(something I am still working on, J's are pronounced like H's in spanish)
27.01.2012 - 27.01.2012 77 °F
While working at Organizmo I consistently admired the rocky topped mountain that rose above all the rest. Our hosts mentioned early on in our stay that it was a great hike and they recommended it for all their volunteers. Amy and I planned on doing it our first weekend but less than favorable weather and health forced us to postpone the hike. I wanted to get up early and do it the morning of my birthday but I was still recovering from the stomach bug and decided to push it back again. With workshops duties looming on the weekend, our last chance to reach the summit was Friday morning. Thursday night we filled our water bottles with filtered water from the kitchen and grabbed some grenadias, apples, and a peach and hoped for a clear morning.
Friday dawned gray but the sky looked encouraging and we were on the road before seven. A short walk down the paved road toward Tabio and we turned up toward the mountain.
Still paved for another half kilometer or so, we passed houses and barking dogs. As we reached the end of the pavement a short-haired black dog and his smaller brown and white companion greeted us. I thought they were just after the end of my cheese sandwich breakfast and tried to ignore them. We continued upward, the trail beginning up through the woods as we left the houses and farm animals behind, but the two dogs tagged along. The trail was a stone and concrete affair for the first kilometer or so before it gave way to packed earth and washed out ravines through the dense growth of bamboo, bushes and small trees. Occasionally hikers before us and water had branched off onto divergent trails but they all came back together soon enough and the way was easy to follow. As we steadily climbed up the steep hillside I tried not to worry about the warning of robbers on the trail we had received from a stranger driving past days earlier. Our hosts dismissed the warning, saying they had hiked the trail many times and never seen another soul, let alone someone waiting to waylay climbers. This made sense, if someone wanted to rob people there were far easier places for them to do it than halfway up a mountain where very few people ever went. I continued convincing myself not to worry while I conjured up creative ways to hide my camera if a robber materialized. I was also growing fonder of our canine companions by the minute as they trotted along with us and would give us an early warning of other humans. Unless they were the thief's dogs and were leading us right to their master...
After only an hour of climbing the clouds lifted and the stone face of Juaica emerged above us. We were close! By 8:30 we had reached the top, a small clearing with a few hardy trees and the remains of a fire. We followed a trail down toward the cliff faces of the peak, eventually we found the edge and a good rock to sit on while we ate our fruit and Clifbars and observed the valley below. A spectacular view!
My GPS told me we were at 10,036 ft, the highest I have ever been outside of Colorado I believe. Organizmo was about 8,500 ft above see level so our climb was only about 1,500 vertical feet but we must have adjusted well to the altitude in the valley because the added height did not have any negative effects on us. We picked out Organizmo by the greenhouse roof and could make out the two domes (black at this point). We could see both Tabio and Tenjo on either sides of the valley and over the next mountain ridge to the far valley nearing Bogota. Three hawks rode the thermals and sailed past our breakfast spot and the sun beat down on the panting puppies who collapsed in the grass next to us.
We enjoyed the view and our rations before beginning the walk down. We were reinvigorated and very glad we had gotten the chance to climb Juaica. I spent most of the descent scoping out walking/self-defense sticks and finally finding the perfect bamboo pole and hacking it down with my knife. Amy tolerated my stick hunt and we met no one on the way down though we did hear chainsaws and glimpsed a man herding his cows along a different trail. The mountaineering dogs remained with us until we reached their home again and we bid them a fond farewell. We returned to Organizmo before noon, feeling accomplished and invigorated.