It is such a relief and I feel as if happiness is giving me a bear hug right now because I am going to my favorite place on earth. I have been here eight times and still I have so much more climbing & too much exploring to do. I also look forward to climbing Nevado del Tolima* (Colombia's tenth largest peak at 5,216 meters) one of these days. My only drawback to summiting is that I don't have my piolet nor my crampons with me in Colombia; therefore summiting +5,000m(+16,000ft) snow/ice covered peaks is going to have to wait for now.
This is an amateur visual of where the departments (states) of Quindío and Tolima are located in relativity to where I live:
Anyway, I need to get some sleep because tomorrow morning I have French class at 8am and then a 6½ hour bus ride to Armenia (the capital of the Quindío department of Colombia) which I don't look forward to to be honest. I have been on hundreds of buses with long durations throughout my travels on three continents but every time I get off a several hour bus ride in the Andes I still feel as if I hadn't slept in three days and gotten my ass kicked by a gang. I could have an abundance of energy (which is usually the case) five minutes before I get on a bus and 30 minutes into the journey I feel like taking a nap. I have never gotten off a several hour bus ride and thought to myself, "Man, my neck doesn't hurt, I don't feel like bathing and I slept wonderfully!" But it's all good because when I arrive at my destination I love the destination even more.
Before I go I would like to share with you some photos of the last time I was in the mountains of Quindío and Tolima with my sister McKenna. Enjjjoy! (All photos, unless otherwise noted, were taken and are property of McKenna Post)
Coffee Plantation of Salento, Quindío, Colombia
Me in Salento, Quindío, Colombia
In Salento looking towards Cocora. I was sure that it was going to rain during our time in the Cordillera Central*. Lucky, very lucky for us our four days in the mountains of Quindío and Tolima we weren't burdened by heavy rainfall which is a normal occurrence in the tropical mountains of the Zona Cafetera (Colombia's coffee zone).
*In southwestern Colombia the Andes break off into three major mountain chains called the Cordillera Occidental, Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental (Western, Central, and Eastern mountain ranges).
Me in El Valle de Cocora (Cocora Valley) which is my favorite place on earth. I want to spend my last years of my life here.
McKenna crossing a makeshift bridge in Cocora, Quindío, Colombia. (Photos: me)
Esneda and I. We met in Cocora and she tagged along with us and we became good friends. I look forward to seeing her this upcoming weekend.
For me, simply paradise.
The sad thing is that there is a lot of fighting going on in order to have power and control over paradise. This bridge was recently destroyed (no more than a year ago) by, let's say, "problems with public order" (aka armed groups).
Some of the coldest water I've ever bathed in.
Sometime in October 2007 (I was here in December of 2007) the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Las FARC) destroyed this finca (farm house) as well as another one completely burnt to the ground in the same area because they were owned by the regional government...(Photos: me)
...and Esneda, McKenna and I camped inside of the finca to escape the strong wind. The MSR Hubba Hubba* is an amazing tent but NOT for three people (Esneda and I had to get quite cozy together). Mom, dad, I am sorry for bringing your one and only daughter in the mountains of Colombia to camp in a finca destroyed by leftist guerrillas. (Photos: me)
*Gear review regarding the MSR Hubba Hubba coming soon.
I didn't realize that I am in this photo until now. My Arc'teryx Beta AR* blends in very well to these type of surroundings (i.e. páramo, jungle (not recommended), tundra, dense forest).
*Gear review regarding the Beta AR coming soon
Almost a perfect circle carved into the rock. We were amazed by natures beauty and unexplained complexities. (Photo: me)
For lack of a better word: essssooooooooooooooo essssss! (literally translates to "that's it", a very Pan-Colombian way of saying "Wow" or "That's what I'm taking about man!"). The one thing I miss in Medellín is the ability to see the sunrise and sunset because mountains surround Medellín on the east side of the city and the west side of the city. Medellín is cozily settled in El Valle de Aburrá (Aburrá Valley) making Medellín more or less compact from north to south. (Photos: me)
The sunset casts beautiful colors onto the mountains as well as the man made destruction. (Photo: me)
Páramo only exists in five countries on earth: Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panamá and Costa Rica. The best way I can describe it is high altitude grassland with extreme humidity making it a hostile environment for humans (no food, very wet and very cold, no natural shelter, strong winds, very cloudy making visibility difficult, and every step is like taking three steps due it's mushiness). I have never seen nor had the opportunity to walk on tundra yet but I would think páramo is comparable to tundra that just melted.
This region is also known as El Valle de los Perdidos (The Valley of the Lost) by the locals who live here due to its facilitation to become incredibly disoriented. It is impossible to differentiate landmarks, one cannot see the sun past noon, and the man made trails are not visible and/or destroyed during the rainy season. I highly recommend hiring a guide in these regions unless one is very familiar with the area. (Photo: me)
Esneda and Adriana in el páramo. We were racing each other the entire time while my poor sister suffered a bit from the altitude (4000m above sea level). (Photo: me)
More desolation...but beyond beautiful and peaceful for me. (Photo: me)
Finally the only landmark for many kilometers. El Nevado del Tolima (5216m). (Photo: me)
Racing to meet McKenna in Cocora. She took a horse down while Esneda and I had to almost race down to the valley all day to meet McKenna. Poor McKenna had to wait almost three hours. Anyway, Esneda and I enjoy racing each other as well as talk about nature. We also bathed in the river which was much needed before returning to "civilization". (Photo: Esneda)
Alright everyone, I have to go! Much love, I'll get back to you in a little less than two weeks.
A bear hug from me