I could actually see the glacier capped mountains of Sierra Nevada El Cocuy from San Gil, but thanks to indirect and unpaved roads, it took 13 hours to get there. It was a sleepless overnighter, obviously, so I spent much of the first day napping in my room.
The following day, I wandered around the sleepy town of Güicán and eventually found my way to a pair of government offices, where I spent three hours sorting out the permits necessary to enter the adjacent Parque Nacional. The ranger that was helping us was exceptionally friendly, but the administrative nonsense gave me a new perspective on the US Forest Service. It also afforded me the time to make some new friends, a friendly group of Bogotanos with whom I would share the costs of park guide and transportation. Together, we watched the ranger struggle with paperwork as night loomed and a city wide power outage wanted to become relevant. The lack of electricity seemed to have little effect on the process, but I was amused to see such an antiquated system illuminated by smartphone.
The next day provided solid evidence that I’ve spoiled myself rotten over the last year. It was a strenuous hike to the foot of a glacier, from where I could gaze upon the unending valleys and towering peaks of a massive swath of eastern Colombia. It was spectacular, but I was strangely disappointed. It is still one of the most beautiful places I have visited, but is somehow less-most-beautiful than other places I’ve been recently.
So, rather than hiking again in the park, I spent the next day with the Bogotanos drinking beer and soaking sore muscles in the nearby thermal baths. It was a fun day with hardly a gringo in sight; an off-the-beaten-track experience that made me appreciate the effort I’ve put into learning spanish.