After the first few days of adapting to the altitude and holiday mode with a lot of good food and beers we felt that a little exercise was in order. Luckily, the area around Villa de Leyva has a few nice one-day treks on offer. We settled on a trek through the Santuario de Iguaque, leading us to the sacred lagoon where the Muisca goddesses had turned into snakes. With an altitude profile well over 3000 m it turned out to be quite a strenuous hike. We started the trek at the national park entrance at 2400 m and covered 14 km and a 1250 m ascent within 7 hours to catch the bus at the park entrance again. In contrast to the Alps where the trees cede to grow at around 1800 m, we started our trek through thick cloud forest that, above 3200 m, finally turned into the paramó, a typical endemic vegetation of bushes and grasslands that is specific for this area.
For the first time on all my hiking trips, arriving at the lagoon at 3650 m of altitude, I felt a little dizzy. Admittedly, we had climbed up there quite fast and, when everything is lush green and jungle-like, one easily looses perception of the high altitude. Although we were spending a good part of the day above 3000 m, there were no snow-capped peaks, or mountain peaks altogether for that matter, in sight. Without any snow or mountain range on the horizon, the hike mostly just felt like a walk through the woods. The dizziness quickly faded when we were starting our descent so I did’t have to worry but it made me all the more aware of the risks that are associated with high altitude adventures, even if you are “just walking through the forest” but on 3600 m of altitude.
On the way back down we stopped at the refuge in the national park for lunch (which we had pre-ordered in the morning) and they served us fresh trout and some fruit juice for a total of 6 €. We were really surprised since we were just expecting a simple meal.
This was just something I loved about Colombia, there was always a surprise in store!