Mongui, Monguí, Boyaca, Colombia
2 days - April 2018
Everyone kept asking us what’s the best thing we did in Latin America. Well the Paramo de Oceta is without a doubt in our top 3! (Our number one, still being Acatenango!)
From San Gil, it took us 7 hours to reach a little village called Mongui, located in the Colombian Andes. The speciality of Mongui: the production of soccer balls ! Imagine a central plaza in a little village becoming the most important place to produce and sell soccer balls in Colombia. Surprising! The village is just beautiful and not touristy at all yet. The reason: the FARC controlled the region until 5-6 years ago.
Here lived people still wearing wool poncho, hats and going to the market to trade livestock.
Today it’s still a destination off the beaten track and the vegetation is feeric!
The reason we came here was to do another hike at 4,000 metres with 1,000 metres difference in height. Another challenge just before leaving Latin America for Europe!
It is supposed to take 5 to 6 hours but it took us nearly 9 hours ! Why? Not because it’s hard or long (the 3 of us were surprisingly quite fit and not bothered at all by the altitude) but because it was so beautiful, we stopped every 10 metres to take pictures ! Florie alone, then Cedric and I , then the 3 of us, then Florie and I and so on! I think Maria our guide still remembers us ;)
Speaking about her, she taught us a lot about plants and trees particular to that region of Colombia. We even drank water directly from the plants and fruits and made make-up from them! She also taught us many stuff on the locals rituals of the Muisca and traditions like how to give birth at 3,500 metres in a bathtub made of stones to reconnect with the Earth, how they used caves and plants to live and so on. All of these got prohibited by the Spanish when they colonised the region 500 years ago.
Going back to our hike, after a couple of hours we discovered what we came for : the Paramo de Oceta ! What’s a Paramo ? First time we heard this word. A paramo is a variety of alpine tundra ecosystems above the forest line but below the permanent snow line. Located in the Andes so in Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia.
Its particular symbol is the Frailejones: a plant coming from space, like a big palm with a texture feeling like velvet, capturing the light , with a silver colour. Feeric! We’ve been lucky as we just got a bit of rain for an hour and it was a bit cold but the day before they had some hails and a storm ! We still used our amazing capes/poncho with Police written on it and smelling horses , all provided by Maria ;)
For 9 hours we couldn’t stop smiling and laughing how beautiful the hike was ! In our top 3 !
Getting closer to the sun + in a tropical region and forgetting to put on suncream ( it was below 10 degrees and not sunny for my defence) caused me to have the worst sunburn of the trip… Painful and ugly!
Going down was a bit harder for me as usual and for Florie especially who has issue with her knee but we came back at dusk, happy and enthusiastic about Colombia !
We treated ourselves with some amazing crepes in a little cosy cafe surrounding the main square and went straight to bed for another cold night!
# it’s amazing ! Go there !
# from San Gil, one bus to Sogamoso (38,000 pesos) and then one colectivo to Mongui (4,000) . 7 hours in total.
# be prepared it’s cold in the Andes !
# the hike is not particularly hard despite 1,000 metres difference in height and being 18 kilometres. Just take your time
# we recommend taking a guide as the walk is not clearly well indicated . 30,000 pesos per person with the amazing Maria !
# being a little village and not touristy at all (at least yet) there are not a lot of accomodations in Mongui. We stayed at Portal de la Cascada , it was perfect but cold at night .
# have some crepes at the cosy little cafe around the main plaza