Chapter 7::Table of Contents::Chapter 9

Chapter 8
Park Puracé

Sat Oct 28:

We weren’t awakened by the owner at 6:30 as we had requested. But that was all right. We didn’t mind sleeping in and taking the 9:00. We wanted to wait for our sox to dry, anyway.

We went next door for breakfast, said good morning to Maggie, and got on the bus. There was a big squabble over who sat where on the bus. A lady & child were sitting in the front, right seats. Somebody came along and claimed those seats, they had the tickets to prove it. The lady put up a big fuss and finally asked the 2 Gringos in the front left seats if they would mind sitting in the back to Puracé. They reluctantly accepted being kicked out of their seats by a lady with kid who gets sick on buses.

About half way there N. went back to the back to talk to the other Gringos. They gave him info about Chile and Peru. Also said that Taos - Santa Fe New Mex is a nice area. While N. was jawing - I saw a sign go by that said Pimbala or something. About 10 K down the road I realized that was our turnoff. I went up to the little kid money taker and asked where Cruz de la Mina was. He pointed back down the road. I showed him my ticket and got N. to ascertain the extent of our difficulties. As it turned out we got let off about 15 K too far down the road. [1] [2]

But at that spot we were only 10 min walk to a natural display of sulfur pools and different moss, mold, algae and high altitude vegetation. [3] Very colorful area . Little pools bubbling aquamarine blue to sulfur yellow with green, red, and blue, and white moss all over. Very nice. It’s a spot in the Puracé Natl. Park called THERMALES DE SAN JUAN.

From there, after viewing & photographing for a half hour, we started walking down the road. As we were going down the path we saw two couples coming up. I heard one lady speaking E. and I said Hello - the fellow said Hi. About 10 min after we had donned packs and started marching - it started to rain lightly - then harder. I put on my poncho for the first time this trip. It worked well. Later N. put on his but bemoaned the fact that is wasn’t long enough in the back. [4] Then later on he got a cramp in the shoulder. About this time a couple of cattle trucks came along but didn’t pick us up.

We'd walked about an hour & 1/2 - when a jeep came down the road and stopped. It was the same 2 couples we had seen leaving the Park Office. They were staying in a cabin at Puracé Park and took us right where we wanted to go. We camped for free but spent 35P on cheese at the local tourist trap.

After a well deserved toot or 2 and a couple pix out the tent flap - we embarked on dinner. Broke out the stove & got it started - put on 1 liter water, added 2 bullion cubes, green beans, potatoes, 1/4 onion, red pepper, salt, and brought to a good boil. Then added rice and cream of mushroom soup mix. Boiled vigorously for a few then sat to stew covered for at least 10 min. During which we had an appetizer and put away excess baggage. Ate the soup with whole wheat bread, cheese, and dulce. Gooood.

After din. we aligned our “shed”. We’ve snapped our 2 ponchos together in such a way as to cover the packs huddled about 1/3 under the rain fly at the far end of the tent. [5] Then proceeded to write & settle the meal.

2 other Colo. are camped next door and maybe we’ll climb the volcan together.

Sun. Oct 29:

Got ourselves up at 5:15. Proceeded to fix oatmeal with raisins, powd. milk, and dulcé de guayava. The stove worked fine. The gasket had leaked last night but today it was good. We didn’t boil as much for so long - however.

After Terranaut Glop, we packed all our stuff together put on our woollies, and trucked down the hill with the other 2 Colo. at 6:30. There we waited for the park ranger to come and lock up our stuff. Once we’d gotten stuff locked and a tinto it was 7:15. Off we went to the volcano.

The first part of the journey was through cow pastures over rolling hills on very mucky ground . The higher we got the less vegetation. Seemed to go in stages. The rain began to blow around us near the end of this 1st stage. We pulled out of the rain alongside a rock cliff and debated whether or not to go on. We toked a little and by then the sky had cleared enough for us to go on. It was rainy and foggy for the first 1/3. As we got into higher land the clouds cleared for a while so I took a few pix . Rocky red cliffs off in the distance above a green valley with river below. Even the mud under our feet was red. And in the distance-the volcano.

The second 1/3 of our trip was over more or less dry and passable land. Higher cliffs and more rocks - less life. Some of the rocks were covered by a tough green moss or lichen of some kind. Squeaked when you walked on it and gave very good traction. During this phase we began to feel the effects of the thin air. N. particularly with a rapid heartbeat & headache. We continued to climb with more frequent rest stops. By the time the vegetation ran out - the air was pretty thin. The wind picked up and it began to sleet lightly. By this time we had been out 2 1/2 hrs.

