One of the keys of using such a stove is dehydrated food. These not only cook much more quickly but are much lighter to carry. A third and often overlooked benefit is the ease of cleanup. These are not very easy to find in Colombia and you would need to be in a big city. Prices are also likely to be higher than if you are coming from North America where you can get such things from mail order companies for a much less than store prices. We like the Mountain House brand which makes a variety of meals. If you buy the stuff in bulk it is much cheaper but this got us into a bit of a bind as I bought so much of it I got the idea of cooking all meals, and not just snacking during the day which is our normal protocol.
When I say snacking, I am talking about eating a steady stream of nuts, cereal bars, and dried fruits to keep your energy levels up during the day. This has always worked for us in the past and if there is anything I regret about the El Cocuy trek it was the bad choice of deviating from it only to save money on the bulk dried food and possible inability to find suitable snacks in Colombia. We wound up having to stop during the day a couple times to cook meals which slowed us down considerably and not having the enough snacks left us with a definite lack of much needed energy on a number of occasions.
Favorite Dish: The meals themselves were great as always. We used their eggs and bacon meal for the first time and it was much better than either of us thought it would be. We supplemented it with grits, a dried cornmeal dish typical of the southern states of the US. We alternated it with oatmeal and nuts. I would have to say, the latter probably gives you more energy. For snacks, we thankfully had some cereal bars and nuts. These are the best sources of quick energy you can carry. Dinners were either beef stew or chicken breasts with mashed potatoes. We flesh these out with some extra instant potatoes as the meals can be a little more “wet” than you might want them. They are also designed for two people but after a day of backpacking, it really isn't enough so the extra carbohydrates also help fill you. We round the meals out with some type of instant soup which also warms you up. This was the first time we tried the chicken breasts and they were quite good though some of them had broken up transporting them to Colombia. They still tasted fine but didn't look quite as pretty.
For those unused to such dehydrated meals, they come in foil packaging. You just boil water, add it to the pouch, secure it in zip-lock fashion and wait about ten minutes, depending on the meal. It tastes a lot better than it sounds and after a long day of trekking tastes pretty damn amazing. You'll be happy with how fast the meals are ready and how easy it is to clean up. More time to explore, relax or in our cases hit the sack, or should I say bag!
The small restaurant that is part of the Cabanas Kanwara complex was not the hopeful warm refuge we had hoped for. It was one thing to pay fairly high prices for the meals but sitting in what was basically a very cold stone enclosure amounted to little more than a remote mountain hut, which I guess it basically is! The food was actually pretty good and only about doubled in price from what you would pay in town so I guess in reality not all that extortionate when you consider they have you very much at their mercy.
Favorite Dish: A set breakfast with eggs was 10,000 COP and lunches/dinners were 12,000 COP (about $6). This seemed to vary a bit and we lucked out on our last day which was a Sunday and evidently a special one for breakfast. We got a steaming bowl of caldo (a beef based soup) to start followed by eggs with bread, coffee, and juice. Then we got hot chocolate, cheese and more bread! All this was only 10,000 COP each which was a real God-send since we were starting our trek that day. Service was very friendly in general and I would not hesitate to stay at the cabanas if I was ever in the area again. The owner can arrange horses, guides etc and certainly seemed like a fair enough guy. We never got to look into this as it was not our initial plan but to be honest, I would use horses for the beginning of the trek if I was to do it again!