Travel memory: That last day in San Gil, Colombia.
Do random thoughts and memories just pop into your head sometimes, maybe a travel memory? Have you sat there and all of a sudden you think “Oh yeah, I remember that!”
Well that’s just happened to me, so I thought I’d write about it and share it with you all.
Why this travel memory popped in my head.
So, before we get into this travel memory, I have to let you know I’m planning on heading out to Marrakesh for New Years Eve (Yes random destination to celebrate N.Y.E) to meet a friend and his girlfriend. I guess this travel memory popped in my head because of that and the fact that I was playing around with flight options on booking.com.
Just to give you a little idea, this friend of mine usually calls me whenever he has some time off work and asks where in the world I am. I’ll give him my location and he comes to meets me for a few weeks, we travel around, get up to some mischief, he’ll go home back to work and I’ll carry on traveling. However for my little trip to Morocco the tables have turned. It will be me that’s flying out to his destination, spend a bit of time in Marrakesh, bring in the New year and then head back home to work while he and his girlfriend carry on traveling. It’s also worth noting when I’m traveling with this friend in question – things don’t always go to plan; as you’ll find out with this travel memory.
To the traveling memory.
During my travels through Colombia, my friend did the usual – called me, asked where I was and hopped on a plane to come and meet me. Once he arrived in Bogotá (he already had his first adventure with a Colombian taxi driver) we set off to travel around the country. We managed to get from Bogotá, up to Cartagena, up the coast and back inland without any incident until…
That last day in San Gil!
It was our last day in San Gil, we had just booked an overnight bus to Medellin (a story all in itself) so we had the whole day ahead of us with nothing to do. The night before we met some fellow travelers, who told us about Cascada de Juan Curi waterfalls, ( a series of waterfalls leading to the main one, which you can abseil and rappell down in the middle of the San Gil jungle.) With nothing to do it was a no brainer – kill the day and do an awesome activity.
Having asked the hostel owner at Sam’s VIP about it, we were clued up on how to get there and back. It supposedly wasn’t too far away, quite simple to get to and there was frequent transport. Seen as it wasn’t even mid-day yet we had plenty of time to check out this waterfall. (Side note, I love chasing waterfalls, whenever I see one I just turn into a big kid)
The adventure begins.
After grabbing some food, I figured out where the depot was for the local bus. However once we got there the man at the depot told us we had to catch it from a different location. He told us where it was and with the help of google maps off we went to find the stop. Along the way there was some head scratching and asking various locals in my broken Spanish but we found it.
Finally we jumped on one..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 were clucking 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. Me and my friend looked at each other, thought about just waiting it out but then jumped off for a smoke and the driver took off. Again we looked at each other and just shrugged with a laugh.
The point where we were at, it was a straight road to the waterfall but not walking distance, so we hailed a cab down.
One direction can’t be hard right?
We jumped in a cab and headed in the right direction…we were on our way…but then we stopped, in-fact everybody had stopped!
This was the one day they decided to start road work on this dusty rural 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 we finally made it.
Once we got to the entrance, with my broken Spanish I communicated with the farm gatekeeper who let tourist through to the waterfalls. She advised us of the two paths, 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 half of the day was eaten up by just trying to get here we took the shorter option. She pointed us in the right direction, and off we went, passing her pet Lama and peacocks she shouted out something in Spanish.
To the waterfalls 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 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!
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 unexpected. 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 followed 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 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, as we slowly made it to the main and large waterfall we saw most people leaving.
No abseiling or rappelling.
We got there too late, there wasn’t going to be much more sunlight and the guys that did all the abseiling and rappelling had already left. I have to be honest we were both really disappointed but that passed as we realized we had a huge waterfall all to ourselves. – Remember what I said, 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 we decided to head back before it got dark and end up lost in the jungle. (Trust me, the two of us together, that could have easily happened). We headed back, trying not to get distracted, we passed our old friend the Bull and made it back just as the lady was locking up. She pointed to the entrance and told us to wait by the side of the road for the bus to take us back to town.
She said it will 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 disappeared behind the jungle, dusk turned into full on pitch black. Here we were, two English lads standing on the side of a dirt road in the middle of the jungle. All of a sudden the nocturnal animals started to come out to play, we could hear then 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.
Just as we were losing hope and more importantly running out of cigarettes, it came. I have never been so happy to see an old raggedy chicken bus in my life. We hopped on and finally we were on the way back but then it hit us, the road works were still going on. There was nothing to do, I shut my eyes and got some sleep.
We got back to the hostel but it was too late. We were going to miss the bus but thankfully the owner from my hostel was able to put us onto the later bus with no extra charge from the bus company.
When we eventually got on the later bus, we thought our dramas for the way were over, however turns out the universe wasn’t quite done fucking with us yet (Like I said earlier that’s another travel memory for another time.)
So that was my travel memory from San Gil, Colombia and I’m 100% sure there will be another one created when I head to Marrakesh, I just hope his girlfriend knows what she’s letting herself in for.
Did you enjoy this travel memory of mine? What would you have done with the sight of the bull? How do you feel about waterfalls and jungles?
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