There’s one group of Colombians who’d agree with my kindergarten teachers if they knew what Swedish kindergarten staff ceaselessly say. There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing. Most Colombians I know run in panic for shelter when it starts raining. The caminantes on the other hand, simply pull out a good waterproof jacket and keep walking calmly.
The reason being that when you’re a hiker in Colombia, the places you go to inevitably have all kinds of weathers during the same day. The hikes in the surroundings of Bogotá exclusively evolve around the páramo landscape.
You’ll have to go to Colombia or some of its Andean neighbouring countries, if you want to see one, because they only exist here. You’ll also need to hike uphills for some hours cause the minimum altitude of a páramo is 3000 meters above sea level. These water-retaining soils, above timberline but below snow-line, provide most Colombian lowlands with freshwater, are extremely sensitive to human impact and host these particular plants, the frailejones.
(Photo Juliana Sánchez)
It was an immense pleasure to find a páramo that’s doing so well. Chingaza is protected as a national park, and there’s quite an effort made to prevent it from being illegally used for potato crops and cattle.
The frailejones grow with 1 cm per year, so you’ll guess how old these beauties are.
There were flowering frailejones too. I hadn’t seen so many of them since we hiked Páramo de Ocetá, and I’ve been told that Ocetá has deteriorated a lot since we were there four years ago and that it has become overcrowded with tourists. Chingaza has a visitors’ limit per trail per day so we didn’t run in to many people at all.
The Chingaza national park has numerous trails from three different park entrances in three different municipalities. We chose the entrance in Paso Hondo, reached from the municipality of Guasca, and hiked to the Lagunas de Siecha.
This is the reason why you should always bring warm and water-resistant clothing to the páramo, no matter how beautiful the sunshine is when you begin. The weather can change in a second.
(Photo Javier Bahamón)
Luckily, it can switch back to sunshine equally fast.
Laguna de Siecha to the left and Laguna de Chochal to the right. The chances to see spectacle bears or deers aren’t big in this part of the national park, but it has some of the most beautiful sceneries.
From the viewpoint at Alto del Chochal, some 3700 meters above sea level.
Chingaza National Park is enormous and stretches over three Colombian departments. We entered via Guasca municipality, 1,5 hours car ride from Bogotá. Unfortunately it’s practically impossible to reach Chingaza via public transport, although it’s said to exist a bus line from Guasca to a place near the entrance. We walked the Trail no. 6 from Paso hondo to Lagunas de Siecha, plus an extra detour that made for a total of about 7 km. These are long kilometers though, considering the altitude and the steep ascent and descent so it took some 4 hours. It’s a good idea to call or email Parques Nacionales in advance and book so that you don’t arrive in Chingaza just to learn that the quota has already been filled for the day.