I woke this morning to yoga and yogurt before my friends came by to pick me up for our adventure!
It was great to meet Diana's husband Fredy, who is a professor and researcher at
La Universidad Externado, focusing on sustainable tourism, tourism research, ecotourism, and community tourism.
We had a coffee (and choco fiesta donut) at the bus terminal and then seated ourselves in our lovely "interminicipial" bus for the four-hour ride ahead.
For the first leg of the drive, Diana filled me in on environmental education initiatives in Colombia, as well as social issues such as guerrilla groups and paramilitaries in the country. Somewhere on the way, Diana acquired an adopted child (Carlos) whom she held in her lap for the ride.
The rest of the time, she pointed out certain ecological features of the ecosystems through which we passed on our beautiful drive to Villa de Leyva.
After purchasing our return tickets from the reggaeton-filled terminal in Villa, the three of us enjoyed lunch in the pleasant Plaza Mayor, where Diana was even more uncertain than usual about my state of sobriety. What I love about Diana and Fredy is that when they hear music, they dance.
We ambled after our afternoon almuerzo to a cafe called Galleta, for post-prandial coffee and desserts. The place was most agreeable indeed to our taste buds.
It was now almost 5, and time to make our way to El Parque Iguaca (a semi-sacred nature sanctuary nearby).
The 15-minute all-uphill walk left me heaving such heavy breaths that I was dubious about my level of mobility for tomorrow. But the clearing to which we came served to clear my mind. We are nestled in the middle of nature.
After checking out our charming lodging, we headed to the dining hall, where Diana and Fredy again enjoyed the heck out of teasing me, and I found no way to take a break from the ridicule (and the Spanish) but to start writing my blog entry for the day.
Just minutes after I had begun writing, the facility lost power and we found ourselves without electricity, but for the power of the stars.
I'm off to look straight up at the sky again -- it's moments like this that remind me what I'm out to save.
We rose at 6 this morning to bundle ourselves in layers and commence our climb to Laguna Iguaque. This lagoon is from where the Muiscas indigenous tribe believes all life originated.
At first, the climb was complicated not by the terrain but by the altitude. I didn't realize that the entrance itself of the park was 100 meters higher than the city of Bogotá, and we would climb to a spot 1,000 meters higher! (I also didn't know my lungs could work this hard!)
It's difficult to sum 6 hours of tough climbing into a few words of a blog post, but I'll try. A very wise person (ok, Ben) said that one should do at least one thing each day that makes him/her uncomfortable -- this hike was mine for today! (It's lucky that I didn't see the sign that effectively said "turn back now if you're having trouble breathing.")
The first third of the walk up was cloud forest, with a soft soil trail interrupted by only occasional huge rocks and roots. I would realize only later what a luxury this ground was, after encountering "the wall."
This was an endless sea of crumbling boulders that started after the forest ended and changed to sub-paramo, an ecotone between forest and paramo (Diana distracted me from my fatigue with ecological tidbits throughout the walk.)
The "wall" of huge and steep rocks lasted for what seemed like forever, and sometimes what kept me going was the view. Nature is just grand, and we simply must keep around places like this, where it feels like one can be alone nothing but nature.
The last third of the walk couldn't come soon enough. What is referred to as the "plain" is actually just a less rocky uphill slope. It was comforting, though, to catch glimpses of la laguna toward which we were headed as we mustered strength for this last leg of the hike.
The lagoon itself (situated at 3,700 meters above sea level) was both frigid and serene.
After a snack and some snaps, I found a nook for myself and meditated for a spell.
When we started our return journey, we were ahead of schedule. But we somehow found ourselves midway through "the wall" with little time to spare before our taxi back to Villa was to arrive. Perhaps this was due to the fact that Diana had to hold my hand all the way down, as I counted how many times my right knee made a "crack!" sound while walking (the grand total was 23).
We ended up almost jogging the last stretch of the return, before bolting to our cabin, changing hurriedly, paying the bill, and piling into the cab.
Utterly exhausted, we've been wandering Villa de Leyva for a while now, eating fritanga, drinking refajo, and treating ourselves to ice cream.
Our bus back to Bogotá leaves in 20 -- I'm tired, aching, and totally satisfied.