To our 3 loyal readers, I apologize for out lack of blog posts since we've been in Colombia but I've quite honestly been working my behind off and haven't had a lot of time to post. Sadly we've been too busy/tired/lazy on weekends to do a lot of interesting stuff worth posting about. We did however break this trend 2 weeks ago by heading out on a trip to Chingaza National Park just outside of Bogota. We got up way too early for a Saturday morning and hopped onto a bus with some other teachers, a few tourists, and our local tour guides to climb out of town to the park.
When we got there, Joe needed to work off a bit of pent-up energy with this convenient weight set that was sitting on the ground.
Then we took a quick hike through some of the Paramo (a high altitude biome that you can get more info about here). Luckily for us the Paramo was in bloom when we arrived with all of these yellow flowers covering the hills for a beautiful scene.
The tree-like plants in the picture above (I can't remember their name) are pretty incredible in that they are the only kind of trees that can grow at this altitude (we were somewhere between 12,000 and 13,000 feet at this point). Due to the low density of carbon dioxide in the air and the other stresses of altitude they can only grow about 1 cm per year. This means that the 3 meter tall plants you see here have been around approximately 300 years!
The group is standing around here listening to our guides tell us about how the Paramo in the mountains surrounding Bogota provides the city with its drinking water. The soil is very spongy and the ground is covered with moss (kind of like a bog) so any type of precipitation that falls here is soaked up and gradually fed down the mountain to our faucets in town. Many of the plants have small hairs on them like the one below to capture even moisture from fog.
After our little hike we drove a bit further down the road to a former lime mine at just over 13,000 feet and took a few more pictures including one of Jenna and Caitlin channeling their inner condor and "flying" over the valley below.
For our last stop in the park we took a walk around a lake and got to see some deer pretty close up. Apparently deer are not very plentiful in Colombia anymore as they were hunted almost to extinction but these deer seemed rather tame since they live in a large national park and probably have people feeding them quite often.
Our last stop of the day was a Muisca village which we unfortunately arrived at right at dusk so I wasn't able to do much for pictures. There are a few descendants of the Muiscas who come to the village on weekends and try to teach their kids the old traditions. What was most interesting to me was how several of the traditions that the Muiscas had were very similar to (and they admitted, influenced by) North American Indian traditions. One was a sweat lodge that we huddled in for a little while and another was a fire ceremony (see picture below) which represented the stages of life, occurred in a very smoky room, and used tobacco as an offering.
All in all it was an interesting day and was good for us as it got us out of Bogota and allowed us to see a little bit of Colombia. This week we are headed to Medellin to see a little more of Colombia during our week-long break so expect to see a few more blog posts when we get back!