This trip is insane! Jay and I did a 5 night 6 day trek through El Cocuy National Park in Colombia. We covered around 50 miles of backcountry trails, 8 mountain passes, and some ridiculous elevation. It was definitely the hardest backpacking trip I have ever done. I loved every second of it, well... not really, but damn am I glad I did it. The first day of the trip was so hard we actually talked about not going through with the rest of the hike. I know, I'm not proud to say it, but you weren't there so stop judging me. In my defense, I had actually been in a car accident just 4 weeks before the trip. The car was completely totaled and I was in a knee and a back brace throughout the entire hike. The next morning we felt like we were getting over the elevation sickness and decided to give it go. Read through the rest of the blog to get the day by day of what happened and how lost we got!
Before we could even start the hike we had to take a 12 hour bus ride from Bogota. Yeah 12 hours on a bus isn't fun but Colombian roads really know how to make it awful for you. They're winding mountain roads, usually unpaved or covered in potholes and these drivers are going way t fast for my comfort level. Luckily I can sleep through anything so it wasn't too bad at all. Jay had a little more trouble.
We arrived in a small town outside of the park called El Cocuy right after sunrise. As soon as we got off the bus a really friendly guy took us straight over to a local hotel.
The crazy thing is that we ended up meeting part of El Cocuy's search and rescue team. They were able to help us pick out good camp sites and show us how terrible our map really was. That was one of the strangest parts, it's really hard to find a map, especially a good map. We spent all morning running around town and everyone said something different' Eventually we found the rangers office, and they gave us a very vague map.
The next morning we hitched a ride on the back of a milk truck. This is actually the best and easiest way to get to the trail head. The milk man comes to the town center just about every morning at 6:00am. He must make a pretty decent living taking hikers up and out of town. I think we only paid about 15000 pesos or 20000 tops(about $10.00). It was gorgeous, going through the Colombia countryside, and helping load milk jugs directly from the farmers was completely new for me.
After a 2 or so hours on the milk truck, we made it to the trail head and started out the hike.
I'm not sure what time it was when we made it to our first camp site, but the cloud covered rolled in fast and it stayed all night long.
Jay prepped some grub while I wandered around and snapped some shots of camp.
Sunset was almost impossible to photograph through the whole trip because of the cloud cover. But on the first night you knew someone some where was definitely getting some good shots. Check out the color in the photo below, that's actually how it looked that night.
We took a much needed mid-day break by this gorgeous lake. I was all about staying there for the night. In fact Jay actually had to convince me to keep going. I was dead tired, and I stopped caring about the back packing trip. Begrudgingly I kept walking...
By about 2:00 (a very rough estimate) the cloud cover moved back in. It was like this every single day, completely gorgeous!
Camp on night 2. We were pretty warn out but we found a great spot along the trail. I don't know if it was meant to be an actual camp site, but the ground was dry and soft, and that's the most we could ask for.
Before we went to sleep Jay found a nice spot to sit and write in his journal for a bit. I ended up convincing him to stay still for about 10 minutes while I got a cool shot of the mountain side and the stars before the clouds came back in.
I woke back up at 3:00am to get more shots of the stars once the cloud cover broke. I actually ended up doing this every night. I would set up a few test shots, and then let the camera go for a few hours while I went back to sleep. In the morning I would check out the camera and hope something came out alright. Luckily all the equations worked and I got some photos I absolutely love!
Jay pumping some water and taking another break from the day.
Camp on night 3. I was so angry at this point. I had been lugging around my tripod throughout the whole trip to get some night shots. Sometime during the day I knocked my mounting plate off my tripod... Basically this meant my tripod is completely useless. I had to stack rocks throughout the rest of the trip to get any useful decent night shots. Shockingly enough it worked out really well!
When we made it to camp for night 4 we saw the closest thing to a sunset from the whole trip. The clouds cleared just enough to let some light shine through and onto the side of this mountain.
This is our actual camp on night 4.
This is our last camp site of the trip. Night 5. Freeze dried food was really starting to suck, and we were so smelly and exhausted at this point I couldn't even get up at 3:00 to do my normal night shots. I ended up sleeping like a normal person and we headed out of the park in the morning.
Here's the only shot of Jay and I. This is the last mountain pass of the trip.
We then decided to hike to the nearest town. Everyone said it would only be a 2-4 hour walk, well they lied it was closer to 6 or 7 hours. I may have irritated and exhausted at the time, but it was worth the extra effort.