouds puffy but allowing the sun to shine strong, water clear and fresh to drink. This place is sacred.

We offered our coca leaves to the lagoon, gave our thanks to the power out there that creates places like this, and warmed our sweaty bodies in the powerful sun.

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The way down was slippery. We slipped and slid our way down, showing off our ice skating moves and laughing the whole way. We felt rejuvenated, energized, and inspired. As we made our descent the clouds built, the thunder roared, and just as we reached the park entrance the rain poured.

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Our plan was to catch a bus back home but of course we didn’t plan and that didn’t work out so well. So we walked home, approximately 3 hours later we arrived, soaked and cold. “Vale la pena”, worth it. One of the most incredible places we have ever been. We feel energized and incredibly lucky to be living the life we’re living. We are lucky individuals that have been given the most incredible opportunities. This is just one of many. 

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