Colombia’s Páramos

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This weekend some friends invited us to go hiking with them. We didn’t know what to expect, only that we’d be seeing a special type of landscape that exists only in Latin America (and principally Colombia) called the páramo. We had a guide with us since hiking is just now becoming popular in Colombia and many of the trails are accessed through farms or private property and the ‘trails’ aren’t exactly maintained.

Hiking is just now becoming popular in Colombia and many of the trails are accessed through farms or private property, so we had a guide leading us that day. He explained that páramo ecosystems exist in elevations above 3,000 meters and within the latitudes of 11°N and 8°S. This narrow strip around the equator provides a special climate that allows vegetation to thrive because outside of these latitudes there is little to no vegetation, only bare rock or snow.

We began around 3,400 meters and the highest point of our climb was 3,700 meters. Our trip took us up and along a mountain ridge and down into a valley filled with lakes. I’d never seen anything like the landscape: the plants were covered with velvety white hairs (which I later discovered was to protect them from the strong UV rays) and the ground surrounding the lakes was covered with black, white and red moss that you sink into as you walk.

Before we started, we were able to look at the open countryside around us—our guide pointed out how there was a definite division where the stunted trees stopped and the foliage of the páramo began. Since my words can’t do it justice, keep scrolling for our photos.

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At the beginning of our trek—notice all the bright green!

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These flowers bloom from the center of those pointy-leaved bushes. Even though the leaves look stiff, they’re flexible and velvety. None were in bloom during our visit, so this photo was borrowed from the Wikipedia Commons.

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Close-up of the white and black moss
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This hidden lake was the objective of our hike and where we had a lovely picnic lunch

It was a beautiful day—we were the only people out exploring and Cody and I felt lucky to be able to experience this stunning and seemingly untouched landscape.

If you’d like to read more, here’s a short NY Times article about the amazing biodiversity of the páramo.


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