San Gil Colombia: crazy last 24 hours
Why was I even surprised by that last 24 hours in San Gil Colombia?
Bizzare, unpredictable, weird, crazy…these are just some words to describe how my backpacking life has been since I first started long term solo traveling in 2010.
I should have expected it really, things had been running smoothly up to those last 24 hours in San gil colombia; too smoothly in fact. I should have known the universe had something in store for me!
Let’s backtrack just a little
Before I dive into this traveling memory of San gil Colombia, let me just bring you up to speed…Back in 2016 during my solo backpacking trip through Central and south America, a friend of mine came out to join me for the Colombia leg of my trip. We have this thing, he will either call me or I’ll call him, find out where the other is and go and join up for a while, travel together then head our seperate ways again.
For this trip, we had moved inland from the Western coast of Colombia to a little town surrounded by jungle; San gil. Things had been going well apart from a few minor incidents along the coast close to Cartegena. In san Gil though, it was very smooth.
Who’s bright idea was it to chase a waterfall in San Gil Colombia?
With it being our last full day in San Gil, having just booked our overnight bus to Medellin, we had nothing to do for the day. The night before, a few backpackers we met, told us about a waterfall in the San Gil jungle, Cascada de juan Curi, so we thought why not go and check it out. Afterall we both chasing waterfalls, and to just go out an adventure in the wild. The waterfall in San Gil was apparently very well known, it was meant to be huge and we were informed we can abseil and rappel down into the middle of the San Gil jungle. So it was a no-brainer.
Having asked the owner at Sam’s VIP backpacker hostel about it, we were clued up on how to get there and back. It supposedly wasn’t too far away, and quite simple to get there and back with public transport quite frequent. Seen as it wasn’t even mid-day yet we had plenty of time to check out this waterfall, possibly do some abseiling, get back and take our bus to Medellin; it was simple.
Bollox was it simple! – But the adventure began
We grabbed some food, prepped up, made sure our bus tickets were safe, figured out where the local bus depot was and off we went.
However, once we got to the depot, we were given another spot to catch the bus from, finding the other spot we were given yet another spot. With the help of trusty google maps off we went again but it didn’t seem right. There was a lot of head scratching between us, asking various locals who didn’t have a clue; I thought this was meant to be simple! Eventually we did find the right stop but what should have took a few minutes took us over an hour to find.
Finally, we jumped on a local camino bus..we started to head in the right direction, off to a winner right? …Well no, it got to a mini roundabout, turned around and just stopped. people were getting off, others got on, chickens and other livestock were clucking around us but we didn’t move…There was a lot of Colombians shouting about one thing or another, and my voice when trying to ask was drowned out.
My friend and I were confused, I was getting a decent grasp of Spanish, but the shouting was just noise, I had no idea what was going on. We waited and waited, a good 15 minutes passed by, the driver wasn’t even at the wheel. We thought fuck it, we jumped off for a smoke, but as soon as our cigarettes were lit, the van drove off. It
We could do nothing but laugh and figure out our next move. Out came google maps once more, and it was simple, the round about led to the road we needed, from there it was straight road right to the drop off point. All we needed was a taxi but we were on the wrong side of the road and none of them wanted to turn around for us. So we had to try and get to the other side of the road. Which we eventually did.
Going in one direction can’t be hard right?
We jumped in a cab and headed in the right direction…finally we were on our way…but then we stopped, in-fact everybody had stopped!
The Universe was fucking with us for it’s own entertainmnet. This of all days was the one day they decided to start road works on this dusty rural narrow road. It was hot, I was starting to get agitated, my friend could see this and tried to make light of the situation. A lot of sighing and blowing hot air followed as we moved at a snail’s pace. The time? Well, it was getting swallowed up. Hours passed by, we didn’t have all day anymore but got there in the end. we stood on the side of a dirt road in the San Gil jungle, Cascada de Juan Curi was close.
To ge to the waterfall we needed to pass through a small farm area, passing through the entrance, with my broken Spanish I managed the communicate with the gatekeeper who gave directions to the waterfall. She advised us of two paths leading to Cascada de Juan Curi, a longer trail which would have been an hours trek and a shorter 20-minute trek following the series of waterfalls up to the main one.
Normally we would have taken the longer one but as most of the day was eaten up just trying to get there we took the shorter option. She pointed us in the right direction, and off we went. As we passed her pet Lama and peacocks she shouted out something in Spanish.
