After a piece of Dutch cheese, we get into the car on our way to our next destination. Cheese farm HolaAndes behind us we drive further and further into the mountains. We were already very remote, but it could be worse. With two cars we tear along a dirt road full of potholes and stones. After being shaken up, we arrived at the starting point of what would be an interesting hike. We are staring at páramo somewhere in the middle of knowhere . Peering ahead of us to see if we see black bears anywhere. However, there is literally nothing to be seen, just that dirt road and páramo. Fortunately, cheesemaker Tobias knows exactly where to go. We are somewhere at 3,000 meters altitude in a Colombian natural park where barely 10 years ago the FARC held their hostages. Now we are going to take a look. Will we catch a glimpse of the black bear? And what about those FARC ruins? Walk with us through extraordinary Colombian natural beauty!
Parque Natural Vista Hermosa: magnificent views of the páramo ecosystem
Not surprisingly, this is yet another blog in which we find ourselves in páramo. After all, this unique ecosystem is found widespread in the Colombian Andes. Parque Vista Hermosa is located in Vereda Monquentiva, municipality Guatavita, Cundinamarca. On the map it seems close to our home, but it is actually quite a long drive. The natural park where páramo predominates is centered on water management and the protection of flora and fauna, including the black bear. Páramo is an ecosystem vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but no less important to society. For example, the páramo in this area is important for regulating water in Bogotá, Guavio and Sisga.
Hiking through wild nature
The weather is beautiful and slowly we walk further up hill. Because of the altitude, we take it easy and enjoy the beautiful views. Everywhere we see those beautiful tall frailejones staring at us. Around us we hear nothing except the wind and the many birds. Occasionally we pause to take a picture of this natural wonder. I’ve seen páramo so many times, but really: this never bores.
In the footsteps of the black bear
Parque Vista Hermosa is also used to care for and protect the black bear, which has a higher risk of extinction due to the loss of its natural habitat. Due to climate change and forest clearing, more and more habitat for these beautiful animals is disappearing. The black Andean bear sees frailejones as a tasty snack, which is why you might just see a black bear pulling a plant out of the ground. We are unfortunately not that lucky, but Tobias shows us a picture of a black bear he saw earlier. So you could really see one. They are not far away, by the way, as the footprints are still fresh in the ground. In front of us a frailejon is torn into pieces, its teeth and claws clearly visible. Very special. So we didn’t see any black bears, but did see the remains of his lunch.
Moving on to more remote terrain
After admiring the bear’s food remains, we walk further behind Tobias up the mountain. It is pretty chilly and our sweet little dog Juaco is not well. He threw up a few times so we decide to carry him. I don’t think he minds at all, the way he’s snuggled up against me in my scarf. We hike up even more until we come to a part I’ve never seen before in Colombia: ruins of the FARC.
Impressive: silent witnesses from the FARC era
As is well known, the FARC often moved to avoid having their hideout discovered. That was also the case here. About 10 years ago, this was one of the places where the FARC held their hostages. When the guerrillas left for the next spot, this hideout was blown up. Never has this been cleaned up and now this is a silent witness to the horror that took place here only a short time ago. The bottles of medicine are still there and the little wall with beautifully painted tiles is also still standing. A bizarre idea that just a decade ago this was a no-go area. Now we step over the broken wooden planks and stand in the middle of what was once a kitchen. I can’t say anything else than that this is quite impressive.
Landmine danger: back to civilization
Although much of the country is mine-free, Colombia is still known as one of the countries with the most deaths from landmines. There seem to be mines in this park as well, namely as you walk past the FARC ruins deeper into the park. So we walk back the same way and once again enjoy amazing views and fresh air. Once at the car, we still have a long way to go home. But is was so worth it. Want to explore Colombia off the beaten path? Then visit cheese factory HolaAndes and take this hike right away. A fantastically fun and special day trip from Bogotá: I promise!
How to get to Parque Natural Vista Hermosa?
Both the cheese factory and the park are quite remote. Public transportation only gets you to a certain point, so a cab is the solution in that case. If there are few of you, you can also drive with Tobias from the cheese factory.
Combine with cheesemaking on a day trip from Bogotá
Really a fantastic fun day trip from Bogotá: first to the Dutch cheese factory, lunch at the farmer’s and then hiking in Parque Vista Hermosa. Please contact Tobias and arrange for yourself an extraordinary experience in Colombia.
What do you bring?
You are at high altitude in páramo so expect a changeable and fresh climate. Use sunscreen against the bright and strong sun, bring your sunglasses, a raincoat, a cap, a warm sweater, walking shoes, plenty of water and something sweet to eat.
Just arrived in Bogotá? Then stay there for one or two nights first to get somewhat accustomed to the altitude.
Do not go out by yourself: not only is it a fragile ecosystem where you need to know where to walk and where not to walk, there are also areas where it can be dangerous due to landmines. So preferably go with a guide who knows the region.
Have you been to páramo? Put on your hiking boots, adventure off the beaten path and discover Colombia! Read where else you can admire páramo here.