It’s days like these that I really wish I hadn’t lost my iPod/alarm clock/camera.

Today I ran/walked/stumbled/crawled in the Valle de Cocoro – Colombia’s famous Valley of Wax Palms. They’re really quite something – growing in bare fields at heights of up to 60m. Beyond them is solid jungle and rocky mountains.

I’ll freely admit that I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided I would run Valle de Coroco. First, unless you’re Kilian Jornet or Scott Jurek or some other super-human centaur, you don’t run the Valle de Coroco. You slowly, painfully crawl up from it, into that jungle and mountains. Starting at an elevation of ~2590m, you stroll through lush green fields, admiring cows, palm trees, babbling books. Then you start climbing. Most of the time you’re blinded by the jungle and have no real sense of direction except for up. You know it’s up by the burning in your lungs, and fire in your legs and the pulse at your temple. 6.7km later I arrived at the highlight of trail, the reason for all this walking – a waterfall. After that hike almost anything would be anticlimactic, and the waterfall certainly was. I kept walking up, not realizing this trail continues on in this direction for 6 days through Los Nevados National Park. Stopping at 3500m, I decided to turn around and go down – the most fun part of my day. While the uphill had been a slog, I bombed down the trail at full bore until reaching the 2800m elevation point. From there I ran into another wall in the form of a long, steep climb up to Finca la Montana. The climb was worth it as it overlooked all of the valley and had a clear view of the mountains that lay behind. I met an Australian guy at the top and we laughed and chatted about the differences between traveling now vs a decade ago, how perspective changes, and how much  freedom that brings. He took some photos for me, which I’m hoping he will remember to send so I can make up where my words fall short.

After leaving the Australian at the top, I kept running back down to the road where 4×4 jeeps ferry hikers back into town. I was disappointed to see no jeeps were ready to leave and didn’t want to wait. I started running the 11km back to Salento along the highway and quickly realized it was a bad idea – I was exhausted. The road is little-used and when I first stuck my thumb out a car with 5 seats carrying 11 people slowed. I let them continue without me. Finally a motorcycle came by and was nice enough to pick me up. Flying along the twisty mountain road at 60… 70… 80km/hr, crossing the yellow line at every bend, I decided to stop looking at the speedometer and just be grateful for the seconds of life I have left. My gallant motorcycle driver got me back to town safe and sound though, and even joked with me in Spanish… Or at least he laughed.

Adam came through – thanks!

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