El Cocuy National Park, Boyacá (and a little lamb)

Sunset Cocuy National Park

Sunrise at Lagunillas, El Cocuy National Park

A few months ago I jumped at the chance to go on a 5-day trekking adventure in Colombia’s El Cocuy National Park in the Department of Boyacá (about a 10 hour bus ride from Bogotá). It was hard, it was grueling, and the food was most definitely not the high point, but having the opportunity to kick off 2012 in the middle of one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to was truly amazing.

Laguna Grande de la Sierra seen from the top of Pan de Azúcar

On the evening of December 29th, Juanma, Amy and I took off with Carlos our gung-ho mountaineering guide from Caminatas Deportivas (check out his Facebook page here and take advantage of his day hikes around Bogotá) . I knew it would be hard and it was – we endured the nerve-wracking 10 hour bus ride (both ways), a 17 hour hike on the first day, horseback riding up and down steep mountains, camping in extremely cramped and cold conditions, snow trekking, regular trekking, climbing and too much canned food, among other things, but we survived to tell the tale. Hallelujah!

Every time I reached the top of a mountain, out of breath and exhausted, a new wave of energy swept through me as my eyes met the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen in my life. Snow capped mountains, turquoise-colored lakes, sweeping landscapes and beauty  in every direction.

El Púlpito del Diablo/The Devil's Pulpit

Should you choose to visit – and I highly recommend you do – there are several options for accommodation. If you aren’t down for camping, the Hacienda La Esperanza is a great spot. Its hosts, Don Marco and his wife Astrid, are incredibly kind and know the area well. Their home is a cozy and very rustic 100-year old house, Astrid’s cooking is exactly what you need after a long hike, and there is electricity which is nice – especially if you want to take a hot shower and recharge your phone or camera. You can opt to get to the snow-capped mountains or lakes by foot, horseback or jeep.

And now for the best part – a little lamb.

As I mentioned, food was not the reason I chose this trip but there was one moment where I did get very excited about food and that’s when Don Marco Arturo’s arrieros (farm hands/cowboys/trail guides) carried a whole lamb into the courtyard for butchering. Don Marco happens to raise award-winning sheep and his guests often have the pleasure of enjoying a little lamb once in a while.

Lamb at Hacienda La Esperanza, Cocuy, Boyacá

So when I saw the lamb I thought: should I ride up to the Laguna Grande de la Sierra for two nights of camping and more canned beans, or should I  fake an injury and stay at La Esperanza eating lamb – lots of lamb. Fortunately, some of the lamb was going to be prepared for us anyways on the day we returned…so, that would be my reward for climbing, trekking and riding around like a pioneer woman.

Laguna Grande de la Sierra, El Cocuy National Park, Boyacá

Laguna Grande de la Sierra

We arrived back at the Hacienda two days later and were greeted by Astrid and a glass of refreshing aguapanela with mint. Shortly after that I was having some of the most delicious lamb ever – and not just because I was starving and absolutely done with canned food for a long, long time. It was juicy and tender and I could have eaten the entire leg. (Lunch at the Hacienda costs $10,000)

Lamb, papa chorreada (boiled potatoes covered in a cheesy tomato sauce - very typical), rice and spinach casserole

And that was that. We hopped on a bus to Bogotá and now we’re back and it all feels like a dream. Someday I’d like to do it all over again and I’d only make a few adjustments – a bigger tent, no 17 hour hikes, a cook to prepare real food while I’m out trekking, and definitely more of Astrid and Don Marco’s hospitality and lamb, of course…

haciendalaesperanza@gmail.com

Contact #’s: (57 1) 310 209 9812 / 313 473 0990

Beauty surrounds us. -Rumi

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3 Responses to El Cocuy National Park, Boyacá (and a little lamb)

  1. Sara says:

    Beautiful! And that lamb plate does look delicious.

  2. Maria says:

    Felicitaciones a Don Marco y a su señora Astrid, quienes hicieron el sueño de una familia realidad y especialmente el sueño de Jorge Alfredo Valderrama del Cocuy de que se reconozca internacionalmente la belleza y los paisajes de la tierra que amo tanto… Dios te bendiga donde quiera que estes…!!!!!

  3. Pingback: The 7 Links Challenge: A look back at Bogotá Eats & Drinks | Bogotá Eats + Drinks

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