We are in Colombia during the rainy season and the weather seems to be taking on a familiar pattern of bright sunny mornings, clouding over at lunchtime and then raining in the afternoon and evening. Unfortunately our two sky lights have started leaking. Bizarrely both of them at the same time, so dinner was eaten with pots catching the drips. In the morning everything was well, the sun was shining and there was a beautiful drive ahead.
It was a long drive, not in terms of distance (200kms) but in terms of time (9 hours) as the roads were partially dirt roads and also twisty as they wound their way up and down the mountains. However the scenery was spectacular.
Eventually we arrived in El Cocuy the village at the entrance to El Cocuy National Park. Here we had to pay our entrance fees. It was now much colder as the village is at 2800m and all the locals were wearing ponchos.
Leaving in the afternoon it was raining as we drove further up the mountain to camp just inside the park on a small piece of flat ground just near a shepherd's hut. The weather was awful, the rain had leaked onto our bed and sofa, which meant climbing on the roof to put tape around the skylights in the pouring rain. We were also at 3960m so were a little concerned at how the altitude would affect everyone. Had it really been worth the effort to get where we were?
We woke early in the morning and were rewarded with the most magnificent mountain views. The clouds had cleared and it was a beautiful crisp morning. Definitely worth it!
We set off for an early morning hike and the girls skipped along the path, clearly not affected by the altitude.
The views along the way were beautiful and we had the whole mountainside to ourselves. Unfortunately the trek to the snow line was about 8 hours there and back and would have taken us up to 5,000m so was too far for Alisha and Lucy.
As we returned to the truck the clouds started closing in, so we finished our emergency repairs to the skylights and drove a short way to camp outside a Hacienda. As it rained most of the afternoon we were confined to the truck but at least it had stopped leaking, well almost!
The next morning the weather broke its pattern and when we woke up it was cold, grey and misty. Not been put off though we set off on a morning hike fully wrapped up. The scenery reminded me of the Pennines in England although we had to remember we were at nearly 4000m.
As the weather did not look like it was going to get any better we decided to head down. Plus I had had a headache for 3 days so was hoping the lower altitude would clear it. We went back a slightly different way which although shorter was on a very narrow road with drop offs down to the raging river.
When it started raining we had to drive really slowly but eventually we made it back on to the tar. After stopping off to buy some sealant in a local town we began to look for somewhere to camp for the night. As it got dark we had not found anywhere and did not want to just pull off on the side of the main road so we did what the local truck drivers do and pulled into a petrol station which would let us park up for the night. Not the most picturesque or quiet spot but it was safe, secure and flat.
The next day we drove to the beach! Not just any beach but a white sandy beach on the side of an Andean Lake set at 3000m in the mountains. When we arrived at Laguna de Tota the weather was not exactly welcoming and it looked like a wet weekend in Bournemouth in March.
It was very quiet though and we were the only people camping there the first night. After all the driving it was a peaceful place to relax. Alisha and Lucy enjoyed playing on their scooters and we also took the time to do some lovely home cooking. First up were homemade pizzas and then a lovely curry with homemade nan breads.
The second day we were there was a Saturday so it was busier with the locals coming down. What we did not know was that quite a few of them would camp and play music literally all night! We understand this is very normal in South America so is something we will need to get used to. Alisha and Lucy seem to have no problem sleeping through it all.