I was wearing a net tea shirt under a turtleneck, under a wool shirt, under a rain jacket. We had ponchos & space blankets. N used his poncho - I didn’t use mine. N. lent his gloves to the Colo. and suffered from not being able to use hands. The Colo. were dressed with soft soled street shoes, a shirt and maybe 2 hooded sweatshirts, and a towel for wrapping around ears and face. I took my stocking cap & gloves and was glad I did.

The last 1/3 of the hike was hard core up hill. The wind was whistling around us, we were being pelted by very small sleet/rain drops, and our rest stops became very frequent. Perhaps 2 out of every 5 was spent resting. The footing began to get shaky due to loose rocks and wet mud. It dried out but the footing was loose to the top.

We climbed the first peak. [6] This was an indication of things to come . We looked around the corner of the 1st peak to see the wind howling clouds through the valley between the peaks. We sat out of the wind and prepared for our final assault. First we had to climb down one side and then up the next. By this time the trail was being marked by big painted rocks every 10 or 20M. Before this, the trail was marked first by a trail, then 2 ruts in the earth between which the trail lay, then painted stones with arrows.

By the time we had started climbing up the real volcano the sky had clouded over completely and only once in a while could we see the trail of painted rocks running off into the fog. The grade got steeper & steeper. I walked from painted rock to rock, resting at each one. I had no trouble with headache or rapid h.b. but I did feel slightly giddy and disoriented. This was accentuated by the rain drops on my glasses making every step a kaleidoscope of rocks and feet.

One of the Colo.(#1A) and I took the lead, #2A stayed back with N. who was moving even slower than us under some difficulty. By the time we got within 1/2 k. of the top the grade was steep! [7] and air was harder and harder to come by. I’d get rested up at one rock - feel pretty good - and forge off to the next. Within 5 steps I was winded and struggled to the next breath stop. We were stopped more than we walked. Walk 2 mins, rest for 3.

Within 250 meters from the top, N. sat down with 2A and could go no farther. 1A and I had already made it to within 100M. of the rim. [8] There we stopped and shielded ourselves from the wind and waited for the other 2. Had they come up - I think we could have gone on to the rim, but we would have seen very little due to fog & rain. We turned back to see what was keeping the other 2. We got down to see that they were heading back. We did likewise. 100M. was close enough for me today.

The walk down was like the one up only in reverse & faster. The footing was no better and probably worse and certainly no less wet. We slogged through bogs of spongy ground and slid down small banks of mud. Everybody lost their footing at least once while going down. The walk up to the edge took 4 1/2 hrs. The walk back a little over 2. But we felt every back jarring, blister rubbing, hungry step. My legs were like rubber after an hour of down hill. Never an easy step - always avoiding mud, loose rocks, plants, or questionable green ground. And all the time rain and wind.

After we’d made it 2/3 the way down it became clear I was tired. When we finally pulled into the restaurant “Tourist Trap” down at the end of the hill, all I could think of was sitting down & food (in that order). We sat and waited for our thin cream of asparagus soup, but then devoured steak and eggs and rice & fried potatoes. They tried to charge us 80 for the main course when it said 70 on the menu. [9] No way José.

Trucked all our stuff up the hill to our little tent. Took out active ingredients and settled the meal and a long day with smoke from 1A & 2A (Just what we need). After toots we had treats of dulce de g. and a loaf of whole wheat bread. Settled that meal & retired to relax & write.

Mon Oct 30:

Sittin’ in the sun drying out .

Awoke a bit later than yesterday to light mist. Made breakfast of Terranaut Glop with manjar for a dulce. Had a loaf of bread, cheese, more manjar and a not entirely successful cafe con leche for desert. Can’t strain ground coffee through a handi-wipe. Settled the meal with a J from 1&2A, used it all.

Sat around talking about the volcano yesterday. [10] I mentioned we had heard steam venting; sounded like cars on the highway or wind in the trees, and had smelled sulfur from the cone itself. We both agreed it was goddam hard work. After an hour or so the sun came out. We decided to play friz just for some exercise.

It became clear that the sun would be out for a while so we took the opportunity to set all our stuff out to dry. Ponchos on the ground or hung from a clothes line strung from one tent post to a nearby fence post. Sox & shirts out to dry. Boots and even clean dishes catching what few rays there may be.

