Chingaza National Park, that is, source of Bogota's excellent water supply. We met the office Elders at zero-dark:15, and hopped a bus to Guasca, about an hour north.
Elder Serey, the Chilean leader of these excellent adventures, bargained a couple of taxis down to get us up near the Park. Paula enjoyed the sun.
The ride was...interesting. I'm sure our 75,000 pesos ($42.23 USD) didn't come close to covering the wear and tear on the little yellow cars.
Because of the ecological fragility of the Park, it's not publicized; the absolute lack of road maintenance may be part of keeping the secret also.
We had paid ahead for a guide; to the ranger living in the "park headquarters," that meant that he pointed in the general direction of the rest of the park, told us not to feed the pumas, wished us luck, and went back to bed.
It's all fun and games until someone pokes their eye,
and the trail tilts upward. The Guasca Chamber of Commerce said something about a "family hike." Maybe if your family is from Katmandu and has the last name "Sherpa."
We saw one grizzled, slightly crazed backpacker, and he seemed to be in a hurry to get out.
On the other hand, the scenery was magnificent, with a series of glacial lakes and spectacular cliffs.
The old adage about an army moving on its stomach has not been lost on Paula, who finally called a lunch stop at about 11,000 feet.
As we ascended along the main ridge to the highest point in the park, it got a teensy bit windy. (click on that phrase for a windy video link.)
Then the trail got a teensy bit narrower, and finally gave out at 12,500 feet with a sheer drop to the left of about a thousand or so.
At that point, we backtracked, then made the admittedly stupid decision to bushwack for a bit. By the way those weird, endangered plants are Espeletia schultzii, and no, Paula didn't care by this point either.
OK, what was meant by "admittedly stupid decision?" How many years does one have to be a Scoutmaster before he learns that it's always better to go back down the trail? We ended up in a high-altitude micro-climate rain forest, and at one point literally made 50 feet of progress in 30 minutes on hands and knees crawling through rotting vegetation as water ran underneath.
The flowers in the park and below were beautiful. This is Digitalis purpurea, and after eight hours on the trail, I didn't care much either.
We climbed one more mountain; Julie Andrews and that German guy would be proud.
At this point, at about 12,000 feet, the Mom on the trip put her little Gore-tex-clad foot down and said, "Enough!"
We worked our way back down, and left through the front gate of the National Park. That's really the front gate, and I am not making this up.
It got warmer as we hiked down to catch the bus back to Guasca,
so that we could catch the bus back down to Bogotá.
We arrived back in town by about 8:30 PM, and when I asked about dinner, I got The Look. We ended up at Archie's Pizza. Unfortunately, so had a family with some really bratty kids. They got The Look also, and left soon thereafter.
So, another great adventure in a beautiful, interesting and weird place.
We hope that your hikes are all as rewarding, and that they screen the bratty kids at your pizza place.
Dave & Paula