31 December 2013 – 4 January 2014
Another night with very little sleep – despite the loud music from the party at the square, I slept okay until 1am when I had to pee. Afterwards I couldn't fall asleep until the party finished after 3.30am – however I didn't sleep long due to people in the streets leaving the party and the couple next door coming home and talking until my alarm rang at 5am. Breakfast, the last packing and then down to the square to find the milk truck that would take Xaq an I to our starting point in the mountains. A lot of drunken Columbians in the streets including one who offered to be our guide – obviously we would have had to take care of him had he come along! We found the truck and waited ½ hour before we finally left town – a few ofther hikers but mainly locals heading home. It took 1½ hour on the bumby gravel road providing beautiful views of valleys and montains - along the way we let people off and collected milk from the farmers. Already when we got off the truck at around 4,000 metres we saw snow-capped mountains. A half hour walk to the park entrance and another hour through a nice valley to the campground where we set up our tents. As always I had brought too much stuff so I was glad to get rid of it after just 2 hours hiking. It had been a clear sky all morning but already at 10.30am the clouds began coming in over the mountains, so we brought lunch and headed out to a number of luganas (lakes) higher up in the valley. Beautiful views until dark clouds covered the sky around 1pm. Back at the campground it startet raining and as it continued all afternoonspent there was little to do but relax, read, etc. Pasta with soup-flavour, fruit, hot chocolate, beer and a bit of rom & coke – not a memorable New Year's dinner but pretty good considering the place. Early to bed as the next day allegedly offered a challenging long, uphill trek, so we agreed skip the actual New Year – though I was up peeing just after midninght admiring the stars in the clear sky.....
It was a cold night and when I got up at 5.30 I realised just how cold – the tent was frozen. While having breakfast I was hoping the sun would reach the tent and dry it, but the valley was too deep, so I lost patience and packed – both tent poles snapped!! It has happened several times over the years with this tent model, because the manufacturer found lightweight more important than reliability. They have replaced my broken poles so I know they now use metal, but it's not much use with my old carbon poles. I had brought a spare pole but not two, but since I've tried it before I'd brought tape and just needed a straight stick to fix it... I was ready before Xaq and since my backpack was much heavier, we agreed I should head out and he would catch up. A steep start up to a plateau were the sun came over the montains, so I quickly got warm - then a long but more gradual incline before a riciculously steep climb up to a pass providing great views og two valleys and the top Pulpito. After another 15 minutes I left my backpack behind some rocks as the “trail” continued from the bottom of the long steep, rocky surface up to Pulpito - a gorgeous snow-capped mountain top. Along the way I accompanied a group of Columbians – good company and at Pulpito they were even kind to share their food with me as I had left my own in the backpack. I was expecting to meet Xaq there but after 1½ hour, I had to head down as it was still a long walk to the campground and clouds startet coming in which would make it difficult (impossible) to find my way. Back down I found my bag (after a bit of searching) and headed on.This stretch was unofficial so no signs – only stone piles far between; unfortunaly a lot made by people for fun making it impossible to navigate. When I got to edge it was vertical down – at the bottom of the valley I saw Xaq and tried to find a way down but never managed, so I ended up walking back down to the pass and then further down towards the valley. However, it was far down and I knew I had to walk all the way up again, so halfway down I decided to walk on the mountainside or rather jumped from rock to rock for about an hour until I found what resembled a path. I walked for another hour and began looking for the campground but couldn't find it despite climbing several “rock mountains” to get views – all I saw was more rocks... After looking for 1½ hour (and seeing nobody) I gave up and pitched my tent on a small sandy.area overlooking several lagunas with beautiful mountains as backdrop. A quick dinner (without the stove that Xaq carried) and then to bed when it got dark around 6pm. I had felt surprisingly strong the whole day but it had been long so I immediately fell asleep and slept really well all night - unlike the previous night where many different people talking!
I got up early and went on a another scouting expedition without getting much wiser – my official park map simply didn't match reality. From a big rocky hill I could see an elevated lake and decided to check that out as a last resort before trying to find the path to the finca where we would finish. Back to the tent for breakfast and packing and then about 1½ hours of rock jumping before I got to the lake (Laguna Grande) where I finally found the campground – far from the map location... The plan for the day had been to do a long climb to a pass to get views but it was too late to start, also because clouds began appearing over the mountain tops. Instead I spent the afternoon relaxing, reading and talking to different people – very hot as there was no shade at all... As always I went to bed early so I was very surprised when Xaq woke me up at 8pm – he had gotten lost two times but was fortunate to get help from some local guides.
I didn't get much sleep that night – it took hours before I finally dozed off after Xaq woke me up and again people talked during the night where I also had to puke. Despite a lot noise from the other people getting up early morning I got a bit of sleep until 9am when the tent turned into a greenhouse. I had absolutely no energy – which has happened to me once before trekking to Everest Base Camp in Tibet after a night without sleep. It took forever to get out of the tent and walking the short distance for a “toilet visit” and to freshen up at the lake I had to pause every 25 metres to rest... I ate a bit of fruit, drank a lot of water and got some more rest though it didn't seem to make a difference. At 11 I was still tired but had to pack as it would be a fairly long walk down especially at my very slow pace - it took forever to pack (what should have taken 5-10 minutes) so we didn't leave until 12.30. Xaq was kind to take most of my heavy stuff in exchange for his big but light sleeping bag, so my backpack felt lighter than ever. In my state the sun felt merciless so I asked my “travelling god” for overcast weather which came 15 minutes after we left and lasted all afternoon – it helped a lot but still I was struggling; especially the first hour climbing numerous rock hills without an actual path. After that it was pretty much all downhill – only a question of how steep. Xaq wanted to explore a cave so again I went ahead – on the way down I had to rest many times and also I puked once more and had 4 more toilet breaks. Several times during the last hour I took myself walking in a trance and I was amazed to have managed when we finally reached finca Esparanza late afternoon – all on sheer willpower and determanation and not least Xaq carrying a lot my heavy stuff. We got our tents up and Xaq made us dinner but after a few spoons of pasta soup I threw up again, so I went to bed.
I had a surprisingly good night's sleep and in the morning I felt much better. At 8.30 we got the milk truck that took us over mountains and through countless beautiful valleys – this time it took more than 3 hours before we finally reached Guican at noon; another small mountains village from where we had to take a local bus back to El Cocuy. Though the bus was not until 2pm so while Xaq explored a bit I stayed at the main square drying my wet stuff, sorting pictures, etc. Back at the hostel in Cocuy I repacked all my equipment, had a shower (cold as there was a power failure in town) and other practicalities before I got the night bus to Bogota at 8pm.