El Cocuy – Day 2 – Sisuma and the 4 lakes

Thursday 30th July 2015

Here is the lechero (milk truck) we were about to take at 6am to go to the Checkpoint from which we could walk to Cabana Sisuma.

lechero

Picture while waiting for the lechero of a bus taking people around.

bus

Bienvenidos a El Cocuy sign with the mountain in the background.

sign

And off we were! View of El Cocuy from far.

view

View of the landscape around.

landscape

The lechero is a very important truck. It has a social and economical function at once. There are 3 or 4 different trucks which every morning go around the valley and collect the milk from the people who live there. Each litre of milk is paid 700 pesos to the people. The lecheros collect about 7,000 litres per day just for the cheese factory of Guican which then makes cheese which is exported to Bucaramanga and Bogota. But the lechero is more than that. It also carries potatoes, wood, gas bottles from one place to another. It also carries people, not just tourists looking for a typical Colombian experience but also locals who go from one place to another, as very few people of the valleys and mountains around own a car or even a motorbike. The different people living next to the road leave their milk pots for collection. Here is Miguel pouring the milk in a big bucket.

Miguel

Here is the woman helping who passes one milk pot to Miguel who is helping the lechero driver. The green pot helps to measure how many litres are given, 2,4,6,8,10,or 12 litres.

passing

Beautiful landscape while we keep going.

landscape

Other people bringing their milk to the lechero.

bringing milk

A view from the inside of the lechero, with another passenger.

view from inside

After 2 hours on the lechero, we got to the checkpoint.

checkpoint

I was really super excited. Here I was, finally!! At El Cocuy National Park! Ready to spend 6 days in this place, considered by many travellers as one of the most beautiful national park of South America. So excited!!! We were there, starting to walk, finally. 😀

We started walking at 8.08am on the road to Cabana Sisuma with Gal and Imbra. The road ahead of us.

road

After about 15 minutes we saw the Cabana Herrera on the side of the road. There was another beautiful cloud dance in the background, different from La Cumbre hike but beautiful too.

Cabana Herrera

And off we walked

walk

Ran into that caterpillar

caterpillar

Sisuma, that way. The weather started getting rainy.

way

And here we were, arriving at Cabana Sisuma. It was 10.30am so we walked for about 2h30. I am a slow walker anyway, probably the slower walker you can find on a hike..!!! Gal and Imbra were happy to go slow, which was cool for me, that is rare!

Cabana Sisuma

Double bedroom for 50,000 COP that they took.

double bedroom

Dorm all for myself, bed is 40,000 COP per person. If you wanna pitch the tent, it is 10,000 COP instead.

dorm

Two guys arrived with a horse carrying their stuff. We briefly spoke at lunch time. One was from Toronto, Canada and making his own cheese in El Cocuy, and what an amazing cheese it was, so incredible to eat such a good cheese, one was creamy with herbs and one was a type of camembert. So goooddddd!!! I told him he should pair up with the National Park and Tourist Info places, tourists would love to get his cheese, such a gem as Colombian cheese is pretty linear and boring. After an hour break drinking hot chocolate and bread and cheese for a snack lunch, we were off to see the 4 lakes. It was 11.45am

walk

On the map, this is this section.

map

This is a lagunilla right next to Cabana Sisuma.

lagunilla

Landscape around.

landscape

First lake, La Pintada.

La Pintada

Second lake, La Cuadrada.

La Cuadrada

Third lake, La Atravesada.

La Atravesada

The trail.

trail

And landscape around

landscape

That landscape was really amazing and even better when the rain stopped and the weather cleared up. We reached the fourth lake, La Parada that we can see on the left here around 1pm.

lake

Gal and Imbra decided to wait there a bit for me and go back but I wanted to try to get to the Boqueron de Cusiri and decided to continue and turn back around 2.30pm from wherever I would have arrived. The path in front of me with threatening dark mountains on the right. You have to remember we were walking at about 4,300m high by the way! Made everything a bit more difficult.

walk

A view of the lakes from higher up. These cairns help the hikers know they are on the right track. For that track, it was easy to follow it, but some of the other tracks are much harder to follow.

view

And up, and up, and up I went.

up

The mountain is really treacherous. You feel you get closer to the top like here, but in reality you have to walk a bit further…and a bit further…and a bit further again. It feels like a mirage that you will never reach!

further

So up and up I continued.

view

And more up, and more up. At this stage, it was 2.30pm and I felt like the mountain was going to keep fooling me. So I decided to turn back. It was a bit frustrating though. Sometimes I wish I was a faster walker!! Didnt make it to Boqueron de Cusiri!

almost

The landscape around had turned into dry stones. I felt like being on another planet!

landscape

The view from there was pretty good.

view

I realised a few minutes later that I had ran out of water anyway. Camelbak is great because you can constantly keep drinking a sip here and there while you keep walking. But on the other hand, it can get empty before you even realise it!

water

Another view, with some frailejones in the foreground. This plant is very special as it is only found in 5 countries, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Costa Rica. It grows of 1cm only per year. That means each plant of more than a meter high is more than 100 years old! Pretty precious. It has a very important role in the eco-system of the valley.

view

From closer

frailejones

On the way back, the weather had cleared up and I could see some of the pics with snow.

snow

A closer look.

snow

And back to Sisuma around 4.30pm. I was actually glad I had turned back as a few minutes later the weather started being bad again and the rain pouring!

Sisuma

In the evening, with Gal and Imbra, we had dinner with a couple from Brazil we had ran into earlier on the walk and an Australian guy called Cameron Honan who lives in Mexico and has been hiking all over the world the last 20 years. He was really humble and at the same time knowledgeable. His blog is awesome, lots of tips and great photos to make you dream for hours, I strongly recommend checking it out if you like hiking! The name is thehikinglife.com

The guide Juan Carlos arrived in the evening.

Off we were the next day to Pulpito del Diablo for a 3-day hike pitching the tent! Whoohoo!

* By the way, while preparing the text for this article from Villa de Leyva where I stopped over for 2 days to chill out and blog, there was an American guy who just got his Sandisk card blocked by the computers here the way the computers had blocked mine in San Gil!! Tip for the bloggers reading this posts: Do not put your Sandisk card in the Internet Cafes in South America (at least in Colombia) unless you really trust them…Better find other ways to upload the photos through the new wireless technology available even if that remains a bit laborious…or get a small computer!
* Note from Bogota, I finally bought a netbook indeed and that is how I have put the photos inside the article!


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