As the van whips around each sharp bend with only a few inches to spare between the tires and a 200 foot cliff drop, I’m beginning to wonder if journeying to the small mountain town of Mocoa, Colombia will be the fateful last stop of our trip. As we drive over waterfalls and somehow edge ourselves around oncoming traffic on this one lane gravel road, we try to soak up as much of the breathtaking view as possible on the five hour bus ride. Finally, as if our prayers have been answered, the bus driver announces that we’ve reached our destination at the Casa del Rio hostel, just a few minutes outside of town.
Your reward for braving the life endangering bus ride is a visit to a small jungle town that has only just recently made it onto the travel circuit with its very first mention in the 2013 Colombia Lonely Planet book. Don’t be surprised if the locals do a double take when they pass by as you might be one of the only foreigners in town. Fortunately, they’re only too happy to chat with you to learn about where you’re from and tell you all about the things you need to visit in and around Mocoa, all in Spanish of course so you’ll need to brush up before you arrive.
As tourism has not yet really arrived to Mocoa, you’ll want to book yourself a stay at the one and only hostel catering to foreigners in town at Casa del Rio. Located next to the river as the name implies, you’ll find a clean and welcoming guest house tucked just off the main road and surrounded by lush green jungles. The rooms are surprisingly spacious and airy and each is furnished with their own hammock on the patio, perfect for relaxing with a book and listening to the sounds of the jungle at night. The kitchen is well equipped for cooking up a feast and the common room has games, hiking information and cable T.V.
No visit to Mocoa would be complete without a hike to el fin del mundo, or the end of the world, a 67 meter tall waterfall that you can sit on top of and gaze out over the jungle below. There is a one dollar entrance fee to enter the national park which is paid to the owners of a small farm just after the entrance.
You will also register here when you arrive and when you come back to ensure that no one is still in the park after dark. Pack a lunch and a swim suit as there are a number of waterfalls along the way that offer clear, crisp waters for swimming. The path is fairly well signed with the odd arrow painted on a rock and well-worn footpaths. After 2-3 hours of hiking you will come to the end of the trail literally as you find yourself standing atop the 67 meter high waterfall. If you’re brave enough, you can shimmy along the edge if it’s dry for some amazing photos looking down as you swing your legs over the side. Needless to say, I was not brave enough and the photo below was as close as I could muster to the edge.
You need to exercise caution as the rocks can be slippery. It’s best to crawl or scoot over on hands and knees than walk upright and risk falling over the edge to the rocky landing below. After you’ve soaked up the views and enjoyed a swim, it’s about an hour walk back to the main road and a 15 minute ride back to Casa del Rio in any one of the many passing pick-up truck taxis they use in town.
Girl Gone Gallivanting Recommendation: While Mocoa may be a little out of the way of the typical tourist path, you’ll be well rewarded for braving the winding road to get here. If you’re looking for a little slice of the jungle that is still mostly undiscovered than Mocoa is the place for you.