The fingers from one of your hands are enough to count the few countries, which have the privilege to adorn its mountains with the “caza niebla”, hundred of frailejones filled the Sierra, likewise as the peasants of the region, instead of potato these plants collect water of the mist which hugs the mountain chain.
This is not just a visit to the Snowy; it is a travel to the heart of the mountain, of its people and the people who visit it. A heart that is filled with proud and in paradox gets sad because of its fragility.
Welcome to the Natural National (PNN) Park the Cocuy, the snowy sierra of the eastern part of the Andes.
Can be reached from Bogotá on the north highway until Duitama, from there one take the lane going to Belén crossing municipalities like Soatá and the Uvita, an approximate journey of 8 to 9 hours, or from Bucaramanga to the south towards Málaga, crossing Capitanejo and the Espino.
Currently, the park is going through a restriction time, as a consequence of actions that compromised its conservation; peasants, indigenous and representatives of PNN (Natural National Parks) reached an agreement to open again the park after a more than one year that the park was isolated from the tourists.
Nowadays the entry is possible but with some agreed conditions by the various parties.
One of the saddest but necessary limitations for its conservation is that in no way can one reach the snow, one can reach just a few meters from the snowy border since in the past people had committed acts that were disliked by the indigenous people because this is a holy place for them.
Other conditions are: It is not possible to camp inside the park, one must do a previous register in the PNN offices, at the entry they have limited places for its visitors and is mandatory the company of a guide and a medical insurance… Does it sounds tedious right? But it’s easier than it seems.
Firstly, one must register directly in the PNN offices located in the Cocuy or Güicán municipalities; in this place, you will decide which path you want to do, currently are available 3 of them: Ritacuba, Laguna Grande de la Sierra, and el Pulpito del Diablo.
The park entry cost 5 USD for people under the age of 26, for over 26 cost 10,33 USD and is necessary to acquire an insurance which you can buy directly in the offices for 1,75 USD.
For the register the information of the guide that will accompany you shall be requested if you don’t have it, they count with the contact numbers of the authorized guides, they also know which person is available, so there is no problem whit this point. The cost of the guide for a group of 6 persons or a couple or just one person is 35 USD it doesn’t matter the price is the same. So in case you go alone, you can do a group with other tourists so that you pay less.
An important recommendation, if your visit is planned for a weekend which includes a holiday, then the best is to arrive early to the register offices because the number of visitors increases, we arrived a Saturday at 9:00 am and there were only 6 places to ascend the next day.
The stay is really cheap, a room with private bathroom per person cost 8,75 USD, with a colonial style, thick walls, gates that open in the middle, with a cobbled plot and a traditional kitchen with wood stove and thus the homely food delicious and for low-cost, breakfast for 1,50 USD and lunch or meals for 1,75 USD, and the best is that are big portions.
Before to ascend it is recommended to acclimate, especially if you are from a place with warm weather, there are available paths to a certain extent with no guide requirement.
One fact to consider: the start point of the paths are approximately one hour by road from the municipality, if you need transport the locals can help you but its tariffs could cost $28 USD per way, although there are buses which charge $7 USD per way, and you can also coordinate with other tourists so that it can be cheaper.
What do you need for the ascent? The walk is a bit long, between 8 to 10 hours depending on your physical condition (it took us 11 hours, 100% sedentary) so you better take your lunch, it is recommended energy products like nuts, ‘bocadillo’ (guava snack, cheese, and proteins.
Take a drink but not too big, enough for the first hours of walk because you’ll find waterfalls of pure and potable water that descends from the Snowy, so you don’t need to be excessive. The more slight, the better.
Comfortable clothes, shoes with a good sole (I slipped a couple of times) and a raincoat because there are usually some showers and if you are lucky it can snow.
The time to ascend more than 5.000 meters above the sea level has come. We started at 4:00 am, a one-hour journey to get the start point. Our route to Pulpito del Diablo is approximately 4.000 meters high; we began the hike down hill, we skirt a valley full of frailejones a big extension of moor truly beautiful.
As we move forward we can see small waterfalls that emerge from the mountain and ends in a lagoon this view is taken from a postcard. This is a first stop to recharge the batteries.
One can appreciate the big mountains and you realized how much you have to climb, we arrived at Las Lajas (El Alto del Conejo) probably the most challenging point, big rocks that give road to the top, on top of each other leaving little holes, which are safeguards for sweet rodent with downy fur adapted to the coldest weather.
Finally… we are on the top with an overview of the other mountain site showing the magnitude of the Sierra, though we must continue, the inclination is slighter, we walked over a rock which seems polished, something surreal, know is possible to catch sight of the big ‘Pulpito’.
Step by step, suddenly came a little shower but thicker, with more weight, we extend a hand and little frozen water particles fall onto our palms, it’s snowing… OMG!
There are only a few meters left, little snow pieces sprout of the rocks, at the end of the road people dressed with ‘ruanas’ (ponchos) are waiting for us, peasants who ascend the mountain daily to safeguard the Snowy and prevent the breach of the restrictions. We’re humans, curious by nature but in this case the reason must win, and if it’s necessary we have to contain us of continue and prevent to do more harm than is already done.
The place speaks for itself; the body is revitalized among so much beauty and every step was worth it, even though we know what awaits us in the return we leave happy and proud to born in the most beautiful country in the world.
-> In summary, if you are planning to travel to the PNN Cocuy you should add this to your budget:
Park entry for foreigner not resident in colombia: 20 USD
Guide for groups up to 6 people: 35 USD
One day of stay: 8,75 USD
Bus to the start paths point: 7 USD per way
If you want to see more stories of ‘La Chiva por Colombia’ you can do that on unachivaporelmundo.wixsite.com
Una chiva por el mundo
Enamorados empedernidos por el natal país que les correspondió, ella adora el mar, él prefiere las montañas, juntaron sus gustos para recorrer el país que lo tiene todo y capturar su esencia en una inexperta fotografía, investigando cada lugar para llevarles la información que necesitan para que ustedes también se animen a conocerlo. Instagram & Facebook @unachivaporelmundo