There is just way too much to say about this trip to Colombia. I think that I speak for everyone when I say that we came back as better people. Colombia impacted us all from the moment we landed in Bogotá.
The difference in culture was apparent. Taking the bus from the airport made us all realize how differently people from Bogotá live in comparison to us. There were people living under bridges with tarps as roofs. For many of us, this was an unfamiliar site in our own country or any other places that we had visited before.
One of the most life-changing experiences was building a home for a family. We had to travel almost three hours through slums and mountains to reach the Colombian countryside. We spent two days building a house with the help of the family. There were points where some people couldn’t help, so they found other ways to contribute to the community. They played with the children and even helped translate. By far the most moving moment was handing the keys to the family and seeing them tear up with happiness.
The next big thing was hiking the páramo. The four-day hike was a challenge for all of us, but in the end, we all felt a sense of achievement. But by far the most amazing feeling was when a few of us took on the extra challenge and climbed the Eagles Peak, which was 4,150 metres above sea level. We actually saw an eagle!
All in all, this trip has been amazing. I’ve reunited with old friends and made new ones. As a soon-to-be graduate, this last big LCC trip will stay with me forever. – Zach Pfefferle ’16
The day started with an early wake up at 7 am at the Camino Real in Tota. The view to the lake from our window was beautiful. After breakfast we headed to the beach. The drive was about 45 minutes. When we arrived we put our belongings down and as a group collected garbage in the sand. Many of us found wrappers left by people who had visited the beach. Once we were done with our cleanup, we started a relay race. We all had a lot of fun and had to work together to win.
After the relay race we had free time. A few people swam but many people just lay in the sand and tanned. Even though many of us applied sunscreen we still burned. The Colombian sun is much stronger than what we are used to in Canada and we all experienced its effects.
We had lunch at the restaurant on the beach. Almost everyone ate rainbow trout, which was a regional specialty. After the beach we drove three hours to Villa de Levya. This was a very touristy town. It had the biggest town square in South America surrounded by many shops and restaurants. After visiting the town, we walked back to the hotel where we enjoyed a chicken dinner.
That night was very emotional for many people. We sat in a church illuminated by candles and spoke about our experience, what we would remember the most, and how this trip changed us. That night, many of us realized how grateful we were for our experience. We finished the meeting with letters that we wrote to ourselves. These letters were meant to act as a link between us and Colombia. Even though we were returning to Montreal and our daily routines, the letters would allow us to never forget Colombia and what we had experienced. –Kamy Roberge-Carrington ’16
As soon as we heard the voices of our guides waking us at 7 am, we knew that we had finally reached the last day of our three-day hike. Everyone began to pack their things, take down the tents and clean the campsite. After a frustrating hour or so of not being able to pack as well as our parents had, we finished the last of our cleaning and began our final group warm up before embarking on our final stretch. With a mostly downhill hike we were all a relieved to have a break from the steep climbing we’d done over the past few days.
I think I speak for everyone when I say that with every step closer to our awaiting bus, we were filled with more and more of a sense of accomplishment. While we were all excited to finally use a real bathroom and sleep on a mattress, no one could help but feel slightly sad to leave the páramo. For the past two days, we’ve come to push ourselves to extremes we never thought possible and see incredible, once in a lifetime views. There was at least one time during the hike that we wanted to give up, whether from the lack of oxygen or the weight on our backs, but despite everything, not one of us gave in.
We finished the hike, just as we started it: together. Together we helped each other power through the moments of weakness. Together we provided enough support to get through each day. Together we laughed (and sometimes cried). Together we hiked the páramo. –Alexa Greeley ’16
The day started off with an early wake up at 7 am, followed by breakfast. We were told that we would have the opportunity to hike 2 hours to Stone City and to pack our day packs. Not knowing what to expect we set off on our adventure.
The hike itself was not particularly easy but worth it in the end. We stopped at the top of the mountain where the view was nothing like I’ve ever seen before. It was truly amazing! We then continued walking to Stone City. I had a clear image of what I thought we were going to see but the reality was so much better. Stone City which is also known as the Lost City, is a place made entirely of rock. We walked through this incredible place with walls of rock all around us.
For the last part of our day, all of us had a choice to make, we could either hike all the way back to camp or continue the hike up Eagle Mountain. Personally I chose to go up Eagle Mountain. I was a little nervous because our tour guide told us that this particular mountain was a lot harder than what we had done so far. However I was up for the challenge. Eight of us plus our tour guide and Mr. Weiland hiked the entire mountain in a total of twelve minutes, which is apparently incredibly fast. Although the hike was tiring and at some points we had a lack of oxygen because we were at an altitude of 4,100 meters, we all felt relieved and extremely happy to reach the top but most of all accomplished. We had a perfect 360 degree view of the páramo. On the way back down we watched the beautiful sunset. At the end of the night our tour guides sang Colombian songs before we went to bed. Overall this day was lots of fun and we learned a lot of new things about Colombian culture. –Rebecca Ross ’16
As soon as we finished our acclimatization hike, I knew that the real hike to the páramo would be the hardest thing that some of us had ever done. For those of you who don’t know what the páramo is (and I can’t imagine that most of you do), the páramo is a mountainous range near Mongui, a small village approximately 4 hours from Bogotá. What makes this place so special is that the páramo’s ecosystem is so delicate that there are only a select number of people permitted to hike in the region, let alone camp there for two nights. According to our guides, most Colombians don’t even visit this remote area of the country.
Almost exclusively uphill, and on rocky terrain, hiking had never been harder. With about 40 pounds on each of our backs, today was the hardest day of our trip to Colombia. As cliché as it sounds, the views were worth the effort of hiking for hours in the ever-changing weather of the mountains. While the hike itself was physically strenuous, it was more of a mental journey. Getting over the next hill and breathing enough to make it was all I could think about.
On a more personal note, this trip was already changing the way I think about a lot of things, but it was really in the middle of hiking at a high altitude with what felt like no oxygen that I realized that I made a good decision to visit Colombia. I have never experienced anything like this trip. The anxiety I felt before starting had almost completely cleared up thanks to our amazing doctor, Esteban. If it weren’t for him, our guides and the teachers on this trip, I don’t think I could’ve made it to our destination. The ache in my back and lungs, the dirt on my face and the altitude-induced headaches will never compare to the feeling of accomplishment after climbing the páramo. – Christina Papageorgakopoulos ’16