Off to Cascada de Juan Curi we go!
I only caught one word but it couldn’t have been what I thought she said. I kept trying to think what she said as we made our way along the track and headed into the San Gil jungle.
After about 10 minutes, what I thought she said, is exactly what she said and it was standing right there in front of us. A freaking Bull, massive thing – Horns n all! (I didn’t have the nouse to take a picture of it).
We saw it, it saw us and there was a little stand-off – mostly because it was a ‘what the fuck!’ moment of shock. There was a bull in the middle of the San Gil jungle; this was not what we expected to come across. Sure if we had seen a monkey, or a snake or any type of reptile it would have been ok but was this was a big bull with some big ass horns. After the initial shock, we managed to get past it and somehow with no interaction, a light jog was followed by a sprint just to make sure we were in the clear. (Definitely didn’t run in a panic.)
Like I said waterfalls bring out the kid in me but more so in my friend (He’s what we like to call a typical Brit abroad) Once the encounter with the bull was out of our thoughts we started finding and playing in a series of smaller waterfalls and streams. Both of us get distracted easily so the short trail kind of turned into a longer one. Think of both of us seeing something shiny and following it. Anyways,slowly we made it to the opening, but most the people were leaving. We asked a few why and they pointed to the sky, telling us the sun would set soon and needed to be out before it got dark.
No abseiling or rappelling
They had a point, we should have thought that too, but, we had just arrived and after our day we weren’t in any mood just to turn back.
With us arriving so late, there wasn’t any chance for any abseiling or rappelling down into the waterfall in san gil. But we did have the Cascada de juan Curi, all to ourselves to play around in. Told you, two big kids.
It was our playground and we ran riot, climbing trees, jumping in the streams, getting up close and personal with this mammoth waterfall in-front of us. It’s fair to say we got lost in the fun.
After what seemed all afternoon playing in and around the waterfall, soaking wet it finally dawned on us that is was in fact getting dark and we needed to head out before all light was lost and end up lost in the jungle. With the two of us, that could have easily happened. But, we headed back, trying our hardest not to get distracted, we heard our old friend the bull but couldn’t quite see it, we knew it was close though.
Just as the lady was locking up, we made it onto the farm. She pointed out to the entrance, told us to wait by the dirt road as a local bus would pass by soon to take us back to town.
The lies…She said it would come soon!
All we had to do was wait for the bus and head back to the hostel, grab our bags, get a bite to eat and head over to the station for our bus journey to Medellin.
Well, that didn’t happen did it! – The sun completely disappeared behind the San gil jungle, dusk turned into full-on pitch blackness. Here we were, two English lads standing on the side of a dirt road in the middle of the San gil jungle. All of a sudden the nocturnal animals started to come out to play, we could hear them but we couldn’t see them, bugs were biting at us, and then eyes started shimmering through the trees and bushes, not to mention there was a freaking bull roaming around somewhere! We were a little on edge, to say the least.
To make matters worse, anytime we saw blinding headlights come towards us thinking it was the bus, it just turned out to be locals in their pick up trucks. It got to a point where we even tried to hitchhike back but nobody stopped. We were sure some even slowed down eyeing us up and not in a good way. There was a point where we both thought of the possibility of us getting kidnapped by bandits. But that was just our imaginations running a bit too wild.
As times kept passing by, we knew we would miss our night bus to Medellin, we had started to believe this bus was not coming but the worst thing; we were running out of cigarettes.
Then, there it was, relief flowed through me, I had never been so happy to see an old raggedy chicken bus falling to pieces in my life. Leaving the nocturnal noises, the freaking Bull, and imaginary bandits behind, we made our way back into town.
The owner of the hostel, was a good guy, he had helped put us on a later bus with no extra charge so we could still reach Medellin for the morning.
That whole day was full of the unexpected, but little did I know there was more to follow on that bus to Medellin. (That is a story for another time)
It’s half the fun when things don’t go to plan
Like I said at the beginning of this post, things just don’t work out the way they should for me, and those last 24 hours in San Gil Colombia is just how it is. But I wouldn’t change it for a minute. The unpredictability is what makes these trips into adventures.
Did you enjoy this San Gil Colombia traveling memory of mine? Have you had any unpredictable adventures like this yourself before? I’d love to know if you have, just drop a line in the comments below.
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