Fun times. Luckily we had my phone and therefore a GPS so we couldn’t get lost. What ? Just kidding, we were pretty much lost the entire time. It was a great bonding exercise.
Day 1, let’s find the entrance to said national nature park. That’s the easy part because there still is a road (named ruta del Condor). Except that with the rain the last few days, the path is very muddy and sometimes disappears under murky water. But we are walking at a good pace, going uphill towards the park. And then we turn right instead of left.
For hours we wander around tall grass trying to the path. How tall is the grass ? For a Hobbit like me, waist high most of the time. We have to be careful not to fall into the streams hidden it all, our progression is slow. But before sundown, we finally get back to the path. Tomorrow, we shall enter the park proper.
Day 2, the surroundings have frozen over. The tent is covered in a crispy layer of ice, so is the ground, so are our shoes. Damn that’s hard to wake up to frozen shoes after our coldest night so far. But, the sun is shinning and we start walking towards the first lake. We first have to go through a forest of Cactus/palm tree looking trees. In the distance, the many volcanos are covered in snow.
So far so good. But we soon discover that a Colombian park ain’t your average European park… There is not a single sign, not one. And the path ? Oh boy. Half hidden in the less tall grass, half not even there at all. Sometimes it also just stops. We keep moving in the general direction of where the path should be, all the way to the side of a hill, holding on to the grass to not fall down deep into the canyon. Bad idea, let’s go back to the top the hill shall we ?
Lunch time ? Nope, it’s raining. And when it’s not raining ? Hail. Because we are over 4000m. Hail is fun, and then it turns into rain and becomes annoying. Drenched, we keep moving. Struggling to find a path (because of sometimes there’s none, sometimes there’s tons).
But, again, before sundown we reach the lake we were aiming for. The ground is pretty much a massive swamp but we stumble upon a rocky place that is dry enough for us. And then it starts to again. We hurry to pitch the tent, our clothes still wet and dripping. And then the sun sets and the temperatures drop again. Three storms are surrounding us, the flashes lighting the valley and the lake from all directions.
Day 3, so many valleys. Again, frozen shoes (but extremely wet as well this morning, yay). First we have to get up the the pass, and to do that we have to find the path. Which, for once, we do manage to find quite easily after a rough start. And up we go ! Not time to waste at the top, time to get down. We follow our path, wandering in the.clouds. Up until a very bad decision which takes us down the valley.
Our data is wrong, misleading us to believe the path is supposed to be flat when we should have actually gone all the way back up the hill. Oh well, general direction is followed.
But we still want to find the path. Up the hill, follow the path on the edge, down. Up, edge, down,… Again and again. Until we finally see the path ! Way down below, across a river and up a 20m cliff. At least we’ve found it, right ? Managing to go down the safest way, we stumbled upon another path. The one we had been following after the pass, the one we left to go down to the valley floor looking for a non-existent flat one.
And now we have to cross the river, which is very cold. Long hard day. Tomorrow should be better, right ?
Day 4, because things can always get worse. The sun shimmers on the top of the hill we had to get down from the day before, and then disappears in the thick clouds. Up we go to the therms. Ducks are floating about in the smoky water. Damn, I wish I were a duck right now. On a positive note though, we won’t get lost today ! However, we will get drenched like never before.
Just after lunchtime, our final ascent begins. And it’s awful. The track is beaten, destroyed and even dangerous. As many encountered so far, this track is a river bed. The steep incline is worsened by the many log stairs. Many they looked like stairs to start with, but few hundreds horses later, it’s a mess. Logs are detached and they been roughed up so many times that stairs have turned into a wall. And the entire thing is laying in mud.
Going down afterwards is just as fun, but way longer. We are glad when the muddy staircases disappear and we find ourselves going down the actual very rocky river bed. Before the lid shows up again. And then the rain. And then the stream we were supposed to cross turns out to now be a river. I don’t care, I ain’t taking my shoes off. What’s the point ? They’re drenched already.
Turns out to be a very (lazy but) smart decision since not even 2 minutes later we have to yet again cross that same river. The rain hasn’t stopped. The path is now a river. And I now am acting like a 4 year old on a rainy day, I’m jumping in the water, feet close together, smiling and making the best of it.
One last river and we take refuge on the porch of a small wooden Hutt whose owner is nowhere to be seen. At least, tonight we will be dryish.
Day 5, Ibague ! Down we go. It stopped raining. The river we’ve crossed yesterday is unrecognizable and the path has reappeared. Soon we’re leaving the park behind us. We finally see other people after few days spent utterly alone. The road is smooth, and it’s hard to not look down to avoid possible ankle twists. It takes us few minutes to readjust and not let our haze drop to the ground. 20k on a slow declining road, and we will be back in Ibague.