Apr 26

The many faces of El Cocuy National Park

trek el cocuy national park colombia

 

After El Cocuy National Park reopened to visitors earlier this month (complete information here) I started reminiscing about the incredible week I spent in the wild Andean park in December 2011, when it was still entirely open to tourists and the full 5 day trekking circuit was still a possibility. My friend Colin and I headed out from Bogota on a night-bus with the intention of trekking the park in early December, before the Christmas crowds. We weren’t disappointed: we found ourselves a local guide, bought up a bunch of provisions, hired a tent, and set off into the park. We enjoyed 5 idyllic days of high-altitude trekking through one of Colombia’s most wild and pristine national parks: we camped out next to glacial lakes, saw condors soaring past over mountain passes, hiked up to the snow-line of some of Colombia’s mightiest peaks, and wandered through valleys of wild flowers that seemed as if they had been untouched for thousands of years. Over the main 4 days of the trek we didn’t see another visitor; at night we drank cheap whisky and watched shooting stars overhead. It was one of my greatest travel experiences. 

But it wasn’t all stunning vistas and idyllic hiking; the trail was long and tough, took us over some gruelling mountain passes, and often took place at well over 4,000 m.a.s.l. Sleeping at such altitude was hard, the nights were cold and long, and our feet ached constantly. It made the Lost City trek seem like a stroll in the woods. So when I looked back over my photos and tried to figure out the best way to tell the tale of the 5 day El Cocuy circuit, I realised that the truest depiction of this wonderful trek was through the many photos of me and Colin throughout the trek: our faces tell a story of wonder, happiness, exhaustion and coldness. So I put the best ones together, and here they are: the many faces of El Cocuy National Park (with a description of what that face represents below each one, in chronological order of the trek…):

 

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “we are so happy to be here, what a beautiful place” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “this backpack is so light, this is going to be a doddle” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “are all the mountain passes going to be as easy as this first one?” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “yep, this is officially one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “I am absurdly proud to have pitched this small tent all by myself” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “OK, it’s starting to get really cold now, my sleeping bag is looking a little thin” face


trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “we have both been up all night without sleeping a wink due to intense altitude headaches” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “back to business, another nice and easy mountain pass – look at those mountains!” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “surely this misplaced confidence isn’t going to come back and bite me in the a**” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “that climb was truly one of the hardest things I have ever done…how is he so fine?” face (on the right anyway)

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “seriously, I’m dying here, how the hell is he so relaxed?!” face (me again, on the left)

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “that lake is gorgeous, and there’s a freakin’ glacier there, but this climb is really killing me (and he’s still fine?!)” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “OK, that one was actually really tough…and he was OK this time!” face (from Colin on the right this time)

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “hmm, so we are camping down there in that rain and mist?!” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “the sun came out, what a beautiful place to camp!” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “the sun’s out, this place is beautiful, things are looking up!” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “two sleepless nights in a cold tent at altitude is starting to take it’s toll” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “now this is more like it! Big valleys, stunning mountains!” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “this is perfect – lots of flat hiking along a beautiful valley” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “I have a strong feeling this is going to be my new Facebook cover photo” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “we must be getting used to this altitude, because this 4,530 m.a.s.l pass felt easy!” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “OK, it’s extremely cold here, and this is where we are sleeping tonight?!” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “man, this place just keeps getting more beautiful, doesn’t it?!” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “why do I keep thinking this is going to be easy?!” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “that’s the final pass complete, on to the home stretch” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “you can’t actually see my face, because it’s so cold and windy up here that I covered it” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “trying to look like Mick Jagger…not succeeding” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “reggaeton celebration” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “let’s take one nice photo up here for our Mums” faces

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “OK, we’ve done Jagger, we’ve done reggaeton…it’s freezing, let’s go back down!” face

trek el cocuy national park colombia

The “why the hell did we think swimming in that Andean lake would be a good idea: it’s absolutely freezing” faces

So, there you have it: the many faces of El Cocuy National Park. We smiled, laughed, were blown away, got really cold, hardly slept, got blisters etc. etc. And you know what? We loved it! It was easily one of my greatest Colombian travel experiences, and hopefully one day the trek will fully reopen so other people can experience the magic of trekking El Cocuy National Park and have the same marvellous experience that we had!

Chris

Filled under: Colombia Travel Blog

2 thoughts on “The many faces of El Cocuy National Park

    Sagy on

    Hello! My partner and I want to hike Cocuy this summer and would really appreciate some tips! What to pack? What can be rented there? How to find and choose a guide? Do we need to register in advance? And any other vital information you think worth knowing. 🙂
    Thank you!

    Reply

    Bonnie on

    I love this post! I hope to visit this place soon!

    Reply

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