Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Change of Plans

There's nothing like a bit of fresh mountain air, healthy food and manual labor to cure the body. After suffering from a violent stomach bug literally up until the point of our departure from the coast, I somehow survived the 16 hour bus ride from Santa Marta to San Gil. The bus was packed so full that 10 or so passengers had to lie or sit in the isle. This, of course, blocked my path to the bathroom, which made me quite nervous. As I reclined back in my seat I had a heart to heart with my bowels, which apparently worked because I never again felt the urge to run to the bathroom. 
Upon arriving to San Gil we were greeted by a Justin, a British expat, his Colombian wife Andrea, and their two bilingual children Inty and Sammy. 

They live on a beautiful piece of land outside of town that they are in the midst of developing into a hostel/retreat center. Jarrod and I helped Justin with digging and building a path out of logs in exchange for a place to stay and healthy, home cooked vegetarian food. 

My job was to build a path out of log slices (sawed off from a fallen tree) and mud from the earth that had been dug up. The different pieces of wood created a beautiful design. 

Jarrod learned to cut grass the Colombian way: with a machete!

Here I am proudly posing after completing the path. 

In exchange for our hard work, we were spoiled with delicious food and good company. Justin and Andrea get most of their ingredients from neighbors, such as eggs, butter, cheese and honey. They also make everything from scratch (including yogurt). Between working outside and resting in hammocks, we ate creative vegetarian dishes such as soy ginger cabbage, hand made veggie burgers, curried rice, butternut squash, and fruit salads. We qenched our thirst with hibiscus tea and fresh fruit juices.  We went to bed early and woke up with the sun. By the end of our three days with them I felt healthy and strong. 

We fit in a day trip to the beautiful colonial town of Barichara. From there we followed an old indigenous route that connects the little town of Guane.

The second part of our time in San Gil was spent doing more touristy things. We bid farewell to the family and checked into Macondo hostel. We hadn't been there even two hours before we found ourselves flying over tobacco and coffee farms. 

I have always had a fascination with flying. I finally fulfilled this dream:

San Gil is known as the adventure capital of Colombia and offers plenty of activities for the adrenalin seeker. Everyday people are out paragliding, mountain biking, caving, rafting and jumping in waterfalls. 

We ended up staying in San Gil for much longer than originally planned because a national strike blocked all the roads to my beloved Villa de Leyva. Agricultural workers created road blocks by burning cars, camping out on highways, vandalizing toll booths and bus stations and throwing rocks at anyone who tried to pass. 

With the roads blocked, we were forced to pull out our wallets and pay the inflated bus and taxi prices to the Bucaramanga airport and fly to Bogota. 

I'm disheartened to cross Villa de Leyva off our list of places to visit in Colombia. It has become such a special place to me and I was really hoping to share that with Jarrod. 

We have been making the most of our time in Bogota and for non-city people, we have been having a great time. Aunt Dignorey (who we stayed with in the coffee region) put us in contact with her nephew Efren, and he has taken us in like family. Our first night here his talented friends put on an impromptu concert for us in his living room as we enjoyed wine and hour devours. It felt like a night we would share with our friends in the states. We also met up with my friend Roland who happened to be in Bogota when the strike started. Last night we cooked a nice dinner (American style) with garlic mashed potatoes and pork with mango chutney. It's nice to get off the gringo trail again and share special moments with friends we've made here. 

Jarrod and I both agree that Colombia is a place we will come back to someday. In a way I feel that we're leaving with unfinished business. I'm leaving behind some of my belongings and plans I made with friends, with whom i never had a proper goodbye. Most importantly, I'm leaving behind the chance to introduce Jarrod to the temporary life I had in a beautiful place with beautiful people. Perhaps this will cause us to come back to Colombia sooner than later! 

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