Monday, June 6, 2011

The Sleeping Lion of Manizales

"I'm sure there're more people like me who..."
"No.  There aren't."

My most brilliant plan is trying to hitchhike to a national park as well as to the top of a mountain, Nevado del Ruiz.  One of 3 snow capped mountains in the park, & the highest.

Slim pickins.  I made it to the turnoff from the highway in good time, around 10.  Tourgroups are ~70$ & would be at the entrance at around 8.  By slim pickins I mean zero cars.  I wander & start to plan my return.  Traffic would pick up on the weekend, it'd be easier to come back then.  But it's only 10:30.  "Even if it takes all day, you will get a ride."  Two women from the tienda next door tell me if I want to take a ride on a motorcycle, their friend will drive me up.

NO WAY.




It's surprisingly easy & comfortable, but it won't last.  My bag is heavy & awkward, & it's freezing rain.  Landscape turns to tundra-like.  I keep telling the driver, Gabriel to be careful & carefully calculate what it would be like to wipe out.  My hands are cold & clutching my camera around his torso.  Chin down.  Smile.

At the Park Gate, they politely tell me I have to wait for a car.  Gabriel says he's headed around the perimeter of the park to the very other side, where he lives.  I consider it, cause I can never refuse anything offered to me.  Even though I wouldn't have to pay the 27$ park entry fee, a 4 hour ride in the rain on a motorcycle with my backpack sounds a bit too awful to withstand, despite the story potential.

I was trying to explain to one of the guides that not all the people who have their own cars, the ones I'm looking for, are going to be up & on the mountain at the break of dawn like the tour groups.  Surely some of them like to sleep in, like me.  Rafael & Diana arrive & happily take me to the top.

My intention of coming to Manizales was to climb to the summit.  It's been closed since last August because it's an active volcano on amber alert - the second least of 4 levels.  Trying to imagine in the 2 1/2 hour roundtrip to the top, the alert level raising to the point we'd be in danger.  Dammit.  In the meantine, the Colombians are throwing snowballs at each other.

"We do not fail."  Mission accomplished!





Sidenote: That night was my first night in a bed in 2 weeks & was wonderful. :)

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