In my research before coming on this trip I was looking for something to do in Bogota today before my flight south to Letecia the next day.
Bogota has Gold museums and art museums, but those rarely hold my interest longer than 5 minutes. I did come across a nature park outside of town called Parque Natural Chicaque . I was up at 6am getting my day pack ready, popping vitamin C by the truckload as I was fighting a cold, per usual. Everytime I would leave my room at the hostel to go to the bathroom, I would lock my belongings in a cabinet and then lock the door to my room. Most people are pretty carefree in hostels so I can only assume that I was using the locks because I had brought them and needed to validate that decision.
The guy at the front desk for the Platypus Hostel did not have a good handle on how to get to the park. Before I left the US I had been in contact with the park on multiple occasions. I emailed them and they said they would be happy to pick me up from the airport for $70, which I was not willing to accept. I continually asked them how to get to the park, but they were unwilling to reveal that information if I was not paying for the ride. So I took what information I could gather from the Internet about the Bogota mass transit system and headed out after a breakfast of CLIF bars.
I found a pickup spot for the Transmilenio and could not really make sense of the maps on the walls of the station as there were hundreds of them all with different times relating to normal, semi-express and express buses (not rails) that stopped at certain stops based on time of day. It was a far cry from “The Loop” in Chicago which is fairly easy for a novice. I did have this map with me
and knew that I had to get to the blue lines last stop of Portal Sur before going freestyle to get to the park. I got on one that looked right, only to have a lady tell me in Spanish that I was going the wrong way. At the next stop, they told me I was actually right the first time but had to head back to the start to catch the bus south. It was like some demented board game where I was the pawn and had just picked up the chance card that read, “received advice from crazy woman, go back to start and do not collect $200”
I eventually got to a hub where I would transfer to the blue line south. It was 8am and everyone was jamming into cars and knocking you over on the way to work.
I made it to Portal Sur where people were streaming like lemmings into the station I had just left.
I next found a broken down Econoline van with a family in it that agreed to take me to Soacha, a small town on the outskirts of Bogota, where I was going to try and grab a bus that ran by the entrance of the park. After waiting on a corner in Soacha for 30 minutes, watching buses pass, I decided to stand in front of a bus and yell Parque Chicaque! I was motioned to get out of the way, but the 3rd time a driver told me to saddle up. We rolled through the countryside for 20 minutes until a passenger asked me if I wanted to go to Chicaque? I confirmed, and he went on to tell me that we passed it 10 minutes ago. I asked the driver to let me out and having no way to communicate my disappointment in his lack of stopping at entrance I gave him a stare and violently tried to slide closed the automatic van door, but it would not let me, so I went on my way.
I passed under the sign for the park and saw nothing but a dirt road. After 30 minutes of walking on the dirt road, passing farms, I begin to feel like I was getting nowhere.
I finally came to the 2nd front gate, which was deserted.
There was no one to let me in. I found a shack on a hill near the gate, where I woke up a family that was not pleased to open the gate, collect my money and go back to sleep. I asked for a map, but they said it did not exist. I took in the view and began my descent
I should probably mention now that the gate to this park is at the top of the valley and you need to hike down to actually get into the park, meaning you will need to hike out of the park at the end of the day. This was all becoming painfully apparent as I made my grueling descent. On the attached map, I started in the top right at the letter A and was heading to the waterfall marked on the left with the number 3. The park starts at an elevation of 2700 meters and drops to 2000 meters. This means it drops about around 2300 feet or a half mile in elevation. There was a road I followed, but it was actually to steep, and preferred the hiking trail which was a 2 foot wide path of rocks. There were multiple trails branching off. I of course had no map, the one I showed above was more of a general overview and not specific to the trails. I also realized I was the only one in the park.
I finally made it to the bottom and rested for about 30 minutes as a combination of the altitude, descent and heat was overwhelming
I begin walking around what looked to be a farm
Where were the people, where were the guests, and where was the lodge I had been in contact that offered me a ride from the airport? It was about this time that that I ran into decision point. I looked up and saw this on the path
They were frozen, and I was frozen. I assume they were alpacas or something, but I had no idea how they would react to me. They just stood there and the animals behind the lead would pop their heads out glancing at what the hold up was, then freeze and stare. We both began to advance at slow pace, keeping as close to our side of the path, not taking our eyes of each other.
Tension mounted as the gap closed. I gave out a low ,”Easy, Easy big fella, we don’t need any trouble here”
There is a scene in Saving Private Ryan where the dorky typist is standing in the stairwell near the end of the film, while a German comes down the steps passing him after murdering another American during a knife fight. I felt like the typist, holding my water bottle, trying to look as small and harmless as possible as the huge German (Llama) starred me down as if I was not worth the trouble.
They continued on and I realized right then that I would not do well in battle or as a host of some show like Man vs Wild. The show would basically consist of me sitting under a tree in a storm with the camera saying, “Well not much going on out there, I think we will just hold tight for 6 days until they come looking for me”, meanwhile eating my candybars and drinking Gatorade off camera
I continued on and came across the Lodge
I was going to go in, but I was not in the mood for a frustrating Spanglish conversation if someone appeared. I continued my hike towards the waterfall
The waterfall was a trickle. It was the rainy season, what gives! I needed something to make this hike worth it. Depressed I followed the trail around and back to the base of the hill. I took the below picture at the base of the park. I basically had to hike all the way back to the top of that cliff
I had to motivate myself for 30 minutes before I stated. I opted to take the road back up on the off chance that a work truck would be passing and I could catch a ride….no such luck. I stopped about 25 times, continually saying to myself, “this is gunna feel great when you are done, a real accomplishment”, right.
I got to the top and of course the gate was locked. It was 2pm, come on! I found a spot where I could climb a barbed wire fence to get out. I was climbing a barbed wire fence to get out of the park, what the hell is going on here!
Now I had the 30 minute walk back to the main road. I first stopped at the house to wake the family up and thank them for the visit. I am sure they thought I was a complete jackass.
I got to the road and had no idea how to get back to Soacha and Bogota. I sat down next to these guys and drank a cuple beers.
They told me to walk up the road and flag down a van. What was wrong with right here? Well, I did what they said and after looking like an idiot for an hour I came back and a bus stopped right a away and took me back to the town of Soacha, where I was dropped at a not so safe neighborhood
Another hour of asking buses until I got myself back to the transit sytem and back into Bogota and my hostel
My clothes were disgusting, and I think I dropped 10 pounds of water that day, which I could afford. I hung everything out and wore a towel for 4 hours until something dried as I had very few wardrobe choices on this trip.
I walked the town that night
I got caught up in a music video at some street corner
So if you are watching the Spanish channel from a hotel in Florida some night and you see me grinding on Latin women, don’t be surprised
I stopped at this little joint for a meat fix, that is only satisfied when on the road, otherwise I stick mostly to twigs and berries
Whatever it was, it was good. Thank god for pictures of dishes on the menu or I would end up with the rarely ordered carcass of dog seasoned with Cumin on a bed of rice.
I crashed early not wanting to oversleep for my flight to Leticia where the real adventure begins