This is a nice place to camp. It costs us nothing to stay here except for what we buy at the restaurant. There’s beautiful scenery even if you don’t climb the hill. And there’s a place to store your stuff if you do. All free. The correct name here is Pilimbala in the Puracé Nat’l. Park. The turn is not marked beforehand but has an arrow with “Pilimbala” pointing to the right as you're coming from Popayan. Near the 155km marker (± 2). [11] [12]

Spent the rest of the morn drying out. Everything was out to dry. By the time we started putting things away it was 1:00. Went down to Rest. for a beer. There we saw two fellows who had stopped to visit us earlier. They’re staying in the cabin just at the edge of the camp ground. We filled our canteens and hiked back up and conjectured about ways to modify our pack shelter. But first we took a walk up the nearby hill to photo the scene. Most Beautiful Landscape Award of the Week.

[13] Back from the hill we toked a little and redesigned our packs in order to make a wind screen for the stove. Up until now we had been cooking in the trash box made of stout wood planks: [14] it offered wind protection but was awkward to use and unsanitary. We did the following: [15] strung up a space blanket between the tent and the packs with 2 pegs borrowed from the side of the tent. The packs were then covered with my poncho just as if the packs were a person wearing a poncho.

We put the newly gasketed stove in the spot marked “S” and cooked up a big batch of terranaut stew. The stove blew out a few times but we managed to complete the cooking. We also had a huge tuna/sardine/cheese/whole wheat sandwich. Washed down with 2 more hits and some manjar, like caramel. The dulce’s are like solid jam. A fine free meal.

TUES. Oct 31:

Awoke to a bright, beautiful, sunshiny and cold morn.

Got up and finished drying our stuff. Went down for tinto at 7:30 but they didn’t have any. By 9:30 we were all packed [16] , went down for tinto, chocolates, and chiclets. Started walking down the road. A fine day for a walk, all down hill and photogenic. We got to the main road without seeing a car and got down that road about 2k when the bus came along. We took it to Popayan. Feeling dirty and skungey, we checked back into the Gualcala.

After a shower, shave, clothes wash we were ready for lunch. Went to the new place “4 posts up from the res.” [17] for a good typical lunch. Then off to the pastry shop for cake rolls and strawberry yogurt. Top it off with a chocolate bar and a toot - Even though I like Popayan, the paranoia for me makes me glad to be leaving tomorrow. The stay at the Park was great, but it’s time to move to someplace new.

Jumbo Jet chocolate bar with almonds & peanuts is the one to buy in Colo. President Cigs. Fosforos el Indio with letters of the alphabet on the back. Colombiana soft drink, Blue Bird Bus Bodies with danglies from the windows [18] & often dirty cartoons or funny sayings stuck to the sides and top of the window frame. [19] Poker and Pilsen beer. Guayava comes from a long green pea pod like thing; with big black beetle-like seeds covered with white sweet & fuzzy. Pipe tobacco is not available. VanCamps Sardines. Fruco Aji. Azuline Laundry Soap. Some dish served “a caballo” is not horse meat; it means the meat has eggs on the top. Arepas. Maracuyá. Coffee is always drunk with sugar. Sometimes the sugar cane is ground right in. Panela is a sugar cane drink or can also be dulcé-like or caramel-like. Tile roofs and inner courtyards. The Colombia Posters of the fruit & the other of the flowers.

The children make their own Halloween masks from black paper & bits of colored paper. They go from door to door asking for “dulcés” but farther south it’s “confetti’s”.

After laying around most of the afternoon, we met 2 German guys looking for info. about Puracé. They wanted to know if they could go out there, climb up & down, and go back to Popayan in one day. Be a nice trip if it don’t rain. [20] Shortly thereafter we met a luscious British lady with a delightful sense of humor. She’s going up the volcano, too.

The 5 of us wound up eating together at the restaurant Calima or something. 31 Pesos for the comida corriente. We mistakenly chose sobrebarriga which is the next layer after the stomach. Like diaphragm, or something. Smelled like the meat market and tasted about the same way. The British lady tried to order an omelet; it turned out like pericos not quite so scrambled.

After dinner we wandered aimlessly [21] watching the little kids in Halloween costumes who were walking into the restaurants and chanting “Halloween, Halloween, give me dulce (sweets, candy) or your nose will grow.” [22] [23] Kids with painted faces, dressed as gypsies or as if to a masked ball. Witches were common, along with a few store- bought masks.

