Just 23km from Usme and only a further 27km from central Bogotá and Chapinero, the Páramo of Sumapaz is within reach for any visitor to the Colombian capital city. Of course, the 50km journey to get to the world’s largest Páramo means crossing all of southern Bogotá…and this entails some interesting routes courtesy of Waze. But, come wind, rain or shine (and there will be much of all three at any moment during your visit), Sumapaz offers you a solitude that is chaotic, an openness spanning through the departments of Cundinamarca, Meta and Huila that is deficient and leaves you feeling claustrophobic. Sumapaz starkly reveals your mundane understanding for the savage wildness of the natural surroundings here. Sumapaz does not fit any descriptions.
My trip was an experience I had wanted to take for some time. Ten years in Colombia and I had only glimpsed the Páramo of Sumapaz from an aeroplane. Now, with Ignas of Colombia Photo Tours, I was here yomping the Sphagnum moss, and reflecting on the fact that now in 2017, I could do this, following a pathway well trodden by the original Muisca people, the German conquistador Nikolaus Federmann and latterly members of the FARC‘s 53rd Front who would march hostages from Bogotá out over the páramo and into their heartlands further south. (Tune in to hear about “Conflict Zone Tourism” on Colombia Calling).
At one point a teenage boy appeared over the crest of a hill and approached us. His arrival was announced from a good distance due his garish red windbreaker, so at odds with any other colour on the Páramo. “Have you seen a group of about 20 Bogotanos come by,” he said, turning his sunburnt cheeks skywards to look at us. The question seemed risible. Surely we would have seen other hikers in fluorescent rain gear. The boy looked over towards the black lakes. His gaze seemed to dip beyond the páramo into a valley. “What’s over there,” I asked.
“And over there?”
In the four or five hours we spent up here at altitudes nearing 4000m, we only saw that one boy on his search for the group of errant Bogotanos. It was phenomenal.
As we left the páramo, passing newly ploughed fields meant for potatoes, another boy from a nearby farm approached us. “We have hot chocolate, coffee, even Poker,” he said tempting us to come and spend some pesos. Of course, after a few hours of hiking and the skin on our faces taught from the chilled high-altitude wind, a celebratory beer would most definitely hit the spot. I would have smiled, but my face was weather beaten and unmalleable. One beer and an arepa each, we reflected on the day’s experience. Definitely one to be repeated.