It’s hard to find the perfect adjective to describe the feeling you get when you see a rocky mountain view interrupted only by thin sheets of fog the first time you step out of a tent, but that’s what sticks in my mind when I recall our mornings in El Cocuy.
Sharp boulders lay beneath Pulpito de Diablo, or the Devil’s Pulpit, but after a day’s acclimitization we felt ready for a challenging hike. Man, it looks angry, the Dr. said, describing the ribbons swirling around the mountain ahead of us. After a fortifying breakfast of Trader Joe’s corned beef and rice, we left our stuff in our tent and packed only the necessities for our upward hike towards the Pulpit.
And we kept going up for the next three hours.
We clawed our way up through rocks and pretended there was a path ahead of us. Every time I looked back, it seemed we weren’t making any headway; the Devil was still very, very far away. He threw another challenge our way when he decided that rain would make our trek more fun. The rocks turned slippery and shiny and we had to squint to see through the sleet of water pelting our faces. We couldn’t even see where we were going anymore but we kept on convincing ourselves the finish line was right in front of us.
When we got to the top, or to where we thought was the top, and ran into a father screaming for his son’s name, we decided to rest and wait for the rain to let up. The Dr. hiked ahead of me to gauge how far the Pulpit really was from where we were, but when it still didn’t materialize behind the fog, we painfully accepted that that was the end of our trek.
We started our way back down–wishing the father luck that he will be reunited with his son–and carefully tredged on wet boulders. We also ran into the Germans staying in Susima. They looked up at us questioningly and we nodded knowingly as they also turned to head back down. For the next three hours, I kept looking back up because maybe, just maybe, the Pulpit will reveal itself again and I can convince the Dr. to turn around. We made our way past the giant tank that diverted rain water down the valley and reached our tent without the gray haze dissepating.
My left knee was weak and my feet were completely taxed. We introduced ourselves to the two Aussies setting up next to our tent which only added to injury after hearing that they have one more hike to go to complete the entire circuit. We listened to their story while looking down at their worn Nike hi-tops.
After a couple of hours sleep back in our tents, we walked up the hill behind Susima to sit among the frailejÃ³nes and watched the sky turn from gray to purple then black. Pulpito de Diablo, we will meet again someday.