My first impression of Colombia was great - everything I expected! A population of beautiful people in a beautiful country that have been living in a dangerous and corrupt atmosphere to the point that they now live life to the fullest. My friends in Pasto helped initiate this impression.
The following three weeks, however, have disillusioned me. A Chilean girl I met actually warned me this would happen. The corruption, drugs and inflated gringo prices found in the main tourist areas has been getting to me. To be honest, I got used to being a novelty. Everywhere I've been (even the European influenced Argentina) I've been a novelty. In Colombia though, I've felt like a walking target. A lot of people in tourist areas aren't keen to chat and charge me prices that are outrageous in comparison to the cost of living in Colombia.
Last week I went to the Lost City with Jimmy and some English folk which marked the change for me and my experience in Colombia. The tour itself was hot and sweaty with short, but difficult hikes. The city itself was amazing in its own right, but not at all like Machu Picchu. Only 10% has been uncovered, despite much more being already discovered. This is because the natives (who still frequent the paths and live traditionally) have deemed the rest to be sacred and want left as is. And even in the 10% that is uncovered and restored, there is thick rain forest vegetation that isolates visibility of any given spot to itself. A true imagination is needed to view the city as a giant center of an ancient culture.
Anywho, this wasn't the changing point I'm slowly closing in on - just a prelude to where I was and what was happening. Our group had 15 people, 11 of which decided to finish the hike a day early. Jimmy, 2 Aussies and I wanted to take our time and finish it in 6 days. After all, we paid for 6 days, so that'd save me a days accomodation and food.
During the second last day it was just the 4 of us at the final camp. Jimmy and I heard about a waterfall nearby that you can jump 10m off of into a small lagoon, so took off in search of it. A young guy clearing some land said his dad can show us the fall if we go to his house up the road.
At the mud brick house was an older man sitting in a homemade chair apparently doing nothing. Behind him was a few ladies casually mustering around. Jimmy and I - sporting a moustache and a mullet respectively - inquired about the waterfall and the old man went searching for someone to help us get there. I figured it'd just be by the river and easy to get to.
Another old and bearded man showed up. Alfredo was his name and the first guy was his brother. Alfredo put on his rubber boots (apparently standard gear that the locals wear in this region - natives included) and had us follow him down the steepest mud path you could possibly walk on before you'd call it a slide. Along route I started asking the old man as many questions about him as I could think of. I just wanted to chat with the guy after spending so much time with gringos. He mostly fed me short, direct answers. At the bottom we scaled an intricate path amongst the rocks that you'd only know if you owned the land. We arrived at the base of one of the most beautiful waterfalls I've ever seen. I'm sure this would never win a competition against Angel Falls or Iguazu, but these falls were Alfredo's private falls on his land. You can't take a bus here, pay a park entrance and snap some photos with your cup of joe. This set of breathtaking waterfalls were Alfredo's and can only be found if you introduce yourself to the man.
He told us to be careful on the slippery rocks, but assured us we could walk under the falls. What a rush!! Right underneath the falls it was hard to breath with the water surging past causing the air to scream by.
This wasn't the place to jump, just a place Alfredo wanted to show us. He had us follow him scaling the up the rocks to the jumping spot. When walking towards the area there was a log sticking out of the water that looked like a mother holding a baby. Not important, but seemed to echo the natural beauty found here. On both sides were rock faces going straight up for countless meters meeting by a single waterfall feeding the deep lagoon.
Alfredo told us we had to scale straight up the rock to get to the jumping point, so Jimmy started climbing as though to get it over with. To be honest, I don't think it was 10m high, but it was high enough that any hesitation to jump would surely leave you chickening out. It was high enough to get the adrenaline pumping too. Although, I think the secluded pristine setting added to the euphoria we felt after flying off the rock face.
After our first jumps our white haired friend stipped down into his boxers and dived in, swimming to the waterfall for a refreshing shower.
On the way back to the house Alfredo started chatting with us, telling us that he owned the land from the waterfalls up to the top of the mountain for the last 27 years. He showed us his out-of-commission fish farm, the chicken coop he's building and all of the fruit trees he has. He farms cacau and coffee. The latter we got to taste when we got back to the house and spent some time chatting with the family and joking around.
Alfredo didn't want anything from us for the guided tour of his property. Instead he gave me the freshest cup of coffee in my life and introduced me and Jimmy to his family. What a cool dude.
This was definitely a highlight of my trip. Two days later offered me a second experience that makes me believe my experience in Colombia is changing.
Colombia beat Ecuador a the World Cup Qualifier game lengthening their chance at making it to South Africa. After that win they're tied with Argentina and Ecuador for the final spot. While walking back from the internet Jimmy and I heard some drums beating at an upstairs joint - the same drums we heard from our hostel when we watched the game. We stopped, looked at each other and both knew we were going there before either of us spoke.
Inside we were the only white folk and got a lot of curious looks for it - a good sign that we're welcome. I think these types of experiences are only possible when you have one, two or three people. Big groups are intimidating.
The band was all percussion and rocked!! The played afro-beats that'd make the most prude of people bobbing their head. The crowd inside was enthusiastic as hell and dancing in ways that would be inappropriate back home. Our waitress pulled us onto the dance floor to everyone's amusement - they loved it! We knew they were laughing at us, but it was to everyone's benefit and more and more people came on the floor to show us some new moves and dance with us. And we danced having a ball. But they kept telling us to dance, which we soon realised meant move your hips. Their version of dancing couldn't be described without words like gyrate or grind or hump - and EVERYONE danced like this!! The old men, the middle aged women, the fat lady and especially the 15 yr old girl. Man, she's going to be recruited to dance in a rap video shortly. Jail bait, that is.
As long as the band was playing, Jimmy and I kept the beer flowing and our hips moving. I'd be lying if I said I could remember having more fun dancing than there. They wouldn't allow otherwise. By the time we left we had a few drunks filling our table with drunk talk.
After our stint there Jimmy and I met up with the English to head out for the night. The first club rejected us, so I cut my losses and went back to the hostel happy with the night I already had. Man, that was such a weird combo - some of the most sexual dancing I've seen, yet it was also innocent fun.
on September 6, 2009
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