Mocoa, return ticket please… ‘The End of the World’

22-24/11/2013

In San Agustin our duo is transformed into quartet as Sophia and Lara join us on our journey and now with the German girls we are on our way to Mocoa.  A pick-up truck converted into public transport brings us for 5000C$/pp to Pitalito and from there we make a good deal for 50000C$ for the four of us on a comfortable bus till the ‘terminal de auto buses’ of Mocoa.  The bus station of this small township is also used as central for taxis and at the same time hosts the local fruit-, vegetable-, meat- and ‘a-bit-of-this-a-bit-of-that’ market.  Sophia and I do some shopping for the next days.  Showing her how to bargain, we almost make a game of it to get everything as discounted as possible.  We ask for lower prices, try the 2 for 1 tread and if it doesn’t work… the 3 for 2 deal, do the full varieties of ‘wow-that’s-expensive’ face mimics or try after a buy from some vegetables to ask for a free lemon or some garlic. We have a great time and before we realize that Giorgia and Lara are still waiting, the sun hides behind the mountain peaks and an every time dimmer sky prepares Mocoa for the night.  Satisfied and with bags full of food we take a taxi to Hostal Casa del Rio (1000C$/pp).  The 18.000C$/pp, chalet style hostal buried in a wild garden is sited just next to the Mocoa river at the popular bathing spot called Caliyaco.  The garden area delivers sightings of all kind of wildlife, from unseen bugs to fully coloured birds and even a family of cautious minuscule Titi monkeys (Cebuella Pygmaea) give us a visit.

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Mocoa is Colombia’s jungle-hiking heaven, it’s its beautiful playground with its abundant waterfalls, primeval foothills, transparent swimming pools, loose flowing rivers, indigenous Pastos peoples (Kafán and Inga), crystalline waters and unspoiled natural surroundings in the department of Putumayo.  The first day we decide to do a hike with Sophia at a natural reserve (entrance 2.000C$/pp) in the Churumbelo mountain range.  After a tough walk, a few short breaks and the discovery of a delicious fruit called Guanabana, we find the Dantayo River where we appreciate spectacular natural bathing pools bordered by crystal clear cascades and pristine natural scenery.   Big blue butterflies floating on the tropical breeze that blows frivolously between the blossoming trees guide us towards the sensation of the day.  As we follow the course of the stream, using natural rock formatted bridges to cross it, the wilderness abruptly opens leading us to a plateau and then… nothing more… than an abysm of 70meters with the river changed in waterfall roaring down on the rocks deep under us.  We’re standing on the edge of ‘El Fin del Mundo’ (the end of the world), an appropriate name for a stunning cascade with views over the valley.  It is the right place to have a break and a pick-nick.

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We even risk a slippery muddy trail that takes us down to the bottom of the valley, to the other side of the waterfall.  A different nature appears in front of us, here green is made out of every single colour our eyes have ever seen, as this part is constantly covered in spray clouds coming straight from the falls.  We observe a stick insect hiding on a leave, wishing to blend in, simulating to be a branch.  Later, to go back to the hostal, Sophia takes us on an off-road adventure through the bushes in order to shortcut the return.  Faster as planned we arrive at the road and hitch-hike our way back to the hotel.  Thank you Sophia… just your luck the track did end somewhere! 😉

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The second day, after the pancake breakfast Sophia invites us, the girls decide to learn about the unique fauna and flora in the ‘Centro Exprimental Amazónico’, not too far away from the hostal.  Their female charm opens the gates of a closed area and even provides them of a private tour with a personal free guide.  Tapirs, monkeys, tiger cats, wild boars and fish’s habits are carefully explained in exchange for the false Facebook name of Sophia and Lara.  It is an interesting day for both parts although the girls are definitely on the winning hand.

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The sun awakes another day for another hike and this time we go with the full foursome to the Hornoyaco waterfall also at Churumbelo Mountains. A two hour walk through the jungle takes us straight to a movie scene where a wide river falls into a big natural swimming pool.  We adore the beauty of nature, love swimming in its fresh water, like the hard natural hydro massage shower and enjoy the sun drying our bodies.

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In the evening we talk enthusiastic about how fantastic it all has been and while eating our self-made deluxe dinner we decide to continue the travel the next day.  There are much more hiking to do, more pools to swim and more waterfalls to shower under… but here, at the very beginning of the Amazon basin, we realize that if we stay one day more , we might stay here forever absorbed in the wild mysterious beauty of Mocoa, called ‘the gate to the Amazon’.

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Our Recommendations:

– There are other options to rest the night in Mocoa but Casa del Rio is by far the best price/quality, a big kitchen at use, good and “fast” internet and a quite place to stay.  If you travel with four persons you get a private room for the price of a dorm.

-There are many hikes to do, so if you’re short on money look for those which doesn’t cross private properties as the owners normaly ask for a entrance (about 2000C$/pp)

-Although there is a payment of 2000C$/pp the ‘El Fin del Mundo’-trail is after all a price we were happy to pay.

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