Back on the road, we were looking forward to heading East into the higher mountains of the Cordillera Oriente. The Capital of Bogota resides there, as well as Colombia’s most famous rock climbing areas. The roads between Medellin and Bogota turned out to be smooth and modern likely from the need to link the 2 big cities as painlessly as possible. Still, the drive was long and instead of finding a hotel in between, we opted for some natural peace and quiet a few miles off the main highway. Enjoying the calm night and morning next to a river was exactly what we needed in between the two great cities.Fortunately, our good Steamboat friend Juanita is from Colombia and her family still lives in Bogota. They graciously offered us to join them in their home while we explored the city. Her brother Daniel really stepped up to the plate and offered his knowledge about the city and guided us around when he had the time.Bogota gave us a great introduction with a walking tour where we explored and learned about the tumultuous history of the country and capital. With it’s big central square named after Simon Bolivar, one of the most important figures in South American history, we were thoroughly fascinated by the architecture and the underlying significance of the buildings and spaces.The following day we followed our host family’s advice and hiked to the top of a nearby mountain which provided an incredible view of the gigantic city. Sitting at over 8600ft in elevation, the temperatures are constantly brisk as if winter were just around the corner.We returned back to the city center and visited the famous Gold Museum where the largest amount of gold artifacts in the world exists (55,000 pieces). Gold was a sacred metal to the indigenous and adorned by their royalty and was not monetarily valued like it is today. Once the Spaniards showed up in the 16th century, everything changed. They proceeded to steel a vast majority of the gold to help fund their global conquest, forever changing the image and value of the precious metal. We can only imagine how many other beautiful pieces of art existed before the 16th century considering we only witnessed a sliver of what remains today.Our city exploration took us to other museums such as a money museum and one of the popular artist Botero, with his proportionately interesting depictions of people and animals.With our time in Bogota nearing it’s end, Daniel made sure to take us out on the town to have a big-city good time. We met up with two of his friends and proceeded to bar hop and dance in a club into the night.The time came to say goodbye to our friends the Palominos, who graciously hosted us and showed us an authentic Colombian experience. We knew we would meet again however, because they make trips to Steamboat to visit Juanita and her family from time to time. But alas, the time came to head into the mountains for some time doing what we love, rock climbing.Arriving to the small town of Suesca, we had hopes to volunteer somewhere while spending at least 2 weeks in the area. Luckily the first hostel we talked to offered us volunteer positions working in the garden and helping to build a climbing wall for guests. We ecstatically accepted and parked the van with intentions to climb, garden, cook, build and especially not drive.We quickly fell into a rhythm of working part of the day and climbing for the rest in an otherworldly setting. We slowly began to feel our weak muscles getting strong again as we climbed and gardened, gardened and climbed. Our Swiss friends met up again with hopes of officially learning how to climb, so they bought all of the necessary gear to start and off we went. Step by step, we showed them the ropes and by the end they were comfortable doing some easier climbs on their own. On our last day together, we took them up their first multi-pitch route with great success. The four of us are a great team; now we can surf, hike and climb together!It is worth noting a special relationship formed while in Suesca. Elvis the dog, or Elvis-ito as we called him, became one of our best friends of the trip.He liked to hang around the hostel and quickly became fond of our company and began following us around everywhere. He was well behaved, didn’t beg, only barked when absolutely necessary, and even did his business in a respectful manor. Basically a perfect van dog and companion.We had somewhat jokingly talked about adopting a dog on this trip, and we came very very close to taking Elvis with us, but in the end couldn’t take him from his home turf in Suesca. He knew the whole town well, and the whole town knew him likely because he stood out as the friendliest and most respectable street dog you’d ever meet. It was a tough decision, but in the end we gave him a big hug and thanked him for the companionship during our time in Suesca. Que descansas Elvisito!On one of our days off, we explored the nearby town of Nemocon where a salt mine has operated for hundreds of years. So, we jumped into our sanitary tourist hats and went for a tour. 🙂What we saw here completely blew our expectations out of the water. From the eerily deceiving reflection pool to some of the largest halite (salt) crystals on earth, we thoroughly enjoyed our time here. With many new friends met, a garden revived, leaner muscles and van rested, we were ready to move onward and southward. On our way, we took a quick day trip slightly east with our new friend Ivan to climb at a lesser known but equally dramatic climbing wall known as Macheta. The routes were difficult and very long but we were happy for the challenge and rewarded with incredible views.Feeling great and tired after all of the climbing, southward we went with plans for a multi-day trek with Tim and Andrea in the Parque Nacional Los Nevados. Back on narrow and curvy roads again, we maintained a strong enthusiasm for staying in nature.With the vans safely parked, we started out on our 3 day hike. To our amusement, the rain began literally after we heaved our packs onto our backs. We looked at each other, shrugged and just carried on. This trip would soon prove to be one of perseverance and patience, as we needed to work extra hard to stay dry and enjoy our surroundings in the adverse conditions. We hiked through many different ecosystems at different altitudes from the lush low jungles to the high-wet paramo (tundra) up above 12,000ft, all on varying qualities of trail. The paramo is special here and it felt magical walking through the wet, misty landscape. The very special wax palm tree lives here which is the tallest palm tree in the world. Every where we trekked in these mountains felt very unique and special.Colombia not only has amazing people, but the landscapes are breathtaking. Leaving the park, we knew we were on the right track and headed out to find another adventure.