Glaciers at El Cocoy

Trip Start Jul 27, 2004
Trip End Dec 13, 2006

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Where I stayed
La Sierra Hotel

Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, September 3, 2006

After the big city of Bogota the small village of Guican was the complete opposite.. there are more people with horses than cars!! I arrived late but found a good little hotel called La Sierra which had some good information and a friendly woman to practise my Spanish with. On Thursday morning my friend Ritchie (aka the Mad Kiwi) arrived in the village and after purchasing supplies (rum) we set off on a walk up into the mountains of El Cocoy National Park. The altitude here is over 4,000metres and that along with the steep incline made it very hard going - I can now confirm that altitude combined with exertion can make you vomit!! We eventually reached the road above the village and as I was flagging we got a lift in a jeep the rest of the way to Cabanas Kanwaras. The cabanas were in a beautiful spot and there were great views of green valleys and snow-caped mountains. The friendly lady cooked us a huge almuerzo (set lunch of soup, steak and juice) and we relaxed in the afternoon enjoying the views. The following day we headed up into the mountains along a well marked track towards the glaciers. We were well prepared with two cartons of juice (small), half a bottle of water, several t-shirts and trainers. We din't take any food either as we had had some buns for breakfast... The track crossed a river but there was no bridge so after looking for a way across we just took our shoes and socks off and waded to the other side. The terrain then became steeper and after another hour of climbing the glaciers seemed as far off as ever... I was still suffering from the altitude and so decided to go no further. Ritchie continued on as he wanted to see the glaciers which were about 1-2hours away. I took my time returning to the cabanas, enjoying the scenery and scaring the local sheep. By 2pm there was still no sign of Ritchie so I had my almuerzo and finished reading my book in the sunshine. By 4pm there was still no sign of Ritchie and it had now been nearly 6hours since I had seen him and would soon be going dark... The lady at the cabanas was as worried as me and so as I headed back up the track to try and find him while she called for the Park Rescue. The park rescue turned out to be her neighbour Carlos on his horse and a vicious yappy little dog. They caught me up on the trail around an hour later just as I reached the river again. I explained to him in my broken Spanish where I had seen my friend last while the dog tried to bite my legs and backpack... Carlos told me to return to the cabanas before it went dark and he headed off up into the mountains. I returned to the cabanas and sat with the worried lady until about 6pm when, just the light was fading, Ritchie arrived back at the cabanas from the opposite direction we had originally gone!!! After reaching the glaciers at the top the clouds had descended and it had started snowing, reducing visibility to a couple of metres. He was half way down a valley before realising it was the wrong one and then hiked over about 6 more ridges and walked for over 10hours before eventually finding a mountain house and being pointed in the right direction. So the Mad Kiwi lived up to his reputation and returned with only a few blisters and a cut leg from falling over a rock.. but I was very relieved to see him back!! When Carlos returned we all had a few rums to get rid of the chills and I think me and Ritchie have learnt our lesson about walking alone in the mountains! Saturday was a gloriously sunny day so we had a leisurely 3hrs through beautiful scenery walking back down to the village of Guican where we grabbed some lunch and then jumped on a bus to Soata. 5hrs on a chicken bus was tiring but good fun - one man paid his fare in tomatoes which was quite funny! In Soata we again grabbed some food before saying our goodbyes and heading our seperate ways - Ritchie to Medellin, via Bogota whilst I headed north to Malaga arriving about midnight for some much needed sleep.
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