More retracking and more slow pacing on my own, taking lots of photos for future memory and for the enjoyment of family and friends back home. I wish they were here, even though now I know that none of them would have made it so far.
Today it’s hot and sticky and most of the path is exposed to the roasting embrace of the Colombian sun. This is the main challenge of the day, together with a couple of very steep hills to climb and go back down from. I have found a walking stick that some other hiker has left behind and things go much better with it. I am really enjoying being all on my own, away from people that smoke and make noise all the time. Now it is easier to absorb the sights and sounds of the nature around me. At one stage I rejoin my fellow travellers for a splash in the Buritaca River, that I take diving from a rock all dressed and with my shoes on, washing myself and my clothes in one go.
Soon enough we make it to the cabanas and our hammocks. We splash out with an afternoon soup and siesta, then we take a 20 minutes walk to some waterfalls. These have to be reached sliding down a sharp incline, while clinging to a rope not to precipitate against the rocks that populate the bottom.
The waterfall crashes down from a 20 metres jump with a loud bang and a wild splash, finally ending up pacified in a lovely deep pool of cold water, all surrounded by rocks that the gods put there for the divers’ pleasure.
A Colombian boy dives from a rock stand 15 metres high and then challenges the gringos to do the same. Nobody is insane enough to take it up, instead we favour a 4 metres high slabs that is a perfect trampoline for our more bourgeois gestures.
When we go back to the camp we get a party going. Bottles of Medellin Añejo rum and Aguila beer cans appear like in a dream from the cabanas’ owner ample supply, nestled in their proper ice box. People split in groups. Some start to play noisy and rowdy card games, while others challenge each other in brainy chess games light by romantic candles. Castro the guide brings a bunch of sweets for all his travelling kids, a well deserved reward for completing the Trek, overcoming narcos, snakes and wild Americans.
The next morning we make it to El Mamey and after devouring a spicy meal and downing a couple of Aguilas, we get busy right away with a drunken game of tejo, the weight throwing, gun powder exploding version of bowls conjured up by the Colombians. My performance is among the most disgraced of the century: with a super crooked launch I almost manage to kill a dog passing by, 5 metres away from the exploding targets, amid the raucous laughter of villagers and trekkers alike.
Then it is time for the last incredible part of our trip to start. Like in a demented B movie, our final challenge is going to be to fit the following in a small Isuzu jeep: 9 trekkers, Castro, the driver, his wife and daughter, plus backpacks, boxes of provisions and two chickens! After various comical failed attempts, we manage to begin our 12 mile drive towards the main paved road to Santa Marta with the following line up: driver/owner, wife and daughter safely tucked up in the front, 7 trekkers snugly fit into the back of the vehicle in the company of the chickens and some of the provisions, Castro outside, hanging from the big spare wheel on the back door of the Isuzu, 2 brave British chaps on the roof rack of the jeep, sitting among an ocean of bags and boxes.
In this pyramidal shaped formation we face the treacherous unpaved downward track, enjoying canned sardine-like comfort and Paris-Dakar rally levels of safety, while the driver zigzags between canyon deep potholes, rocks that stick out from the beaten track and narrow drivable spaces at the edge of the road. The valley and its jungle down below doesn’t seem inviting or picturesque at all now, as the engine struggles to keep up and the bottom of the Isuzu scratches the rocks several times.
Finally the jeep gives up and refuse to go any further. The transmission is gone. We retire under the shade of a nearby dwelling, some fall asleep, others play football with a ball of rags, I watch Castro and the driver get black all over with grease and sweat as they try to fix the damage. Another Colombian arrives in his motorbike and joins the mechanics team after running back home to fetch his tool box. The broken down jeep is quickly opened, turned around and fixed, so we are ready to resume the drive back to civilisation, not before having enjoyed a freshly squeezed fruit juice, however, generous homage to the sweaty trekkers from the lady who lives up the road.
Simone Chierchini Copyright ©2010-2011
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