Day 1; I left the hostel around 8am taking a jeep to Cocora valley. From there the hike started up. The weather got crappier and crappier while going up and half way I met a group of French and one Polish girl that were taking shelter at a farm house, I joined them while I had lunch and we waited till it got dry.
When it was dry again we left but quickly the rain started again, I left the group and continued solo, I didn’t want to arrive in the dark (which as it turned out was correct, the last part they walked with headlights). Around 4pm I was at finca primavera, kind of a hostel, I had stayed here 3years ago as well.
Day 2; This would be a shorter day, as it turned out the shortest day of the entire track. I left around 10am and with around 4pm I was at the base camp of Tolima, with 5200m the second highest volcano of the park. I had heard a lot of different stories about this one, people from the finca had told me that to leave the finca at 1am, or the basecamp at 1am, or the camp at the lake at one 1am, this didn’t make sense since the base camp and the camp at the lake where according to them 4hours from the finca, this didn’t make sense either because the basecamp was farther away and higher than the camp at the lake. Anyway, I didn’t really trust their info.
I met 2 guys as well, that had been there the day before, they told me the glacier was inaccessible because of heavy snow. They turned out to be right especially since the night that I camped there about 20cam extra snow fall during the night. My tent had it heavy and I had to remove snow during the night by kicking from inside to the roof and sides of the tent.
Around 4pm I was at the basecamp and went for another small hike to find water, In the end I only found puddles, but with the water filter I could at least get about 1.5l of water from this.
Day3; The snow had transformed landscape and with the strong wind it took a long time to pack, but the view was great. Since going to the peak didn’t seem to be an option I just packed and continued towards some hot springs. The path went between large friallejoles (the typical outer worldly plant from this area with furry leaves and a thick stem that grows 1cm a year), some were as high as 4m, or in other words about 400years old.
The path descended to finca with some hot springs, for 5000pesos, about 1.66euro, I had a host chocolate, that didn’t taste like chocolate but taste great after the snow and went for a swim in the “cold pool” which was still about 30 degrees Celsius.
The guy that lived there explained me the route towards laguna Otun from where I planned to go the second glacier in the park.
On the way from the hot springs I found a bamboo stick which would turn out to be of great help on the rest of the hike. Quickly after finding it I had to cross a river, I couldn’t jump stones, the stream was strong and the water about a meter deep at its deepest at the shallow spot I picked to cross. I only was able to make it because of the extra balance I got from the stick and even then, although I had stripped down to my boxers, my boxers had gotten a little wet…
The path went up past another finca, no people where there, only aggressive kievits. And later, another finca named Africa, where they directly invited me in, gave me an agua panela (hot drink made with cane sugar), and I watched how they were making cheese.
I continued, and shortly after the finca the path disappeared, I had to cross a swamp, with floating plants and quicksand really cool to see but a little tricky to find a save and dry way to get through. This took as well longer than I expected, and I camped on the higher flat area in a small opening between the friallejoles. Beautiful sunset.
Day 4; I packed my tent and continued without path, till suddenly there was a clear trail again, it would disappear again but reappear every time again. The path went past a couple lakes and down to lake Otun. Here there was a camp side next to the ranger’s house.
The ranger wasn’t there but when he arrived they let me camp under an over capping, so the tent would stay dry. They gave me cheese with bread, agua panela, and later on some very tasty kind of fried liver sausage and pasta, a very good dinner compared to my own pasta or instant mashed potatoes with instant soup.
Day 5; the ranger had told me a certain part of the park was closed, but told me as well that if I left early he would not know I had gone there. So, I left early but I didn’t find the correct path and made another loop, still very beautiful, but my clothes were soaked from trying to get through the vegetation. On the way I saw a small kind of deer and lots of rabbits. Later when I came back after this loop trail and the ranger gave me again some food (wraps and apples for later) he told me he had never seen this deer, but when we hiked together later, and he showed me where the path started I had wanted to take before, he did show me some of the foot prints of this deer.
So, although not allowed he helped me to find the path up to nevado Santa Isabel. I walked up and around 4300m pitched my tent. With an almost empty backpack I continued to the peak and around 5:30pm was back at y tent, a quick dinner and to bed.
Had been a long day but with great views of lakes and glaciers on top of the nevado.
Day6; I packed and walked the high route around the lake, again great vies of lakes and a couple of eagles was circling around.
I went down to the lake and finished to loop back to the ranger station. I had promised to let him know that I was ok. He wasn;t there but I wrote (with a piece of soap because I didn’t hve a pen) a note that I was okay. I walked back to the path and met the ranger, now on a horse, so he told me how to get back to Salento. I passed some geysers and followed a path down the valley.
I changed my course to go past another peak and laguna leone and laguna negro. This turned out to make the hike a lot longer.
I walked passed a finca and after drinking a hot chocolate (that didn’t taste like chocolate but tasted great again), we walked together towards the lakes, he had to go there to with a young calf, but since the calf didn’t want to, I went ahead.
The path got smaller and smaller and from laguna negro was completely gone. In the end I made it to laguna leone and set up my tent there. I could see a little of the path on the other side, but the path just went down to a swamp, so it was better to camp here.
Day 7; The path disappeared within the first 100m, with the use of the apps mapsme and OsmAnd on my phone I found after about 2hours again a path leading to the pass of 4200m. If the weather was okay I wanted to climb the peak and by doing so I could take a short cut to the refuge/finca where I had stayed the first day.
After the pass I followed the path but since the path really went the wrong direction after a while I went a little back and decided to try another direction. I found again a path and after passing a peak I could see laguna encanto, down in the valley where I had to go. I continued and around 5:30pm I finally made it to the finca. It had been a long day.
Day 8; Around 9am, I continued hiking through the mud, back towards Salento. Around 5pm I was back in the hostel where I had started a little over a week ago.