Erin and I decided to do a highly recommended hike up to the Purace Volcanoe. We left our hostel in Popayan and caught a two hour bus to the park entrance. As soon as we got off the bus, a friendly fellow traveler, with a german accent, asked if Erin and I would like to join him and his three friends, and split the cost of a guide up the volcano. I said “sure” before I could see the look on Erin’s face that suggested we didn’t want a guide. He did prove useful in finding the park though, it turns out the bus actually dropped us off at a turnout and we had to walk through some farmland and various gates to get to the entry.
At the park entrance we paid an entry fee and began following the guide up the trail. The german man was very chatty and a little strange, in a good way. He struck me as a bit of a goofy fun loving kind of guy. He wore a black hoodie, baggy multi coloured pants, and what appeared to be worn out combat boots. He also had with him a satchel that, as best I could tell, contained only his phone, camera, and a blue tooth speaker so he could play music from his phone, which was actually quite enjoyable. The four people we were hiking with, and Erin, were all wearing jackets and scarves and couldn’t believe I wasn’t cold in just my button up flannel shirt. It wasn’t cold, but it was windy and luckily all my clothes seemed to be pretty good at blocking wind. As the hike progressed it was clear that Erin and I were a little faster than the rest of the group and began to pull ahead. Usually we would hike ahead, stop for a break and our german friend would catch up and say hello.
As we got higher and higher it began to get a little chilly and very windy. I pulled my gloves out of my backpack and clipped them to a belt loop via a carabiner, I didn’t need my gloves yet but I figured it wouldn’t be too long before I did. I also clipped my hat to the carabiner and pulled the buff from my neck and spun it into a toque for extra warmth. As we started walking again the german guy caught up and asked if I was cold. To which I replied “not really”, he then pointed at my gloves and asked “Can I borrow?” not wanting to be rude, I handed them over. He was clearly cold as he had wrapped his head with a scarf and pulled his hood up already. I told him I needed them back once the trail got steep because I tend to crawl on all fours due to my fear of heights.
After another hour or so, the trail started to get steep and he quickly handed the gloves back and thanked me. I was glad to have them back, I was getting chilly and my hands were getting weak… I even had to roll down my sleeves. Finally we could see the top of the volcano, we were on a peak beside it. We had to walk down a little valley then up a series of switchbacks to make it to the summit. Unfortunately, just as soon as we saw the top of the volcano, clouds rolled in and covered it. Erin and I climbed into the clouds and the wind howled. Finally, after I nearly gave up from exhaustion, we made it to the summit… and we couldn’t see a thing. The clouds were so thick that we could only see a few meters and the wind was so strong we had to lean into it. It was an amazing experience but the view was non existent. I was also a little proud of myself as we were the first people to reach to summit that day.
We headed down and passed the german and his group and informed him they were only a few hundred meters from the finale. They were very glad to hear it. On the way down we also passed a lot of people who got a later start and a few that seemed to be having a really hard time with the cold. It made me sad to see such small kids having such a hard time, but in hind sight it was impressive they made it that far.
Eventually we made it back to where the bus dropped us off, there was a nice dutch couple who had been waiting for an hour already. I guess the 2:30 bus didn’t make it, a common occurrence in Colombia. We stood around for another two hours or so, and a few other people joined us in waiting on the side of the road. Finally a collectivo arrived. For those who don’t know, a collectivo is a pick-up truck with two bench seats in the back, facing each other and a canvas top covering it. There is also always a rack on top of the canvas for luggage. They run much like a bus just with less capacity. This collectivo had room for about 2.5 people. The dutch couple climbed in first, then Erin squeezed in beside the dutch girl and I handed her the backpack. The truck then started to drive away. I didn’t have a lot of time to think so I just jumped on the bumper and grabbed the luggage rack. I have a fear about splitting up when travelling and Erin was carrying the money, so it would have been a long walk home. In a panic, the dutch girl got Erin to sit on her lap and I sat where Erin was and left my legs hanging out over the tail gate.
A few bumpy and uncomfortable miles down the road the truck stopped. I peered around the side and saw that we had a flat tire. I was actually really happy about that, it gave us a chance to get out and stretch, they replaced the tire with a spare and then we got back in with a better plan. The dutchman and I sat on the benches with our legs out the back and Erin sat in the middle on the spare tire with her legs out the back as well. The dutch girl got a crammed, but safer, seat behind her boyfriend. It was a far more comfortable arrangement.
Unfortunately as we got closer to town, it started raining.. Hard. We dropped the canvas cover down to protect us from the rain but the trade off was that we got covered in dust. It wasn’t so bad, and we had a lot of fun. We made it to town and shared a taxi back to the hostel where a hot shower was a welcome thing. Post shower, the only thing on my mind was food, lucky for us only a few blocks from the hostel was an Italian restaurant that served the best steak I have had since getting to South America.
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