Getting way off the beaten path in El Cocuy

El Cocuy is a National Park in Colombia so remote that most Colombians don’t make it here. Some didn’t even recognize the name when I informed them of my destination (that could be my terrible Spanish accent though). The “ingles” tab for the official park website isn’t functional so I did most of my research using pnncocuy.com, which had most of all info I needed (a lot of it amounted to, just get there, then wing it). 

From Medellin (supposedly cool city but I got ill with something wicked and spent 2 out of 3 days there huddled in a hostel room), I took a flight to Bucaramanga, a large but lesser known city to foreigners. Upon arrival I was on cloud nine; I’d had a semi real conversation with the taxi driver for the 30 minute drive down from the airport in Spanish, checked into the hostel in Spanish, gotten some food recommendations in Spanish AND felt like eating for the first time in days. Sha-zam. I went out for Chinese and bidded for a safe bet-what I thought would be a chicken fried rice combo with a side of fries (weird?) and a drink. I ordered the medio (half) portion as the taxi driver had told me that the plates in Bucaramanga were notoriously large. The woman looked at me a little crazy, said some things I couldn’t understand and brought me a glass of water. Ten minutes later my meal came and I learned “combo” didn’t mean +fries and a drink, it meant another friggin meal! I had a large plate of combination fried rice with every meat in there I could think of, and then a four piece chicken meal with a side of fries. Welp. Good thing I learned how to say to go box…

 

My “half sized” combo meal…
 
Anyway, as for Bucaramanga there was one travelers hostel here, and of everyone I met there there was only one other girl heading to Cocuy (who was a day ahead of me in terms of preparation). I was told the bus for Capitanejo left either early or late, but the early bus was better so I could catch a connecting bus to Cocuy from there. I bought my ticket and showed up at 6am at the bus stop. There, I met a Canadian who was also heading for El Cocuy. After a 9 hour bumpy, slow bus ride we showed up weary in Capitanejo and after talking with numerous folks, figured out that the bus for El Cocuy wouldn’t leave until 4am the next day. There was another family though that was heading that way and would take us for $25000 pesos (aka, <$10). I didn’t know anything could be bumpier than the bus ride, but the van held its own. Two hours and some convincing to take us the last 30 minutes beyond their town to the town of Cocuy, we had made it to our destination. I immediately passed out at the hotel, oblivious apparently to late night partying, early morning roosters, and a collicy baby. 

The Canadian and I would end up camping and hiking together for the first two days; it was nice having a companion for both the hiking and figuring out random little idiosyncrasies needed to visit the park (buy a ticket in town, foreigners also need to buy insurance in town, you can take the milk truck at 6am or get a ride (in a heated car) for the same price if you’re lucky, you don’t really need a guide if you’re just day hiking, and the altitude is going to kick your ass and you definitely need a day or two in town before heading up to the mountains). 

 

Rio Lagunillas; first day hike in el Cocuy.

   

  
After two days at the first cabana, I hoofed it to Esperanza, another cabana close to the Laguna Grande hike. It was about a three 

     
    
   

 
  
 

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