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
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