For the past few years of my life, I have been living and experiencing man-made places. I live in New York City, a place where every inch has been planned and built. In its own way, places like New York City have their own majesty. From the ground, looking up at high buildings, a person can feel overshadowed by rows of towering skyscrapers. The Andes are different in every single way. Its high mountain peaks tower too, but manage to make you feel more a part of the beauty of the landscape than stared down at. Climbing one was far more than walking down the street, it was truly like ascending to the clouds.
We set off with a group of kids from Quinini, where Andes Ecotours offers a coffee tour, to explore the hidden treasures of the Andes mountaintops. We were greeted with petroglyphs, rock carvings from the indigenous people who lived in the region before the Spanish came. After a brief climb through the forested part of the mountain, over aged trails, we found ourselves suddenly greeted by clouds, sunlight and jagged peaks. The highest point was the next peak over, and despite the beauty around us, it felt nearly like a magnetic pull, focusing us forward.
Time flows differently in a moment like this, and I remember the thrill of climbing up the rocks, somehow feeling the secure purchase under my shoes…but it all stopped the moment I reached the top. Human beings cannot fly, but for a moment, I stood in the border between earth and sky, and except for the piece of the Andes supporting me, I felt surrounded on all sides by open air. It was an absolutely glorious day for a moment like this, sunny and warm, with the green slopes below nearly glowing with health. I could see the rolling farmland, winding mountain roads, jagged peaks and soft plateaus. I could see miles of a town off in the distance, perched on the edge of another mountain. Off in the vast distance were the Central Andes, a reminder of how in fact, I was really only observing a small fraction of Colombia.
I can’t honestly describe how it feels to be up so high, to feel simultaneously a piece of and yet distant from the land. Or the slight twinge of adrenaline and fear of being so far off the ground, mixed with a sense of absolute peace. There are precious few places in the world where this experience is possible and I can’t imagine ever forgetting it, or the gratitude I felt for being able to truly taste the sky.