By Leigh McAdam
It was sometime in May last year when my husband and I decided we should book a trip – somewhere, anywhere for the following winter on our airline points. We live in Calgary and as much as I like snow and the outdoors, by February I long for a break that includes sunshine and more hours of daylight.
I got on the computer and started typing in dates that would correspond to when we‘d like to go. Arizona was gone. So was anywhere in California. I looked further afield. Forget Europe – it wasn’t warm enough. I hit on Bogota, typed in the dates and voila.
Bogota, Colombia it was.
Fast forward to October and it was time to start contemplating what our trip to Colombia would actually look like. I did mention I like sunshine but I’m fussy. I don’t want it too hot either. Many tourists to Colombia end up in the Cartagena area – a city with a UNESCO site or on the beaches but a check of the temperatures put both of us off.
Medellin – sounds like a very nice city but I’m just not that into cities.
The coffee district – now that looked promising with lots of fincas to visit and a hike among the wax palms – but the logistics of getting there were initially off-putting.
And the Choco region sounds out of this world with its pristine rain forests, an abundance of marine animals, incredible birdlife (Colombia has more bird species than any other country on the planet) and a rugged coastline. But we decided that we’d save this area for another trip.
Then the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy – a remote mountain range close to the Venezuela border caught my eye. And the Michelin Guide gave it three stars – as good as it gets.
After hours of research I uncovered a local trekking company – but I was still nervous about the area. It was definitely off limits during the drug wars and I wasn’t sure about the reliability of the company. But any photos of the mountains I saw were so enticing that we decided we just had to go.
And so we did. Getting to the starting point – the town of Guican – involved a 14 hour bus ride from hell.
But fortunately it was worth it. The six day trek defies description. The trails took us through some of the most beautiful, remote, mountainous country on the planet – filled with hanging glaciers, turquoise coloured lakes and very unusual vegetation.
And it was sunny, the days were warm and there was more daylight than in Calgary.
Note: Throw away any misgivings you might have about traveling to Colombia. The drug wars are long over. There is a strong military presence in the cities – as a deterrent – and the locals we spoke with were happy about it. I found the people friendly and never felt unsafe. If you’re in a big city use common sense and ask the locals what areas to avoid.
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Photos courtesy of Leigh McAdam