The Germans & the British are getting up at 3:30 or something to catch the 4:AM to Puracé. I hope they make it to the top. I’m sorry we won’t be able to find out how they make out.

After settling the meal and drinking some Colombiana we were treated to flashing lites by the elec. co. The power had been out during dinner and it took a few false starts before they got those electrons movin’. People adjust to the power blackouts easily. Candles are always plentiful and lit within 1 min of blackout. Its nice to eat a candlelit meal. When the power came on after looking at candles for a couple hours, I felt I liked the candles better. Little fires, not a big electric hum.

WED. Nov 1.

At the residencia Neueva York. This morning found N. suffering from a case of the shits & gas pains. I, too, felt slight symptoms at early morn, but not to be continued in my case. It was probably due to sobrebarriga fat, the only thing we can think of that N. ate yesterday & I didn’t. In any case he was well enough to go next door for breakfast.

After a final goodby to the Gualcala, we headed out of town. Walked about 45 min - 1hr to get over the hill and into the country. Started hitching/walking. After about 20 min. max., a blue Renault with couple inside pulled off up the road & started backing up. As luck would have it - they were going to Pasto also. A couple from Manizáles, the guy works with over the road oil transport.

Took a beautiful 5 1/2 hr. ride through more spectacular mtn. scenery. Went down into the arid valley with cactus and barren desert rock cliffs, small birds soaring in the breeze. Then up along the very mountain side looking across a 10-20k wide valley onto cloud and mountain-scape. The clouds & mountains mix together, both above the other. Saw real mountain “peaks” [24] for the first time today. Beautiful vistas of jumbled & ragged mtn tops, slopes, and far below (nearing Pasto) the river.

During the ride N. suffered from stomach cramps again. Tried Alka-Seltzer & Tonic water with Saltines. Didn’t help. By the time we got to Pasto he was hurtin’. With the aid of a friendly little kid who led us to the Neueva York, we got N. & me to a baño in time. It’s the pits when you got the shits. N. ate some Lomotil but I think I may have to make a humanitarian mission to by T.P.

I had a dream about that British lady last night. The lovliest & most likable lady I’ve met yet. I’d like to run into her about the Galápagos. Find out if she kisses as well in real life as in my dreams.

Our res. room is on the 2nd Fl. and looks out over the street. I like 2nd story rooms on the street. It gives you a nice perspective to look down & watch the world go by. I was thinking about the street in a metaphysical sense during the ride today. All over S.A. it’s all one road. You can put your foot on the road and not take it off and go almost anywhere you like. It’s the same street, wherever you are. It’s just a matter of traveling along it or watching it go by.

Thurs Nov 2.

Relaxing & recuperating at the Hotel Nueva York. N had a rough nite last nite due to the shits, gas cramps, and nausea.

Awoke about 8:30 and N. was feeling a little better. Went out for breakfast [25] and then off to the Tourist Office. Found out we can camp at Lago La Cocha. Then went to find the Eq. Consul. at Carrera 33, #19-76. There ain’t no such place. We finally were directed and even given a ride part way by an elderly gentleman who had trouble shifting his car. The correct address is Calle 17 # 26-55, 3rd Floor. But they were closed. We were there during posted business hours but they were closed.

We went to the bus depot and found out about 15P busses to El Encano at 1:PM. If we can camp free and buy staples in El Encano (5k away) and even catch some trout - we’ll stay for a week or so. Came back to the Hotel after our rounds to rest N. and settle a meal. We’ll spend the rest of the day relaxing. Perhaps we’ll shop tomorrow & go to the lake tomorrow afternoon.

Pasto is a rather dirty-run down town. But there are new buildings going up and certain residential areas are very nice. It is a commercial center. Many shops, stores, restaurants, taxis and busses. It’s the last big stop going south. Signs on street vendor carts say “cambio sucres”. Oltavalo Ind. are present.

Our hotel is across the street from a bar. Outside the music is loudest at nite, blaring in through closed doors & windows. Contrasted with the loud radio music coming through from inside the hotel, the sound effect is overpowering. Dueling sounds. Voices, jack hammers, saws, back-firing busses, horns, and revving engines all join in to complete the orchestration. The bed here has 2 big wool blankets and a spring poking up in the middle. All sleeping postures revolve around avoiding this spring.

Went to a good chicken restaurant just out the front door & to the corner. The dogs just walk into the restaurants around here and sniff the floor for bits of food or sit looking up at you hungrily. After lunch (N. had his appetite back by now and the Lomotils seem to have done the trick) we walked down the street looking for the market. Not finding it and N. still a little weak, we walked back and got a jugo de mora and a chocolate bar. [26] Came back to the hotel & read the paper about the dollar, big bus accident, and Halloween in Cali.

After more discussion & relaxing, we decided to get our supermarket shopping done today. Went out abut 5 and got oatmeal, raisins, soup mixes, sardines, laund. soap, cookies, hard candy, 2 candy bars (good candy bars) and went to the bread store for a loaf of pan dulce & 15 cookies and a cheese. Came back and feasted on bread, cheese, cookies & chocolate. Packed the remaining food into my pack. It’s going to be a heavy truck to the Lake. Tomorrow we’ll try again to find the market.

Finished the eve. by spacing out on the light from the holes in the door.

Fri Nov. 3rd:

Last nite N. had a relapse of gas pains nausea & the shits. He awoke little better this morn.

Neither of us really thought we’d get to the lake today but we went to the market none the less. We were headed the right direction yesterday, just didn’t go down far enough. At the market we bought potatoes, carrots, onions, peas, lemons, oranges, and bananas. All the walking did N in again and we came back to the Nueva York to relax.

I wound up writing a letter to Ed and eating the rest of the cookies, cake, and cheese for breakfast and lunch. N. took some antibiotics & Lomots. The anti’s seem to have done something for this afternoon he was well enough to go to the Ec. Cons. again. They’re still closed.

On our way back we got some white gas and some dulce de guayaba. Lounged about the rest of the after. About dinner time N. felt like having a real meal. So we went down to the corner & ordered up the local comida. The same old stuff, heavy on the yucca. We both finished our meals, all but the yucca.

As we were sitting there picking our teeth, and old gray dusty man with no teeth & fat dirty fingers came off the street and up to our table and motioned at our left-over yucca. No sooner did N. shrug his shoulders & wave his hand than the old geezer clutched up the 4 pieces of yucca & piece of fat and was back out the door. It’s a tough life being a bum.

We saw many little kids and ladies selling lottery tickets. Not to mention shoe-shine boys. Earlier in the afternoon we were sitting in the bar across the street drinking a Colombiana. Pretty soon a half drunk guy walks in and lays down his few remaining lottery tickets on our table as if to say “These are the winning ones. I’ll do you a favor and sell you them all.” When we refused, he walked over to the girl sitting next to us and began to pinch and kiss at her. Her Mama was sitting right there watching with another little kid. She didn’t seem to mind. N. & I got the impression that the lady was a hooker. Maybe not. Mama, in the mean time, was trying to give the little baby to N. & I. Asking why we didn’t have children, and wouldn’t we want such a lovely one as this?

[1] But we didn’t get charged extra.

[2] I was quite pissed at the time but it worked out.

[3] The lady with the little kid & another lady with her also got off here & viewed the pools & colors.

[4] We stopped and looked at a water fall 2k from San Juan Tourist Station

[5] • snaps
grommets over tent posts

[8] we got to 100M (from the) rim

[9] he said it was an old menu



[11] There’s 4 stops in Puracé Park along the highway, Pilimbala, Terminales de San Rafael (Lago), Terminales de San Juan, and another site with caves 24k from Pilimbala. The cascada was also a site.

[12] [Termales is correct]

[13] Also sno-sealed boots

[15] ditch  S

[16] We even cooked hot water for washing dishes.


[18] Servico de Lujo

[19] Renaults with stick shift from the dash.

[20] Also met some Peace Corps workers from Cali, 2 guys, 1 girl, all from U.S. And met a couple of French? ladys trying to rent a room at the Gualcala without including a male hanger - on. They finally succeeded in dumping the guy. And then rented the room.

[21] looking for tinto and rolls. We stopped in a place and saw the 2 fellows who were in the cabin next to [our] campground in Puracé. Smiled and exchanged greetings.

[22] Dulce Dulce para mi, something something la Nariz

[23] Triqui Triqui Halloween
   Quiero dulces para me
   Y si no me das
   Se te cresé la nariz

[24] "           "

[25] N had only soup

[26] While buying the chocolate, a little dusty man came in and clutched my arm. He let go after I gave him a peso.

Chapter 7::Table of Contents::Chapter 9